A Passing Of Friends: Korg T1, Sun, TOA

Sammy G's picture

Today...

**sniffle**

...we gather here to commemorate the passing of friends. Stalwart friends. Friends who have become more to us than simply music gear. These represent the finest of gigs and the finest of memories. And now they are leaving us to pass on to finer pastures.

Please set your yester-year recall machine to 1990, when Billy Joel showcased the release of the Korg T1 by featuring this magnificent keyboard on his Stormfront tour. The keyboard really took the musical industry forward by combining the best of sample sounds and programming in what was dubbed a 'musical workstation.' Oh, it was a beauty. And I, a young high school junior, was first mesmerized when Ben and I went to see the tour at the Caps Center and sat close enough to see Billy Joel play 'Pressure' on the T1 no more than 50 feet away from our seats.

The next summer was a lot of hard work, saving up lawn mowing money to pay for my share of the $4K Korg T1. In addition to my own savings, I was counting on graduation gifts from family to cover the rest of the cost. I told everyone I knew about my dream. I was somehow going to buy a Korg T1. There were sacrifices. I didn't go out much. I was noticeably absent from Senior Prom because the cost of date and dinner would have subtracted from the T1 fund. I mowed every lawn possible, listening to tapes on my Sony Walkman and imagining my own hands prancing over those 88 weighted keys while bagging grass clippings in the DC summer humidity.

The day finally came when Mom and I strutted into Chuck Levin's music store in Bethesda. Before walking into the store, Mom stopped the Oldsmobile station wagon, the automotive wonder (you wondered how it was automotive) that would someday earn the nickname "Big Gus" and someday carry that Korg T1 to many, many gigs, and Mom said to me, "you have to be ready to walk out of that store without buying it." Such was the start of several excruciating trips to Chuck Levin's before the board was finally bought. I had my Korg T1, and its massive, blue anvil case with the new-paint smell that never went away, even after 17 years.

At this point I didn't have an audio system to blast that sucker. Enter Wandering Moose who was trying to sell his Sun amp and two TOA speakers. I shelled out the remaining bits of bucks to Wandering Moose and installed all new gear in my basement room at home, so that Matt could come over and figure out how to program the thing while I played nearby on the C-64. At this point, I was a high school senior with little social life but a big dream about musical glory.

Little did I know the T1 would end up scoring me much tang through college and beyond.

You guys know the next 6 years of the story. Through college and post-graduation, from its unveiling at Dani's graduation party to the big stage at RPI in upper NY, that T1 and sound system traveled to more gigs than I can remember. It certainly wasn’t easy lugging that monstrosity around. These were the years before the trend of lightweight and portable electronics. Transporting the T1 took two people. But you knew it everywhere it was played, especially with the two bumper stickers affixed to the top, proudly boasting allegiance to the Washington-based NFL and NHL franchises. In the recording studio, on stage and in the home, it was a comforting presence to know the C01 Piano patch could be retrieved at a moment’s notice and push the smooth sounds of an Amin7-DMaj transition into the ears of waiting listeners.

The strange part of developing an emotional attachment to musical gear is you never once question its logical inclusion as the primary furniture piece in your life. Between 1990 and 2002, I moved every year, changing actual addresses. No matter where I lived, the Korg T1 and Sun/TOA combo received first dibs on location in living quarters. This made for a cramped summer in Virginia Beach when the T1 took up more space than my bed. Movers were never happy, but this was a protected asset in my life, a revenue-generating asset, an asset my insurance company was tricked into believing was only for recreational home purposes.

Ultimately, when founding my business, I had to impress investors with a significant amount of founder equity, and listed the Korg T1 and Sun/TOA as capital contributions. They passed from personal control and became enlisted in the corporate world.

And so after 17 years of bound partnership, more than half my life, today I part with these pieces of musical fortune. They have served me well. They have served us well. It brings happy reminiscence to push the ejector spring one last time and have pop out with original handwriting a Babbage’s 3.25" floppy disk reading, "Matt’s Disk!" EQ levers on the Sun head have popped off, draw levers on the T1 have lost their response, but I never once needed repair, and I never once was failed in time of need, and the music will always play on.

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Ben's picture

*sniffle*

I'm actually getting choked up here. Well, the T1 had a long and glorious life - we should all be so lucky.

The T1 is survived by its little brother, the Korg 01-W, which, despite a stuck E-flat key and tone sampling a dozen years out of date, still occupies the center space in my basement studio, plugged into the TOA keyboard amp that weighs a ton and has a tendency to short out.

Amazing that thing was $4K new, huh? I was hanging out in Coffey Music in Westminster a few weeks ago, playing new Yamahas and Rolands with 88 weighted keys, absolutely realistic sounds, and price tags between $500 and $1000. Pretty incredible how technology can improve in quality and decrease in price in 17 short years.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I'll light a candle tonight.

--
Ben

--
Ben

matthew's picture

Remembering...

Remembering the first-ever recording of "One Man" performed on the little disk drive in that T1.

Remembering the first time I played the strains which eventually became the opening strains of "Breathless" on that T1, with Sam saying, "Hey, is that a song yet? Mind if I borrow it?"

Remembering how heavy the dang thing was.

Remembering how jealous I was... until I got my own $4000 keyboard (a Yamaha).

--
Matthew P. Barnson

--
Matthew P. Barnson

daniel's picture

End of an era

Even I remember the T1 consuming most of the space in your bedroom in high school.

A moment of silence in the Call household...

Timpane's picture

The Korg..

I only visited the Graber house like three times.. and even I remember hearing the "Right of Way" demos the night I stayed the night with big bad senior Sammy.

That and being showed the Season 4 cliffhanger for Star Trek TNG, where tasha steps out of the light.

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JB's picture

Inquiring Minds want to know...

Maybe i missed it, but what brought about the passing? old age? Some other illness?

Locutus of Korg's picture

We Are

We Are Locutus of Korg. It has been assimilated.

weed's picture

Lucky

I feel honored that my musical squib hands were allowed to clumsily bang the keys of the T1 on several occasions.

When I was a kid, there were times when I'd get this strange, calm yet warm and wonderful sensation as I watched my dad work with his hands. It could be something as simple as making a paper airplane (when I was really young) to fixing something at his work bench. It was like watching someone work magic, and I still get that feeling when I watch someone do something right in front of me and wonder how they do that.

I used to get that feeling watching Sam (and Ben) play the T1. Having no musical ability, to watch their hands move over the keyboard and to hear the wonderful music that would result was like magic all over again.

So on the day when JK announced that HP7 would be out July 21st, let's celebrate the end of another magical instrument.

RIP, T1. May you and Gus have some wonderful road trips in the great afterlife.

My $.02
Weed

P.S. I get 10 bonus points for the Wayward references (All Over Again, Afterlife) ;)

My $.02
Weed

Sammy G's picture

Reason for passing

The main reason for getting rid of the T1 was because of usefulness. 17 years ago, the industry was combining keyboard and computer in one 'musical workstation.' The emergence of the powerful PC since 1990 eliminated the need for a keyboard to run internal, stand-alone complicated processing and programming. Today's keyboards are considered slaves and used for signal creation into PC-hosted recording software. Meaning, you just need a piano facsimile running direct into a voice box or via MIDI into a computer to record keyboard parts.

As Ben mentioned these slaves have gotten crazy affordable. I ended up replacing the T1 with a new Casio slave board at 25% of the T1's weight, 50% of the T1's space and 200% of the T1's sound quality. Plus, while MSRPed at $850, I managed to talk the teenage sales dude down to $500.

Ben's picture

Best TNG Cliffhanger

Actually, I remember Sam and I, at my house, watching the TNG cliffhanger with Locutus of Borg. I remember it very clearly. It went something like this:

Riker: Mr. Worf, fire.
Caption: TO BE CONTINUED

*pause*

Sam & Ben: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Repeat for approximately 3 months.

--
Ben

--
Ben

Timpane's picture

And...

This episode is a staple of top-ten cliffhangers of all time.

Its true.. I wasnt even a fan at that point, and I had seen the ep.. and was curious..

Moreso.. because Paramount floated rumors that Stewart wouldnt return (there were contract negotiations, but the studio let the rumors float much longer to build anticipation) - and after the death of Tasha, anything was possible.

Visit the Official Justin Timpane Website
Music, Acting, and More!
www.timpane.com

NVZ: NINJAS VS ZOMBIES - THE MOVIE - www.nvzmovie.com
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