Teisco/Nomad/Cretone

Teisco, also known as Teisco/Del Ray and Checkmate, was famous for making some of the cheapest and cheesiest guitars and amps ever. You could walk into any Woolworth's (they didn't have K-mart back then) and find a gaudy array of the junkiest guitars and amps you'd ever seen. Now, they command premium prices. I didn't know it at the time, but apparently they made quite a number of different organs as well (which fits in perfectly with the "cheese" image). I've included the Nomads here as well because the one's I've seen and heard of all appear to be nearly identical to the Teisco's.  Also, check out the Nomad 49B and it's Cretone twin. 

History of Teisco:  After noting that the Kingston/Kawai organ seemed to have identical features to the Teischord B2, I did some research.  I received this from a representative of Kawai, US: "To my knowledge (I have been with Kawai for 23 years) Kawai America Corp did not ever carry combo organs. Our home organ line was made by Teisco, an electronic music & sound manufacturing company acquired by Kawai Musical Instruments in (I  believe) the early 70s. I think Teisco built some of product for Horner, but canít recall any specific models. Kawai America Corp always had first choice, but at the time we were involved only in acoustic pianos and home organs, so we declined"

And this quote, from our very own Simon Beck: "In the 1980s, Teisco synths were made by Kawai. The Teisco brand name was widely (and mindlessly) derided here in the UK because there's a major supermarket chain by the name of Tesco. Some Teisco synths were actually re-branded as Kawai.Check out the Teisco Synthesizers web site

And this, from Barry Carson, from a conversation he had with another Kawai rep: "The short version of the Kawai story is that when Kawai decided to get into electric instruments, they bought the Teisco company which already was in the electric instruments business. This would make it look like Teisco actually made the Kawai organs instead of the other way around. He also confirmed that Teisco was contracted to make instruments for a number of different companies. He sent me a copy of the only picture they had on file at Kawai and it was of a Rheem Mk VII! I have accumulated 2 Rheems, 2 Nomad 61's, a Nomad 49B, and a Teisco Checkmate. They all have interchangeable parts, but one Nomad 61 has the same hardware as one Rheem, the other Rheem will be different from the first Rheem but just like the Teisco, etc. The Telestar (one of which I've seen - identical to the Nomad 49B) and the Dorna are also part of this family. Telestar also sold a version of the Rheem Key Bass but with a metal control panel instead of the swirly red plastic and white tolex instead of black!"

Here's the Raven Piano Bass, which may be what Barry was referring to: No white tolex, but like so many combo organs, there may have been different versions.

Teischord Models: A-1 B B2 C C-1 CS D E1 G GS S       Nomad Models: 49B 61 Vagabond Dual

Also, I have a report of an unusual Teischord model with a "Cymbalon" tab.  If you know anything about this guy, please contact me.

 

 

 

And here's a sales flyer that lists several of the models I've covered here:


Teischord B

I previously had this one listed as the "Checkmate" model, with no definitive model name/number. I finally got in touch with someone who knew it to be a "B".

Controls:

The Tuning knob has a very narrow range - useful only for playing with instruments or recordings that are only slightly out of tune. The Bass tab switches the bass section off to extend the Treble section down an octave.

List price: $349


Teischord B2

This one looks like it has exactly the same controls and features as the Teischord B, but with different cosmetics.  According to the Keyboard Museum, this was made by Kawai. and if you look at the Kawai's, you'll see the similarity in the styling.  You can also see that the Kawai's have the same 4-way bass selector lever to the left of the keyboard that's found on many of the Teisco's

Controls:

(Picture courtesy of Melbourne Music)


Teischord C

Identical to the C-1, below, except for the lack of the 1-octave bass section, and the 4-way bass selector switch.

Controls:

List Price: $399


Teischord C-1/A-1

There's some confusion over the model name of this one.  According to Teisco literature, the one shown here is model "C-1", which appears to be a model "C" (above) with the addition of the 1-octave bass section and the 4-way bass selector switch.  The top panel, however, identifies it as simply "Teischord C".  To further muddy the waters, the metal ID plate on the back indicates that it's a model "A-1".  To confirm this, I've corresponded with more than one owner of a model "C-1", that says "A-1" on the rear ID plate.  To summarize:

Top panel identification:  "Teischord C" 
Rear panel id: "Teischord A-1"
Teisco literature: "Teischord C-1"

Here you can see close-ups of the front and rear panels:

Top panel: "Teischord C" Real panel: "Teischord A-1"

Controls: 

List price: $475


Teischord CS (Pictures courtesy of Boss Guitars)

Looks like probably a later incarnation, as it was not included in the sales literature for the B, C, D, and G models.  It seems more similar to the GS than the others. (maybe "S" stand for "Super")

Controls:

    Knobs: Tuning, Bass/Solo, Vibrato Speed
    Tabs: Vibrato On/Off, Vibrato Full, Bass 16', Bass 8'
    Knob: Bass Volume
    Tabs: Sustain, Sustain Long, Bass Cla. 16', Trombone 16', Flute 8', Clarinet 8', Trumpet 8', Sax 8', Piccolo 4', Violin 4'
    Knob: Solo Volume
    Switch: Power


Teischord D  

Controls:

List price: $499


Teischord E1

This looks like it's from a different line, possibly earlier than most of the others shown here.  It's got paddle-type switches instead of tabs, and looks more related to the Ideal/Noble "Porto" organs than anything else here.

Controls: (best guess, based also on the "S", below)


Teischord G

Controls:

The keyboard is divided into three sections, Bass, Accompaniment, and Solo, and a set of voices for each (but it's not that simple!).  The Bass section is the first octave (reverse-color keys), and the Accompaniment section comprises the bass octave plus the next octave up.  The Function switch selects which sections play which voices.  In the Solo position, the entire keyboard plays the Solo voices only.  In the Acc./Solo position, the top three octaves play the Solo voices, and the bottom two octaves (Acc. section) play the Acc. voices.  In the Bass/Solo position, the top four octaves play the Solo voices, and the bottom octave (Bass sectin) plays the Bass voices.

In all the Teischords I've seen, the second octave is normal color keys, but in all the Nomads (see below) it's Grey/White keys.

List price: $599


Teischord GS

Looks more like the CS than the others. The grey keys appear to be a different section, called "accompaniment" rather than a bass-section extension.

Controls:


Teischord S

Looks like an upgrade from the "E1" above - all the same feature, but with Reverb and Sustain.  The top panel identifies it as "Teischord S", but the metal ID plate, says "Model E1 204".  Looks like another bit of confusion like with the A1/C1 above.

Controls:


Nomad/Cretone 49B

While not an obvious twin to any of the Teischords listed here, it seems to have the same complement of controls found on the Teischord A/C models, but with the styling of the model D/G, like the Nomad 61 (below).  

Controls: 

(Thanks to Barry Carson for the picture)

1968 List Price: $425

The 49B also existed as a Cretone.  Thanks to Matthew for the pictures of this one:


Nomad 61

A Twin to the Teischord G, the only differences are the absence of the Tuning knob, and the Accompaniment section (2nd octave) has Grey/White keys to distinguish it from the normal-colored Solo section.  What a great idea!

1968 List Price: $579


Nomad Vagabond

Four octaves of normal colored keys, one octave of reverse-colored keys which can be switched between bass and treble. Black bottom/grey top like the Teischord B and C. Red and white tabs.

1968 List Price: $479


Nomad Dual

Aha!  Found one!  Many thanks to Brian for the excellent photos of his newly-acquired Nomad Dual.  This thing looks so much like a Farfisa Compact Duo it's creepy.  Note the style of the cabinet, the legs, the pedalboard, even the name in raised lettering to the right of the lower keyboard.  But that aluminum control panel is pure Nomad/Teisco.  And check out those percussion "keys" - weird, huh?  I've included a picture of the Compact Duo for comparison

Nomad Dual Farfisa Compact Duo

Oh, and also like the Farfisa's (but unlike the Duo), the Dual was available in Red, too.  Check this out:

This picture is from Tarquin Studios, where it's but one in an arsenal of vintage keyboards.  Why not record your next surf tune there - tell 'em "Rodak" sent you (to which they'll reply: "huh?").

So Barry Carson's original description of the Dual, while very strange, turns out to be right on the money:

"It looks... almost just like a Farfisa Duo - it is pretty uncanny. It featured fuzz, reverb, sustain, percussion, and cost $700.00 including the pedalboard and 'power pack' (like the Farfisa Duo preamp?). But wait, here's the best part .... It has an octave of reverse colored notes in the top keyboard, but they are evidently not part of the keyboard (the ad says 'two matched keyboards of 49 keys each', and these would make it 61). 61 sort of... This is really the best part. This black octave appears to have only 4 flats! There is no B flat key. There is a D and E flat and a G and A flat but no B flat. There does seem to be a B natural though. Weird, eh?"

One difference, though, is that the Dual does not have the F-AR type power pack (at least Brians' doesn't)

Here's a pasted-together picture of the tabs/knobs:

... and those weird percussion "keys":

Controls

The Vibrato speed and depth are fixed (like a Vox).  The Percussion sounds can be played in real-time by pressing the appropriate "keys" - no cheesy rhythm section here, just the cheesy rhythm sounds!  The Fuzz only works on the bass section (at least, on Brian's it does).  The Tremolo is free-running, not re-triggering with every keypress (like the Repeat on a Gibson G101), and it's located after the Reverb circuit, so releasing keys with Tremolo and Reverb running produces a cool pulsating, fading away effect.

It includes a regular output jack and one for bass-only, just like a Compact Duo, and there's a hard-wired cable with a DIN plug on the end for the expression pedal, also just like a Compact Duo.  Unlike the Duo, however, it's wired to require the volume pedal for full output.  Happily, though, the designers thoughtfully included a bypass switch that eliminates this requirement, and routes the full signal to the output jack in the absence of a volume pedal.