Alabama Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society

History Table of Contents



Birmingham, Alabama Theatre Organ History

(the following parts of this history were written by Dan Liles)

1914 saw the first newspaper advertisement featuring a theatre organist -- Professor C.R. Hartsell at the Trianon Theatre playing a program entitled "Vox Humana." In the 1920's, fourteen Birmingham Theatres advertised pipe organs as part of their programs. Twenty-five theatre organists, both male and female, were featured in theatre newspaper advertisements. Besides providing background music for the movies, some organists became local celebrities providing organ entertainment and sing-a-longs. Birmingham law required entertainment venues to close on Sundays, so many local theatre organists supplemented their income as church organists.

Of the theatres continuing to operate into the 1930's, three maintained their theatre organs -- the Lowes Temple, the Ritz, and the Alabama. However, by the mid 1930's the Lowes Temple organ (4/46 Moller concert organ with percussions) and the Ritz Theatre organ (2/6 Kilgen/Robert Morton) ceased to be used. The Alabama's Publix I "Mighty Wurlitzer" would remain a star attraction until the departure of Stanleigh Malotte in 1956. There are two possible reasons for the Alabama Wurlitzer's survival. The featured organists were entertainers who could hold an audience's attention, and the Alabama's console majestically rises on a lift into the audience's full view. The consoles at the other Birmingham theatres were out of sight, either sitting on the floor in front of the screen or sitting down in an orchestra pit.

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The Alabama Theatre Opens

The Alabama Theatre was conceived by Birmingham businessmen in the middle 1920's. They wanted to build the biggest, best, most beautiful and most elegant movie palace in the South. The property was purchased and the plans drawn by leading theatre architects Graven and Mayger. The property purchased was L-shaped so the business people tried to purchase the remainder of the city block without success. After a cost estimate that was far beyond the means of the businessmen, a quick trip to New York City was made to visit with the largest builder of movie palaces at that time, Paramount Pictures. The necessary funding was secured. The only problem was the roles had now changed; the business people would now only operate the theatre and the Publix Theatres division of Paramount Pictures would own it. When touring his nearly completed Alabama Theatre, Paramount President Adolph Zukor named the Spanish-Moorish themed theatre the "Showplace of the South."

On Christmas Day, 1927, Paramount's Alabama Theatre opening featured Joe Alexander as solo organist and Lillian Truss as picture organist. As the houselights slowly dimmed to blue running lights, the opening night audience got its first glimpse of the "Mighty Wurlitzer" console slowly rising into view. The massively ornate red console featured four manuals and elaborate gold trim. Joe Alexander thrilled the audience with his rendition of "Organs I Have Played." The feature movie that evening was "Spotlight" staring Ester Ralston and Neil Hamilton. The evening's entertainment package also included the Alabama Grand Orchestra and a "Banjomania" stage show, complete with band and "Banjomania Girls." The Alabama Theatre truly earned its title "Showplace of the South."

In addition to films, the Alabama Theatre offered live entertainment until 1929. Paramount Studios produced unit stage shows which toured their theatre circuit, and would eventually play the Paramount in New York City's Times Square. According to a Alabama Theatre advertisement, these unit shows would "Bring Broadway to Birmingham." On the Alabama stage, the trunk doors used to bring performers' luggage to their dressing rooms can still be seen. Before coming to the Alabama, a unit show played the New Orleans Saenger Theatre, and when the show left Birmingham, it went to the Atlanta Paramount.

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The Alabama's Early Days

In the 1920's, Joe Alexander, Lillian Truss, and Lee Erwin occupied the Alabama Theatre Wurlitzer's Howard Seat. (The original Howard Seat, now stored in the organ workroom, has been replaced by a theatre organ bench.) Joe Alexander would serve as house solo organist until October, 1928. Mrs. Lillian Truss was a noted Birmingham organist who served as feature organist at the Strand and picture organist at the Alabama. Mr. Lee Erwin, an Alabama native, had served as Joseph Stove's assistant organist at the Lowes Temple Theatre. In addition, Lee was organist at First Methodist Church. Mr. Erwin would leave Alabama for fame and fortune with his Moon River radio show and later would work with Arthur Godfrey on radio and TV. Much later, Lee Erwin would return to the Alabama console to accompany the silent films "The Phantom of the Opera," "The General," "King of Kings," and others.

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The Talkies and Theatre Organ on the Radio

Paramount's decision to move to sound movies in May, 1929 ended Mr. Erwin's job as Alabama house organist. The talking screen provided the Alabama's only entertainment. From May, 1929, until October 1931 movie patrons didn't hear the Alabama Wurlitzer; however, theater organs could be heard on radio. Three Birmingham radio stations began broadcasting theatre organ music. In 1930, at Lowes Temple Theater, radio station WBRC broadcast Marie Elliot at the theatre's Moller console from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. At the Protective Life Building Cathedral Studio, WAPI radio installed a 3/6 Kimball (repossessed from the Marion Theatre, Marion, OH; now at Foster Auditorium, Southside Baptist Church, Birmingham). Herbert Grieb, Beatrice Wright and Clo McAlpin would be featured at this organ. At the Alabama Theatre, on February 1, 1931, WKBC radio began broadcasting Della Dean Orr, former Ensley Theatre organist, at the Alabama's Mighty Wurlitzer. Ms. Orr's broadcast did not interfere with the movie schedule as she was heard daily at 10 a.m. (before the theatre opened) and at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday (the theatre was closed on Sundays).

Alabama Theatre audiences would next see and hear the "Mighty Wurlitzer" on October 26, 1931 with Edwin Lyles Taylor at the console. 1932 would feature organists Gladys Lyle ("Tiny Tot at the Great Organ"), and Malcolm Tate. On December 19, 1932 Randy Sauls would begin a three-year stint playing at the Alabama. Randy was innovative and introduced guest singers to accompany him at the console. When he left in 1935, Jessie Walker would become the Alabama's organist and remain as house organist until 1937. In the three months following Jessie's departure, three organists played at the Alabama, each lasting one month. During this time, Francis Faulkenburg, from Miami's Olympic Theatre, was appointed manager.

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Stanleigh Malotte's Nineteen Years at the Alabama

Mr. Faulkenburg hired the organist from the Olympic Theatre in Miami to play the Alabama's Wurlitzer. Stanleigh Malotte first thrilled an Alabama audience on May 27, 1937 when Fredrick March and Janet Gaynor's "A Star Is Born" was the feature film. Indeed a star was born for Alabama audiences, as Stanleigh Malotte was an immediate hit.

Stanleigh soon became as popular as the feature attraction. For some locals, Stan was the feature attraction. He was a major feature in Alabama Theatre advertisements. He was promoted as "Stanleigh Malotte the Wizard of the Organ," "Stanleigh Malotte - America's Wizard Organist at the Mighty Wurlitzer," "Stanleigh Malotte - America's Premier Organist," and "Stan Malotte at the Organ." Occasionally there would be a photo of Stan and other times a cartoon drawing of him at the Wurlitzer.

Never in the history of Birmingham theatre organists was anyone to receive the publicity of Stanleigh. Stanleigh Malotte, the Wurlitzer, and the Alabama Theatre were household names. Children grew up hearing Stanleigh at the organ for the Saturday morning "Mickey Mouse Club" childrens' show, and in later years enjoyed dating at the theatre while Stanleigh played a romantic song. He was quite the entertainer, using "creative" sing-a-long parodies of local politics, which made him unpopular with city hall. Stan introduced new talent, and also played dual console programs with his wife. (A portable second console was added, made from parts of the Ensley Theatre organ).

Stanleigh was known for indulging in wine, women, and song. Some patrons bought tickets just to see if "Stan was so drunk that ushers had to help him to the organ," or that "he was so drunk he would fall off the stool." It was often said that the more intoxicated he became, the better he played. He began his performances with the console at picture level, where he could be seen by the audience. For his last number, the organ would rise to stage level and he would end with a great finish, twirl around on the organ seat, and stand - taking a fantastic bow while being lowered to the basement.

From 1952 - 1954 Stanleigh Malotte left the Alabama and played at Atlanta Fox Theatre. Newspaper advertisements stated he was leaving Birmingham for a guest engagement at the Fox. According the theatre staff reports, the Wurlitzer needed many repairs. In 1954 the newspapers announced the return of Stanleigh to the Alabama console, and for two years he would continue entertaining Alabama audiences. On September 14, 1956 Stanleigh Malotte's long career at the Alabama came to an end with the last showing of Marilyn Monroe's "Bus Stop." With his departure, the Alabama Wurlitzer remained silent for about eight years. Although long gone, Stanleigh is still remembered by many Alabama Theatre patrons.

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Big Bertha

February 28, 1964 saw the Alabama's Wurlitzer once again rise from the pit. Charlie Cox, a local organist, was at the console. The organ would only be used Friday and Saturday nights for ten minutes between features. Charlie is responsible for giving the organ the name "Big Bertha." The name does NOT come from the song "Birmingham Bertha." Charlie gave it the name due to the organ's temperament and sometimes un-lady like attributes. Mr. Cox played weekends until July 17, 1964.

For the remainder of the 1960's the organ remained silent, covered, and suffered neglect from non use. In the late '60's, at a late night organ crawl, members of the Southeastern (now Atlanta) Chapter of ATOS found the organ to be in bad shape. Theatre management granted them permission to begin restoring the organ. Local organist Jay Mitchell began helping the Atlanta based crew. When the Atlanta based crew left, Jay was able to form a local organ crew that worked Friday and Saturday nights after the movies were over. In 1970, present Alabama Chapter ATOS members Larry Donaldson and Dan Liles were part of this organ crew. The primary focus was on rebuilding the console (keyboards and stop rails) and repairing the Wurlitzer relay. The console was also repainted, but without the crinkle finish that is seen in factory photographs. The colors remained red and gold, but with black on the stop rails and key cheeks. For awhile Jay Mitchell would entertain Alabama Theatre patrons with the sounds of a then nearly restored but "not quite so mighty" Wurlitzer.

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Alabama Chapter ATOS

In the early 70's, Jay Mitchell was teaching organ at Forbes Music, and was the staff organist at the Alabama Theatre. It was Jay who led the volunteers in patching Bertha to keep her playing, and it was Jay and his students and friends who were the nucleus of the Alabama Chapter ATOS. Led by Alleen Cole (Stickler) and Ridel West, the chapter was chartered in February of 1973. About this time, Jay moved out of town and Larry Donaldson took over the crew, which he has headed most of the time since then. From 1973 until the present, all maintenance on Big Bertha has been done by Alabama Chapter ATOS members.

After Jay Mitchell left Birmingham, the organ was heard infrequently. The ATOS chapter occasionally sponsored concerts, and the theatre used the organ for weekly Wednesday Ladies Shoppers Shows, with house organist Bernard Franklin at the console. There was also the occasional special children's show.

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New Ownership

The theatre changed ownership from ABC Theatres, to Plitt Theatres, and then to Cobb Theatres. The late '70's were a bad time for downtown theatres due to the decline of downtown and competition from new modern suburban multi cinema theatres. Though undergoing a seat renovation in 1973 (reducing the seating from the original 2500 to 2295), the once proud Alabama Theatre had to lower itself to dollar admissions, holdovers, and arcade machines in the lobby. The Alabama had to hold over "Animal House" for twenty weeks because this was the only movie they could show that wouldn't lose too much money. Later, house organist Cecil Whitmire and Cinema Unlimited attempted to draw crowds back with classic movies and the Wurlitzer in a "Recaptue the Spirit of the Alabama" campaign. In 1981 the Alabama Theatre was closed. However the organ society was allowed to work on the organ and give special organ programs from time to time.

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Failed Dreams

Later the theatre was sold to a downtown development company. The Alabama was to be a key part of a revitalization effort to bring interest and people back to the downtown area. Unfortunately the plan didn't materialize and the development company went bankrupt, declaring Chapter 11. The Alabama was operated by the Alabama Chapter ATOS to keep the owners from cutting the power off and preventing the badly needed continual maintenance on the Wurlitzer.

The partnership between the theatre owners and ATOS went on successfully from April 1986 until December 1986 when the theatre owners were forced to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which meant the theatre would have to be sold on the courthouse steps with all of the other holdings the owners had. It was in 1986, with the near certain demise of the Alabama Theatre looming, that Tom Hazleton was commissioned by the Alabama Chapter ATOS to produce an LP to document the Alabama Theatre sound.

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Alabama Theatre for the Performing Arts

(the following parts of this history were written by Cecil Whitmire)

The Alabama Chapter of ATOS wanted to purchase the theatre but had no money. Many meetings were held and they came up with many different plans to help the theatre, none of which were enough to persuade the court to allow the theatre to survive, mainly because of money. We were desperate. Finally, we found an attorney that would work pro bono. Alabama Chapter ATOS finally officially became part of the bankruptcy proceedings and our small, poor voice was heard. We were allowed 90 days to raise $156,000 to pay off the back insurance, the past due taxes and mortgage interest (14% rate on a $650,000 mortgage).

With much community support, especially from the Birmingham News newspaper, the required funds were raised. In fact, $196,000 was raised. On May 6, 1987, the papers were signed and the newly formed 501(c)3 non-profit company, Birmingham Landmarks, Inc., took ownership of the Alabama Theater with its Wurlitzer organ. The creditors, because of the ownership by a non-profit, forgave and discounted some of the monies owed, so the final bill was $106,000, and Landmarks, Inc. started with a nest-egg of $90,000. But for what? In 1987 the downtown was gone; no stores, no restaurants, no theatres. Just dark streets and homeless people. A new operation plan was developed to have movies every other weekend and, if this was successful, would pay the tremendous debt service of $6,250 monthly.

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Birmingham Landmarks, Inc.

The Alabama Theatre opened under the newly formed non-profit Birmingham Landmarks, Inc. and the initial business was overwhelming. Gone With The Wind grossed over $20,000 in one weekend. No one gave the new owners a chance of making a go at this new performing arts venture, but in 17 years here is what happened:

In the first year of operation 260,000 Birmingham area citizens came through the doors of the Alabama Theatre. Birmingham Landmarks became a force to be reckoned with. Even the Mayor of Birmingham bragged about Landmark's operation. When the City of Birmingham had the opportunity to lure a major Children's Science Center to the City it was suggested that they locate in a old empty department store next door to the theatre. A $50,000,000 investment. Soon Landmarks was able to have the city move bus stops and install new brighter street lights and improve sidewalks and improve the police presence in the theatre area. Investors were beginning to buy up the old buildings at bargain basement prices and use them for lofts and apartments and in some rare cases a new retail store. The area around the theatre was beginning to blossom. All the shops on the block surrounding the theatre were fully rented and when the Chamber of Commerce brought people to the city they brought them to Landmark's block to see something very positive.

Now the real figures. The Chamber of Commerce sets the economic impact of the theatre at a conservative $10,000,000 annually. The patron count in 2003 was 522,000 attending 312 events. These shows paid $113,000 in sales tax to the City, County/and State. New buildings within two blocks of the theatre include several major loft developments with over 300 units, two office buildings - one 11 story and one 12 story. The city has decided to assist Landmarks in restoring the Lyric Theatre across the street from the Alabama to help with the proposed new Downtown Theatre District that will have four theatres within two blocks in the center of downtown and the theatre. Already announced are four new restaurants and the city is just beginning.

After 17 years Birmingham Landmarks owns the large building next door that is used for rehearsal space, a parking lot across the street from the theatre and the theatre debt is almost retired. The theatre has been operating in the black for seven years, the restoration is completed, including the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ, a new 4000 sq ft ballroom with elevator is planned with additional meeting space along with new electronic marquee.

All of this done by a small group of dedicated people who did not know they could accomplish this, but neither did they know that they could not accomplish it.

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The Alabama Wurlitzer

(the following parts of this history were written by Larry Donaldson)

Wurlitzer Opus 1783, Style Publix 1, was shipped from the Wurlitzer factory on November 11, 1927, heading for the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham. It premiered to the Birmingham public on December 26. Like all other Publix 1, it contained 20 ranks of pipes, eight sets of tuned percussion, and 4 manuals. Unlike most others of this style, it was installed in three chambers instead of the normal two (Seattle Paramount is also a three chamber installation). The chambers are: Solo, Main (marked Upper Main), and String (marked Lower Main). The organ was used regularly for movie overtures into 1954. The organ was occasionally used for Wednesday Ladies Shoppers Matinees and other non-movie events until the mid 1960's when the Southeastern Chapter, ATOS, began the restoration. Starting in 1969, a group of local enthusiasts continued the work, while the organ was occasionally used for movie overtures. In February, 1973, the Alabama Chapter of ATOS was formed, and the restoration and maintenance since that time has been done by Alabama Chapter ATOS personnel, with Larry Donaldson overseeing all work.

The first expansion was the addition of an English Post Horn (described in more detail below) made for the Alabama by Trivo in 1984. Since the original Wurlitzer relay was still in use, the Piano was temporarily disconnected to make a place for the Post Horn on the relay and on the console.

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Organ Chambers

The String Chamber is shallow with a rounded juncture between the ceiling and front wall which allows for extremely good sound egress, especially the high frequencies. On opening night, the ranks in this chamber were: Dulciana (61 pipes), Solo String #1 (61 pipes), Viol d'Orchestre (85 pipes), Viol Celeste (73 pipes), and Vox Humana (61 pipes). The Chrysoglott and Bird Whistle are also in this chamber. Most organists found this location for the Solo String to be overpowering so a Skinner Solo Gamba replaced this rank. The Solo String #1 was later installed as a celeste to Solo String #2 in the Solo Chamber. The Gamba has been extended to 16' by the addition of a wood Violone (Austin, 12 pipes). Two additional ranks have been added to the String Chamber: Gamba Celeste (Skinner, 73 pipes) and Unda Maris (Wurlitzer Dulciana from a church organ, 73 pipes). A large scale Orchestral Chime (2 Ω") and a Chinese Gong have also been added. Two sets of 12 pallets were added to the original Wurlitzer five rank chest to extend the Gamba and Dulciana to 4'.

The Main Chamber is the largest chamber in depth, located above the String Chamber. It originally housed only five ranks: Clarinet (61 pipes), Concert Flute (97 pipes), Tibia Clausa (15" wind, 73 pipes starting at 8'), Diaphonic Diapason (bottom 18 wood Diaphone, total 73 pipes starting at 16'), and Tuba Horn (85 pipes starting at 16'). The Tuba and Diapason share one regulator and tremulant as expected. The Clarinet and Concert Flute originally shared a regulator and tremulant, so an additional regulator and tremulant were added for the Clarinet; therefore, the Main Tremulant effects only the Flutes. Two additional ranks were added: Flute Celeste (Wurlitzer Concert Flute, 73 pipes starting at 4') and Trombone (Moller from Lowe's Temple Theatre, Birmingham, 12" wind, 73 pipes starting at 16'). Pedal regulators have been added for the Diaphone, Tuba Profunda, Tibia, and Trombone offsets so they would not be on tremulant. A Wind Chime has also been added just outside the swell shades.

The Solo Chamber is oddly shaped with three fire escape tunnels going through its space. There are two sets of swell shades, one above the other. The original two five rank chests are stacked with the Vox Humana (61 pipes), brass Trumpet (61 pipes), Solo String #2 (61 pipes), Tibia Clausa (85 pipes total starting at 16', 15" wind), and Tuba Mirabilis (73 pipes starting at 8', 15" wind) on the lower chest, and Kinura, Orchestral Oboe, Quintadena, Oboe Horn, and brass Saxophone on the upper chest. Because of the chamber's odd shape, Wurlitzer did not center the manual chests with the swells. In fact, the remnants of a structural concrete covered steel beam that had to be removed before Wurlitzer could set the Solo chests can be seen on either side of the upper chest. In the narrow space directly in front of the swell shades, we have added two single chests stacked above each other. The Vox Humana has been moved to the lower of these chests and a wood Harmonic Flute has been added to the upper. A Trivo English Post Horn was purchased in 1984 and is now in the original Vox Humana location on the five rank chest.

All the original percussions including the piano were located behind the upper solo swell shades, sitting on the lower fire escape tunnel. The Master Xylophone was relocated outside the lower swell shades to improve its presence in the large auditorium. The area above the upper fire escape penthouse originally had only a 40" ceiling height. Since this ceiling was collapsing due to extreme water damage, it was removed and the ceiling was raised to 20' in this small area. Into this area has been added a 16' Ophicleide (12 pipes), 16' metal Diaphone (12 pipes) and three manual chests. The Oboe Horn has been relocated to this area and the Solo String Celeste (from the String Chamber, Solo String #1) has been installed in its place on the upper solo chest. Also added in this penthouse area are a Lieblich Flute (Austin, 85 pipes) and a Horn Diapason (Kimball, 61 pipes plus the Wurlitzer 16' metal Diaphone). When this ceiling area was raised, it created a small area with a 34' ceiling that is designated for a future 32' Contra Bombarde (currently in storage awaiting the funds needed for rebuild and installation).

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Computer and Blowers

In 1988, the original Wurlitzer relay was replaced with a computer based system that includes the combination action and a playback system. This was done for several reasons, the primary one being to expand the very limited unification of the Alabama Wurlitzer. (Unlike many Publix 1 installations, the Tibias did not extend above 4' and therefore did not include any mutation pitches as is needed in modern theatre organ registration.) This also allowed remapping the 12 pipes of the Clarion in the main chamber to the Diapason to allow for a 4' Octave, and the installation of 9 ranks and other extensions as described above.

After the installation of the computer relay, many nationally known theatre organists have played the Alabama Wurlitzer, lovingly known as Big Bertha. To name a few: Gaylord Carter, Lee Erwin, Jim Riggs, Donna Parker, Tom Hazleton, Jonas Nordwall, Lyn Larson, Ron Rhode, Charlie Balogh, Lew Williams, David Peckham, Tom Helms, and others. Each one, at the request of the organ crew, offered suggestions for Big Bertha's improvement. Many of these suggestions involved the future expansion of the 185 stop console. These suggestions were collected over the years and when it was time to do the deed, a wish list specification was created. This list was forwarded to Tom Hazleton to make musical sense of the proposed specification. The 289 stop, 29 rank specification is the product of this work. The original blower is only 10 horsepower and would only sustain 17" static wind as installed. This was not adequate for the original 20 ranks with modern theatre organ tremulant requirements, especially on a 15" Tibia which needs more than 20" to get a good +/- 5" swing. The organ sagged badly on heavy registrations. A 7-1/2 horsepower church blower with higher volume capacity was installed ahead of the original blower to supercharge the blower intake. This has provided 22" static, and with the increased air density at the 10 horsepower blower intake, the original blower is more efficient - the organ does not sag with a full registration.

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The first renovation of the unique red and gold console was completed in the mid 1960's by the Southeastern Chapter ATOS (now known as the Atlanta Chapter ATOS). This renovation included complete releathering of the stop action, keyboard and pedal board rebuild, replacement of the tin tubing with neoprene, replacing dead magnets in the combination action, and a much needed paint job. The artistic repainting included toning down the garish red over black crinkle finish on the shell and completely removing the red on the stop bolsters and keyboards.

The second console rebuild was started in late December, 1992 after the Christmas movies were over. The purpose of this rebuild was to remove air operated combination action from the console. To do this, heavy toggle electric stop actions were installed that closely resemble the feel of the original Wurlitzer C-spring action. This was necessary to make the console portable so it could be moved off the lift when needed to expand the orchestra pit for opera and ballet use. A climate controlled garage was carved out of an adjacent building near the stage door to store the console when needed. The number of stops was expanded from 185 to 289 with the expanded unification and ranks. The keyboards were again refelted. Several planned ranks were included on the console specification even though it would be several years before they could be installed.

The third console rebuild was in conjunction with the theatre restoration in the summer of 1998. The primary goal was to repair and restore the console shell with keyboard adjustment, key contact replacement, and pedal board replacement as secondary goals. To keep the organ playing during this rebuild, a three manual console shell with keyboards was used. The stop bolsters from the original console were temporarily installed in the three manual console. Only the console shell and four keyboards were shipped to Reno for rebuild. This repainting completely removed the garish crinkle finish, opting for the red and gold with black trim seen today. The completed console shell, keyboards, and new pedal board were returned to Birmingham where the stop bolsters were reinstalled.

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Current Organ Status

Current activities include releathering primary pneumatics (now 77 years old) and completing the installation of offset chests for various ranks to expand the current note compass of the original ranks.

Big Bertha is used very often throughout the year, but is in almost constant use for overtures for the classic movies that are shown each summer and on holidays. Many weddings take place in the Alabama and Bertha plays a big part in the ceremony. Many theatre tours are scheduled during the week and a demonstration of the Mighty Wurlitzer is part of each of them. In a very busy theatre like the Alabama, it is hard to schedule time for pure theatre organ concerts, but six to ten of these are still presented free to the public each year by the Alabama Chapter. The annual presentation of Phantom of the Opera has been a Birmingham tradition since 1976.

Alabama Chapter ATOS recordings made on Big Bertha include "The Birmingham" featuring Don Baker, "The Alabama Wurlitzer at its Best" featuring Tom Hazleton, "Singing in the Bathtub" featuring Jim Riggs, "Bertha and a Dozen Friends" featuring twelve local and nationally known organists, "At Last" featuring Lew Williams, "The Alabama Wurlitzer featuring Tom Hazleton," and "Stars Fell on Alabama" featuring Jelani Eddington.

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