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Runnin’ Down a Dream: Working for Benmont Tench

By Maxwell Butler

Here at Ken Rich Sound Services, quality is paramount. This credo has allowed us to call some of the biggest names in professional music our clients. No matter what needs to be done, and no matter who needs it done, we do it the best that it can be done. Tour support for major artists, something we do a lot of, is serious business. Instruments on the road are worked hard night after night, thrown into cargo holds or trailers, and worked hard some more. Nothing can go wrong in front of thousands of adoring-and paying-fans. When you’re at the top of the heap, like Benmont Tench, only the best will suffice. Benmont, founding member and keyboard player of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and session ace to everyone from Ryan Adams to Randy Newman, is one of our dearest clients. In preparation for an upcoming Heartbreakers tour, his truckload of gear came to us for service.

Everything arrived at our humble shop in flight cases marked with names for each instrument-Ethel, Betty, Aretha, et cetera. The centerpiece of the whole affair was his road-worn but beautiful sounding black Hammond C-3 and three Leslies. It’s seen here with one of his VariVibe-equipped Wurlitzer 200As and his signature effects pedal chain:

He’s had the organ for decades, and one of the Leslies is a solid-state conversion by the late Bill Beer. You’ve heard that Leslie on the Heartbreakers hit “Refugee,” in all its sparkly, edgy glory. The exact wattage of the Leslie is unknown (as are many of Bill Beer’s designs), but it’ll blow the windows out of a small apartment. The high-frequency driver is an industrial JBL unit that’s about four times the size of the original Jensen V21, and I’m told it’s used for fog signals:

The other Leslies are good old tube-driven classics, a 122 and a 142 conversion (originally a 45), that sound delightful. The organ didn’t need much work, mostly a standard tuneup: drawbar service, generator oiling, a new filter capacitor in the preamp. The Leslies, however, needed a good amount of motor rebuilding as they hadn’t had attention in some time. They’re now ready for the rigors of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

The other instruments that came in needed routine maintenance as well. We had to suss out a hum issue that arose from the Wurlitzer being placed atop the organ, which Master Ken cleverly solved. His lovely Jennings Vox Continental had multiple issues, but we got it back to 100%. Its circuitry makes for a compelling still life:

Benmont cruised into the shop to demo our work, and was thrilled with the results. He can count on his instruments to perform their best every single night, and that’s our goal when preparing a rig for touring. The Heartbreakers will be on the road this spring and summer for a North American/UK tour. Head out and enjoy their work and ours.

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