When JMI (Jennings Musical Instruments, Ltd) decided to enter the combo organ business, they already had considerable experience in the design of electronic organs. Before Vox came into existance in 1957, Tom Jennings, the founder of JMI, manufactured a line of home, theatre, and church electronic organs. He called his organ manufacturing enterprise the "Jennings Organ Company."
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In the early 1960's, the Jennings Organ Company designed a series of electronic theatre style organs called the "J Series." These organs used a Hammond like drawbar system for tone adjustment. The "J Series" was only moderately successful in the marketplace, but the tone generator circuits and drawbar controls developed for these organs would soon find a revolutionary new application at JMI.
By 1961, Tom Jennings identified a new market for his organ technology. He noticed that many "beat" groups in England had adopted the use of a large, console style electronic organ into their bands. The organ of choice for many of these groups was the Hammond M-1 console organ, which offered rich and complex tones and nine drawbars for tonal adjustment. While rich in tone, Hammond Organs were heavy and cumbersome to move. In addition to the weight of the cabinetry, the complex and heavy Hammond mechanical tone generator system (which included a large electric motor to drive the "tone wheel") made transporting a Hammond organ a roadie's worst nightmare.
The previous experience the Jennings Organ Company had with drawbar based tone control would serve as a good basis for a JMI produced portable "Hammond" style organ. JMI organ gurus Derek Underdown and Les Hill set out to make a lightweight, transistorized "drawbar" style portable organ that could be marketed to the beat groups as an alternative to the large and heavy Hammond organs popular at that time. By 1962, the first Vox Continental was introduced to the market.
Click the "Next" button below to see pictures of that earliest version of the JMI single keyboard Continental Organ.