Jon Hammond, the “Hot Kid” on the Block


John Hammond and Marco Galeazzi
Jon Hammond and Marco Galeazzi

As a talented young musician, Jon Hammond took his surname seriously. Not to be confused with a different John, the blues guitarist, or Laurens, the inventor, Jon Hammond also earned his own standing among professional musicians in America and abroad.  He is considered as one of the premier Hammond B3 players in the world as well as a brilliant accordionist, bandleader, recording artist, composer, television and video producer, radio and T.V. personality and world traveling entertainer and showman. But,  one could also add “game changer” for the accordion to this already long list of accomplishments.

Young Jon Hammond
Young Jon Hammond, Junior Jazz Champion, c. 1966

Born in Chicago in 1953, Jon Hammond’s father was a physician and his mother, a homemaker. They relocated the family to Berkeley, California in 1957, so his father could take the job as head of the emergency room at a local hospital. When they had settled in for a few years, Jon began to study the accordion. But, it was when he performed at a senior citizens luncheon and earned twenty-five dollars plus a free lunch, that Jon decided to focus on the accordion. By age twelve, he won a Junior Jazz competition with his accordion, and soon after, Jon started performing professionally. He worked as a musician while he attended a private boys school in San Francisco, where he was threatened with expulsion because of his ‘class clown’ antics. So, Jon Hammond took the leap with his accordion to try to make inroads as a musician in the “hot bed” of music, San Francisco, California. He began to perform on the Hammond B3 organ with several bands and by 1971 and still a teenager, Jon had formed his own four piece group, “Hades.” Jon Hammond opened shows for such powerhouse bands like “Tower of Power”, “Quicksilver Messenger Service” and “Michael Bloomfield.”

Marc Baum soprano saxophone and Jon Hammond 1971 Photo by Bob Fratti
Jon Hammond with soprano saxophonist, Marc Baum, photo, Bob Fratti, c. 1971, California

But, playing violent biker bars in the Bay Area and the constant stress of performing pushed Jon to return to school. He wanted to do more, so Jon attended City College of San Francisco, then at twenty,  left for the east coast to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. But, Jon Hammond advises that, through his career, he has learned there exists a basic truth that “you have to learn the fundamentals, but the music itself comes from a much deeper place. They can’t teach that; you have to find it yourself.”

Jon Hammond
Jon Hammond deliberately altered perceptions about the piano accordion in the 1970’s.

So, John eventually left Berklee and Boston to seek and find that deeper truth in music. He moved to Cape Cod, where he continued to perform, compose and record. He began to travel around Europe, then started a production company in New York City with an idea that he would produce a radio show for television. Produced on a budget, his late night Manhattan television show, “The Jon Hammond Show”  was ingenious with the first episodes featuring “just my foot tapping and my voice….with graphics that were synchronized to go with the music…people dug it.”  Before long, “The Jon Hammond Show” was featured in Billboard Magazine. “We had a concept that was revolutionary….we were the hot kids on the block!”

Jon was also introduced to the world of trade shows in 1987, such as the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). These days, Jon Hammond is as much about the equipment as he is about the music. As a product artist and promoter of musical instruments, in particular, the Excelsior accordion and the digital Hammond B3 organ, among many other products, Jon promotes, performs and presents them at trade shows and other events throughout the world.

NAMM photo of Jon Hammond
Jon Hammond with (L to R) Joe Berger, Dom Famularo, Alex Budman, Koei Tanaka at NAMM, c. 2014

Biographical information from an article by Alex Walsh, June 9, 2016

“Jon Hammond, Where’s the Gig?”