A DAY IN ZUMBROTA: ROLL-OR-KARI

Hammond B-3 players all know about the Roll or Kari dolly. You can see it here and here-in action.

I bought one years ago for my B-3 and it has served me well. As I embarked on this 21 Pianos project I realized it would work perfectly for this piano, since its undersized. I bought one from a dolly/hand truck place in Seattle back in the day, but this time around no one stocked them. With a bit of research I found out they were built in a place called Zumbrota, MN, about an hour south of the twin cities. Since I didn’t need the dolly to get it east in the back of my van, lying on its back, I decided to go to the source, and save a little on shipping etc.

They were a little hard to reach, but once we connected very nice. I set out from Minneapolis on a sweltering day and headed south through beautiful farm country and rolling hills. The GPS on my cell phone finally said. “Arrived” and I looked around and basically thought, “This can’t be right”. It was a gravel road and what looked like an abandoned building. I got out, with slight fantasies of “The Onion Field”, and noticed a screen door and a very faded “roll-or-kari” printed up above. As I approached I was greeted by the nicest lady on earth, whose name, of course, I now can’t remember. She said, “You must be Wayne”, and I said, Yes”, and she said, “well I know all about YOU.”

I go in and crazy free jazz is playing. I asked what she was listening to and she replied, “Well I put on the Pandora Wayne Horvitz channel.” “Sounds like Tim Berne to me.” I remarked. I was right. I look around, and there it was, the entire Roll-or-Kari operation. A few rooms, cardboard boxes ready to be shipped, the tools for punching the holes in the wooden and metal parts (see the photo “Big Bertha”. Basically she runs it herself with a little help from her husband on weekends and a welder she hires from time to time.

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She was so warm and welcoming. She asked me to sign a handle, that was a first. We had a great chat, and god knows what Hammond B-3 players would do without her. Talk about a niche market. And how else would I have ever seen the charming hamlet of Zumbrota. According to Wikipedia it promotes itself as, “The only Zumbrota in the world.”

Later I went on, again through gorgeous farmland, to meet some folks in nearby Red Wing, home of the shoes. And the Anderson Center.

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