The Electric Piano Forum

General => The Wurlitzer Electric Piano => Topic started by: bbs120 on June 16, 2015, 04:34:06 PM

Title: Just bought a 120...
Post by: bbs120 on June 16, 2015, 04:34:06 PM
Hello all, first post....please forgive if it's "too long"

I had a 200 way back in the late 70s, and I regret ever selling it.  The sound of that piano was the soundtrack of every pertinent piece of music from my youth.  It's literally everywhere.  I remember falling in love with that sound with the opening notes of "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night, back in 1971.  I've been looking for another Wurly for awhile, and have been really discouraged by the insane prices they seem to bring now.  I sold my 200 for a hundred bucks in the mid '80s!

Found this particular 120 on Craigslist in the SF Bay area, where my best bud lives.  He agreed to go look at it for me and check it out.  He called while he was looking at it and evaluating if it was a good choice (He's a musician also, and I trust his opinion).  Things sounded and looked good, plus it seemed to be something "different" than your usual Model 120.  So he snagged it for me and is going to store it for me until I get out there in a few months.

My interest was piqued by the photos in the ad, first off.  The top appeared to be possibly chrome or brushed steel? Couldn't really tell, and the body looked like stained wood.  He said it looked "well loved and well used," obviously "gigged with," and then he played some chords and ran up and down the keyboard, only one kinda-stuck key.  Said it sounded like (what to me) was some sort of microphonic feedback in one note, but it seemed to have corrected itself by the time he'd finished testing it. So, I said pull the trigger.

He got it home and took the top off and got the amp out, and took some good photos along the way.  I have uploaded them to my webspace on a very simple blank webpage for easy viewing (and I know that lots of forums get all twisted out of shape if you post pics are any larger than a postage stamp): (

After looking it over, it still seems a mystery as to just what the piano WAS originally.  With the original model/serial number plate gone, there's no real confirmation it is a 120, to the untrained (ie: mine and his) eye.  The ID plate on the amp doesn't make any reference to what model of piano it is IN, as the photo shows.  It does say it is a "Type 1200-1" amp.  Google yielded nothing as far as cross-referencing amplifier number to piano model.  If what I think are the "EIA Codes" on the transformers, they were made by the "Better Coil and Transformer" company in the 31st and 48th weeks of 1959. 

And just what the original finish was is also pretty much a mystery,  It looks for all the world like someone stripped and stained the outer plywood (as well as the hardwood bits), and possibly just stripped the paint off the metal top and front cover, and just used a buffing wheel on it. There are remnants of a possibly cream-color or beige paint, but that also wouldn't be a definite thing to ID it by, as on the nifty chart I found via posts on this forum, the 120 came in both a "blue/cream" and a "sandstone beige" flavor.

Worth noting, the seller said that he'd owned it for about 25-30 years, it came from SF.  He said he "bought it from an old guy" who told him that two of his old friends had really pestered him to sell it to them over the years, because they evidently thought it was "something special" but he never did, and finally sold it to the guy I bought it from.  The keyboard-cover evidently came from another piano, as did the pedal.  I figured the pedal had to be a later design, as all the photos I've seen of a 120 have shown a 2-piece hinged "heel pad."

If anybody can provide some more insight into just what it is I've got, I'd be appreciative.  I know that the "sound" of a 120 isn't exactly the same as a 200, but several things make this a really groovy find for me.  First, just the way it looks.  It looks like something out of the ordinary.  May not look perfect, but I like it.  Also, I *LOVE* the fact that it's a tube amp.  I'm a tube-head from way back, as well.  I collect tube radios and stereo equipment, too.  So to have the "new" Wurly I bought be a tubed one is rockin'.

Anyway, Please forgive the length of the first post, but I wanted to give as much info as I knew.

I hope y'all can shed some light on this for me.  I will be making a trip out to SF in a few months, and can't wait to actually play it.  Thanks!
Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: vanceinatlance on June 16, 2015, 05:37:55 PM
I had seen that listing and was wondering about that piano myself. From the pictires you provided, it does look to me like a 120. The amp looks pretty much identical to my 700 wich is a consol version of the 120. The inner workings of the piano look alike as well.
These have their own character and I would not say it sounds or plays like the later 200 series pianos. I was going to mess around with mine and sell it, but the selling part never happened.
Something fun about these I can't put into words.
Congrats on your find!
Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: bbs120 on June 16, 2015, 08:27:09 PM
Thanks!  I am looking forward to starting in on it.  Plan on a road trip out there in November at the latest, and I may well end up moving out there. 

I am not really wanting to mess with it as far as the my mind, I want to respect this instrument's journey more than I want it to look cool.  That said,  I want it to be as "playable" as I can make it, which will mean repairing and adjusting whatever doesn't feel right with the action, when I finally DO get to play it a bit.  At this point, I have no doubt I made a good decision. 

I am going to go over the amp and replace caps, resistors, etc., even tho' it looks like somebody has already been inside it somewhere down the line.  I'm researching replacement 6X9 speakers right now.  If that original sounds tired, I will replace it with something more modern, definitely.

I'm doing as much research as I can before I dive into messing with the action, if I have to do the time I'm finally able to play it, I will have some sort of idea of how to restore the action, reeds, and tuning to where it should be. 
Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: vanceinatlance on June 16, 2015, 09:34:15 PM
I would definitely take a careful look at that amp. It appears to still have the original "death cap" hooked up. A grounded ac socket has been added so it  is probably only going to trip a breaker if it shorts, but,  im not sure it should still be there?

Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: pianotuner steveo on June 16, 2015, 10:22:04 PM
You have one of the rarer cherry finish wood cabinet 120's, but it is pretty beat up. The tops were metal on all 120's for shielding.

Yes, you need to remove the "death cap"

Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: pianotuner steveo on June 16, 2015, 10:31:31 PM
Keep in mind that speakers for musical instrument amps are not the same as car speakers. Car speakers will work, but they are different, and may not be efficient enough for the smaller amp.

Btw, the low A on a Wurlitzer is 55Hz. No need for a speaker that goes down to 20hz.
Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: bbs120 on June 16, 2015, 10:43:22 PM
Thanks for the heads-up on the "death cap," y'all...I'd seen warnings about that.

Hadn't really thought that it might be one of the cherry finish cabinets, but it may well be.  There's one photo (haven't re-sized it for web yet) where you can see a drip of beige-ish paint down the left inside wall of the cabinet.  I can't tell if that paint drip looks "original or not.   One thing I forgot to ask while he had it apart was what color the metal top was on the INSIDE.  I'll see if he can remember. next time we talk.

And, definitely figured on trying to find a true "musical instrument type" replacement speaker, if there are any still out there.  I'd heard that generally you don't really need anything that will reproduce beyond the frequency response of the instrument itself.

Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: pianotuner steveo on June 17, 2015, 10:58:27 AM
The cherry finish 120 is the only one (120) with a real wood cabinet. All other 120's are the beige chipboard.**

The 700 was a 120 piano in a real wood cabinet that looks like a spinet acoustic piano. They came in Mahogany or Walnut and a lighter color finish. I've seen pictures of a couple of black ones, but I think they were painted black later.

The inside of the top on the 120 should have a black coating that looks similar to undercoating on a car.

** after further inspection of the photos, yes, it is definitely real wood, but it has been suggested to me by someone researching this that the sandstone beige finishes were paint over real wood also, not particle board. This makes sense in the respect that particle board cabinets would be breaking by now, (long ago actually) and I've never seen one with a broken cabinet.

So, if this is true, I think someone sanded off the sandstone finish and tried to make it look like the cherry finish. If they used finer grit sandpaper, it would have worked out better. Maybe this is something you can do once you get it.
Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: pianotuner steveo on June 17, 2015, 11:03:13 AM
The highest C on a Wurlitzer is approximately 2,109hz

Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: bbs120 on June 17, 2015, 01:07:30 PM
Thanks Steve, good info to know, definitely.

I found that photo I referred to earlier and have cropped it to show that paint drip I was talking about.  But, I also noticed a couple of other things when looking at it closely.

I can also see what appears to be remnants of that pebble/speckle finish on the inside walls of the body, which might point to the fact that it may have worn that finish initially.  I remember that sort of paint/finish was VERY popular in the '50s, and my parents refinished some furniture with something similar. 

Here's the pic...I remember my friend saying that it almost looked to him like there was a "thin particle board layer" laminated to the outer plywood shell"...but after looking at this close-up, I'd think it was probably just that speckle-paint.  You can kinda see remnants of a lighter finish on the plywood edges, which look like they've been sanded, as well.  What do y'all think? (

Adding a PS, re: speakers...found a company in Nevada called "Vintage 47" that makes guitar amps, and they have a 6 x 9 that's geared for using in their amps.  Possibly an appropriate choice for replacing the original?
Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: pianotuner steveo on June 17, 2015, 05:55:22 PM
Now I'm confused. The real wood cabinets with the cherry finish do not have the beige sand finish on the inside. Maybe someone sanded the outside smooth and tried to make it look like a real wood cabinet?

That speaker may be correct, but do not order one until you are 100% sure you need to. Can anyone here confirm the 120 speaker is actually 6x9? I have not had one here in years. I think it is, but it could be a 5x7

I am still kicking myself for selling the last 120 I owned, but I made out well.

I found it on the side of the road, waiting for trash pickup.....

Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: bbs120 on June 17, 2015, 10:53:45 PM
Yeah, I kinda came to the conclusion that somebody took a sander to the whole thing.  That staining job looks pretty home-brew, especially on the back...and some close-ups of the wood accent pieces on the metal top show the same sort of sanding residue.  I really don't mind...just adds to the uniqueness of it. 

So I guess I have what used to be a "sandstone beige" 120 made in late 1959, which is pretty's nearly as old as me! 

Hadn't thought the speaker might might be a 5x7.  I will definitely not buy anything until I need to, just wanting to line up possibilities for when I do get a chance to get started with this.

Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: pianotuner steveo on June 18, 2015, 07:30:55 AM
It could be 6x9, it's just better to measure it first...
I know the 200/200A speakers are not a perfect 4x8

Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: DocWurly on May 26, 2021, 03:43:18 PM
Quote from: pianotuner steveo on June 17, 2015, 10:58:27 AM
The cherry finish 120 is the only one (120) with a real wood cabinet. All other 120's are the beige chipboard.**

New data!  120's also came in black for the first year or so.  Black is rare, but if one's 120 is black.... it may well be legit.
Title: Re: Just bought a 120...
Post by: jam88 on June 14, 2021, 01:48:47 PM
Here's another original black 120.

Serial number 8755 is in the first 5% of Model 120 serial numbers--aligns with Steve's 'first year'  observation.

As the mahogany models have a brown pebble-grained film on the aluminum cover, this has a black pebble-grained film on the cover.