Keith Emerson

Rock-and-roll keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson first heard the sound of a Moog Synthesizer in a London record shop. The recording he heard was Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos. Emerson was looking for a new sound for his band The Nice, and prodded his record label to write Bob Moog requesting a free (!) synthesizer. Meanwhile, he was able to experiment with the Moog sound by borrowing a synthesizer from Mike Vickers of the rock group Manfred Mann. When Emerson, Lake and Palmer was formed in 1970, the group’s label, Atlantic Records, agreed to purchase new gear for the band, so Keith finally received his modular synth from the Moog company. It was specially adapted for live performance. Over time, he added modules to his system, turning it into what became known as the Monster Moog. Some modules were blanks—added just for show! Emerson formed a close relationship with Bob Moog, visiting the Moog factory in 1974. The Monster Moog would sometimes develop technical problems and Keith was known to call up Bob Moog in the middle of the night for advice. On one occasion at a big concert in Tokyo, Keith’s Moog picked up a local radio station and Keith recalled Bob telling him to cover the synth in silver foil. While the treatment wasn’t entirely effective, the mysterious voices must have added something to the performance. When the Moog went out of tune, Keith would announce “freakout moment” to the band. It was perfect for the psychedelic “prog rock” they performed at the time.

Photographs. Keith Emerson’s system, as designed by Robert Moog, ca. 1970-74. (2 images)

Moog Music, Inc. Documentation of modifications made to Keith Emerson’s synthesizer. October 1, 1971. (1 image)
Many files in Bob’s archive, such as these modification pages, show how Bob continually collaborated with Emerson to ensure his Monster Moog worked properly on stage, was repaired in response to wear and tear, and was upgraded based on Emerson’s evolving needs.

Moog Music, Inc. “Service Manual for Keith Emerson’s Modular Synthesizer.” July, 1973. (1 image)
Bob’s company eventually developed service manuals for the modular synthesizers they sold. Shown here is the unique service manual written for Keith Emerson’s custom Moog.

Moog Music, Inc. Synthesizer program card for a piece of Keith Emerson's Moog system, ca. 1973. (2 images)
From the Collection of Brian Kehew.

Photograph. Robert Moog (left) and Keith Emerson in front of Keith's custom Moog synthesizer (Rich Stadium, Buffalo, July 1974). (1 image)

Photographs. Keith Emerson performs with his Moog and band Emerson, Lake and Palmer. 1974. (4 images)

Photographs. Keith Emerson and Robert Moog at the National Association of Music Merchants trade show, 1998. (2 images)
Bob Moog regularly attended the U.S. trade show of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), where the latest gear would be displayed at the Moog booth. Bob had attended NAMM since 1970. The annual trade show was then, and remains, a significant meeting place for manufacturers of electronic music equipment, helping its participants develop partnerships and recruit retail networks. In 1998 Keith’s Monster Moog was displayed at NAMM and Bob was thrilled when Keith stopped by to give a demonstration.

Robert Moog. Schematic. Master Module and Performance Presets for Keith Emerson, 1969-73. (1 image)
Every synth today has an assortment of “presets”—different sounds or emulations of acoustic instruments that the operator can select at the push of a button. Presets enable performers to change quickly between different sounds without having to repatch the synthesizer. Bob developed a set of “preset” circuits for modular synthesizers that he premiered at the 1969 live concert at the Museum of Modern Art.  One of those specially adapted synths was purchased by Keith Emerson, with whom Bob collaborated to devise a set of customized presets. Shown here are schematics for Keith Emerson’s master module and “performance presets” (dated January 1969 in blue – revisions added in red in 1973).

Robert Moog. Pencil Drawing. Master Module Circuit Diagrams for Keith Emerson’s presets, ca. 1969. (1 image)

Poster. “Moog: Another Quality Product from Norlin,” 1976. (2 images)
This poster from a 1976 advertising campaign shows how Norlin Musical Instruments, the company that eventually came to own the Moog name, was promoting its products by associating it with popular musicians. Bob remained employed by Norlin as a designer until 1977.

Vinyl records. Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Keith Emerson albums from the collection of Robert Moog. (1 image)

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