From: Jeff Weiller, November 2006
Luke Headley of Wichita, Kansas now has Op. 1614 (Kirby Theatre, Houston, Texas) in it's entirety.
Although he has had the console and relay for some time, he picked up the remainder of the organ from me yesterday.
From: Luke Headley, http://wurlitzer1614.homestead.com/TheStory.html
The Journey of Opus 1614
Opus 1614 was built by The Rudolph WurliTzer Company and installed in the Kirby Theatre in Houston, TX in 1927.
The organ was used to accompany silent films and debuted on opening night with Publix staff organist Julia Dawn.
Playing from its separated chambers, the organ was more successful than many small organs and nicely filled the
Kirby Theatre with that famous WurliTzer sound.
Following the end of silent movies, the organ went largely unused for over twenty years, and was taken out
of the theatre in 1955. Loving care was not the order of the day for theatre pipe organs, and Opus 1614 was
literally thrown in the basement of the nearby Fulton Theatre for storage. As to the theatre,
the auditorium of the Kirby Theatre was demolished in 1970. All that is left of it is the office building
that fronted the theatre.
The organ was sold to then 20-year-old Rodney Yarbrough in 1957 who was a theatre organ enthusiast from the
Dallas area, and the son of a partner in the Sykes and Yarborough pipe organ firm.
By this time, the organ was a wreck due to improper storage. Mr. Yarbrough proceeded to remove
the 5-ton instrument from the basement and take it home. The Yarbrough family relocated to a larger
house to accommodate the organ, and within a year he had the organ playing again.
He kept the organ until 1962 when he sold it to John Beck.
The next stop for Opus 1614 was at the home of Mr. John Beck of Dallas, who bought the organ from Mr. Yarbrough
and installed it in an A-frame room. A posthorn was added at this time and the organ did play for
several years until it was replaced by Mr. Beck with the Wurlitzer Balaban 3 from the El Paso Plaza Theatre.
Once again Opus 1614 was removed and transferred to a new owner and curator, Mr. James Sanford.
Mr. Sanford eventually moved to Wichita, KS, but not before selling the organ to Carl Packer.
The next owner of the organ was Mr. Carl Packer of Wichita, KS. Unfortunately, Mr. Packer never had the chance
to install the organ, it was put into storage where it incurred water damage. However, the relocation of the
organ to Wichita was to prove pivotal in the critical years to come in which it would be parted out and
The organ was then purchased by Jeff Weiler, who was then living in Wichita, KS where he served
as "Artist in Residence" for the famous New York Paramount organ. By this time, Opus 1614 was in
such wretched condition that it was decided to use the organ as the nucleus of a larger theatre organ project.
The organ console and relay were not used in the larger project and were acquired by Brett Valliant of
Wichita for use in a future organ. The rest of the organ began to go through a meticulous restoration.
The current owner and curator of Opus 1614 is Luke Headley of Wichita, Kansas. Luke has always loved
organs and was first exposed to organ music with his grandma's Thomas organ. The "mighty Thomas" was
eventually given to him, and he continues to cherish it to this day. From the age of 6, Luke knew he
wanted to one day own a pipe organ.
Luke was introduced to the theatre pipe organ when he attended an event featuring the New York
Paramount Organ and met Mike Coup whose efforts led to the relocation of the famous NY Paramount Wurlitzer
organ to Wichita's Century II. He was quickly "hooked" by the mighty Wurlitzer and sounds of these
wonderful theatre organs, eventually becoming an organ technician.
Luke was only 18 at the time when he seriously started the search for a pipe organ. Never imagining a
real WurliTzer pipe organ in his future, he called several local organ companies looking for organs
and organ parts that could be obtained on the limited budget of a high school student! It was then that
he became aware that the original Kirby console was owned by Brett Valliant of Wichita, and that the organ
console was not being used. Headley contacted Brett about purchasing the console and relay and was told
that the console was his for the taking!
Valliant's generosity provided the starting point of the quest to fully re-assemble and restore Opus 1614
to its original Kirby Theatre configuration and status. As Headley picked up the console, he was both
excited and surprised by what he saw. Although the console was somewhat disassembled and it was difficult
to tell "what was what," he was very excited to acquire this diamond in the rough.
Luke's quest for organ parts to supplement the Kirby console continued and was placed in touch with
David Dillon of Wichita who was selling off Wurlitzer parts. Luke helped Mr. Dillon sort through parts
and was the beneficiary of enough parts to put together most of an organ. Although not known at the
time, Mr. Dillon's warm generosity to a young organ enthusiast would prove to be instrumental for the
future of Opus 1614. While the Kirby console was coming back to life, the rest of the Kirby organ was
making its way to Iowa and would again be in storage awaiting its use in the Weiler project.
In the Spring of 2006, Headley heard that Weiler might be interested in discussing a possible trade
in organ parts. It is hard to describe his excitement at that point, as the possibility of making
Opus 1614 whole again fast became a reality. Luke contacted Weiler, and after a lot of inventory
work, a deal was struck and Headley and his wife Traci loaded all of the accumulated non-Kirby organ
parts into a 15 foot moving truck. The Headleys met Weiler halfway to Chicago where the Dillon parts
were unloaded from the truck and the Kirby Organ reloaded for a return back home to Wichita. A
special "thank you" goes to Jeff Weiler whose love of these instruments and his generosity to Luke Headley
will make it possible for Opus 1614 to again sing forth as intended by the WurliTzer Company in 1927.
The reassembly of Opus 1614 to its original configuration would not have been possible without the
generous help, support, and donations of many special people. I express my grateful appreciation to:
- Mike Coup, whose shared love of these magnificent instruments created my desire to become involved
with the theatre organ and to preserve that which WurliTzer created so many years ago in original
state and condition . .
- Brett Valliant, whose generous donation of the Opus 1614 "Kirby Console" led to an infatuation with
this organ and a desire to make it whole once again and whose support continues to provide encouragement
during this restoration.
- David Dillon whose generous donation of surplus parts led to the dream of having a complete organ
and which ultimately provided the "trading" parts that allowed Opus 1614 to be reassembled.
- Jeff Weiler whose commitment to these magnificent instruments inspires others to preserve and protect
them in their originality and whose willingness to support the complete restoration of Opus 1614 as an
intact and playing instrument is making this project possible.
- Jon Hickert who has helped me move every organ component that I have ever owned. We have maintained a
lasting friendship, and his support through the years means so much!
- My family for their understanding of my love for these unusual instruments, their help in moving parts,
and their patience as I kept their basement full for so many years with old musty organ parts.
- And last, but far from least to my wonderful wife Traci, whom I was dating at the time all of this
theatre organ stuff started. Can you believe it? She saw all of this coming and still married me!
She has supported me through all of this, and is also understanding of my love affair with the big lady
downtown, Mother WurliTzer. Thank you Traci!
From: Luke Headley, October 2007
Well, I tried, but I can't afford to keep it. Opus 1614 from the Kirby Theatre in Houston.
It is a style EX. Split chamber organ.
Comes with pictures and recordings from the past. Even the bill of sale from the theatre chain.
I am taking offers. The selling price will be very reasonable. I need to sell it this month.