Wes Taggart’s Journey to Restoring the Memorymoog Plus

Part One: The Delivery Saga

The Haloed Memorymoog. Probably the Henry the VIII of all the late 70s/early 80s poly analog synths, equally as big and mythical. Also, just as finicky and vindictive.

Michelle Moog-Koussa, the executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation, contacted me in September of 2016 concerning a Memorymoog Plus that was graciously donated by that summer’s raffle winner, Lee Keeley. As the 2016 Memorymoog raffle winner, his dream of owning a solid working Memorymoog came true. Michelle asked me if I was willing to bring Lee’s donated instrument back to life.

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The Memorymoog Plus (r), donated to the Foundation by Lee Keeley, next to the Memorymoog that he won in the 2016 raffle. Lee came to the BMF headquarters in Asheville to pick up his  synthesizer, and dropped of the donated synthesizer, on September 16, 2016.

 

Since I have repaired a Memorymoog or two in my day, I accepted the challenge. Being late in the year, I asked Michelle to hold on to it until I transitioned south for the winter. Yes, I’m a snowbird. I asked Michelle if she knew any history on the instrument. She said that the unit powers up to no real display and a couple of the LEDs on. She also told me that Lee and some engineer friends had attempted repairs on it.

Well, we got to Florida and got settled in. I contacted Michelle and told her I was ready. She got the synthesizerpacked up and sent off, providing me with a tracking number. I knew what day it was going to arrive, couldn’t be simpler or easier…..

Did I mention that it was just a week before Christmas?

In the world of my business, one is always learning valuable lessons and this Memorymoog provided many. The first one:

Don’t ship anything large to Florida the week before Christmas.

I awaited its arrival. I kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Well, you get the idea. Finally a truck pulls up at 9:40PM one night. Yes, 9:40. I’m waiting at the door and the driver drops a package and walks away without ringing the doorbell. I open the door and ask where my other package is. His manifest states that it is on the truck, but he says it isn’t. He believes it got misplaced on another truck. Great.

I wake up the next morning and there is a delivery notice on the door. Attempted delivery of the Memorymoog was at 10:00PM.

The next day we wait for the second delivery. Nothing.

Next morning, there is a delivery notice. Attempted delivery was at 9:45PM. The note stated there would be no more delivery attempts.

I know that the drivers are required to make three attempts. A week transpires of endless phone calls to shipping company in the attempt to get delivery and many, many emails to Michelle to keep her informed.

Finally, I get the company to agree to one more attempt at delivery. Delivery occurs at the bright eyed and bushy-tailed time of 7:45PM. They must really work late in Florida. My deliveries in Ohio are always before 1:00PM.

The Memorymoog Plus is finally in my hands!!!

Part Two: The Restoration

It finally has arrived —  the Bob Moog Foundation Memorymoog Plus. Time to see what I’m in for….

As a tech who only works on analog synths, I’ve seen a Memorymoog or two. Realistically, probably  300-400 in the years I have been bent over inside these monsters of sound. I rarely have less than four in the shop at any one time. Is that due to Memorymoog being a bad instrument? Not really. They can be made to be a reliable, window rattling monster. Typically the issue with most instruments I receive for repair is decades of neglect. My job is to eliminate the neglect and restore functionality. Time to take a look inside.

What did I find and what was done?

Found 4 missing ICs on the dmux board and replaced those.
Found 2 bad 4174 in the latch section of the dmux board
Repaired the left and right side controller boards. Burnished every switch, cleaned pots

This got the instrument to the point of it able to function using the switches and controls. Not tuning voices

On to the analog…

Repaired a few of the voice cards
Replaced a couple of CEM3360s on the contour/glide board
Replace a bad op amp on the common analog board

Tuning voices now with some calibrating…

Replace every electrolytic cap in the instrument
Replace the paper cap on each voice card.
Replace some of the .1% resistors in the CV sum.

Common misconception is that if the instrument passes the tune routine that it will be in tune…

Not true. The tune routine only deals with the oscillators themselves. If you have CV issues and there are quite a few (pitch bend, mod, keyboard CV, etc…), the instrument can be *tuned* and sound quite out of tune.

Reseat all the connectors and ICs.

Full calibration of the instrument and bench test for 72 hours. It can heat a small room…

It is ready.

Did I lose some hair? Maybe. Did I go a little grayer? Possibly.

Still, returning one of these beautiful instruments to their glory is satisfying. And when you grab a big chord at a bit of volume? It shakes, rattles, and rolls.

If you ask me, the Memorymoog is the king of the polys.

Part Three: The Delivery

It was time to deliver the Memorymoog.

We arranged to meet Michelle to deliver it personally, so we put it in the backseat of our trusty Subaru for the long 660+ journey north from Florida to Asheville, North Carolina, where the Foundation is headquartered. Since there was the possibility that Michelle might need to ship the instrument to the upcoming raffle winner, we also somehow got the box inside the car.

Driving through Florida and Georgia is always a treat and after an occasional construction site, traffic accident, and thunderstorm, we finally arrived at The Bob Moog Foundation Headquarters at about 6 PM on a Friday. I will state that if you haven’t visited Asheville, it is jumping with an almost inability to not fall into some interesting shop or restaurant every 15 feet or so — what a cool town. It’s raining and there is one spot within miles and miles where I can conceivably park and it is marked very clearly No Parking. I leave the car running with my wife Liz and I run inside, barely even say hello to explain I’m park illegally and ask what should I do. Michelle gives me a hug and says, “Don’t worry, it’s after 6 on Friday. They won’t ticket you.” I hope she’s the Mayor.

We get the Memorymoog out of the car, have some proper introductions, and up to the office. We’re all chatting away while I set it up and plug it in. I’m not really being mindful of what I am doing as we are all talking about this and that and I turn on the Memorymoog and ask Michelle if she wants to hear it. “Of course,” she says. I will say this, she has some pretty decent listening monitors at the office. I play a bit of the intro to The Smile Has Left Your Eyes without checking the output level first. I am surprised I didn’t break a window.

The Memorymoog Plus up and running on the day of delivery to the Foundation, April 21, 2017
The Memorymoog Plus up and running on the day of delivery to the Foundation, April 21, 2017

 

After picking our collective jaws off the floor, I adjusted the output level down from 747 level and we Skype’d Lee Keeley to talk to him a bit about his so generous donation and to give him a chance to finally hear the Memorymoog he donated.

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Wes Taggart Skyping with Lee Keeley, who donated the non-functioning Memorymoog Plus to the Foundation. It was the first time Lee got to hear the synthesizer in its restored condition.

 

Well, everything has gone great and it’s time to celebrate. Off in the rain we go to Modesto’s, and excellent wood-fire Italian restaurant a block away from Michelle’s office,  for refreshments and dinner. We talk about so many things, dads, families, where we live, careers, etc… Finally, Michelle asks me the question. “How much does the Foundation owe you for the restoration of the Memorymoog Plus?”

Our original agreement was that I would donate the first $500 of the repair. Both Michelle and I knew it would take much more than that from the getgo, but we felt that was a fair starting point. She agreed to pay my hourly rate after that.  To be honest, I had never really intended to keep that agreement. I have been in this business longer than most (if not all). I have enjoyed doing what I do for so long and without the open door that Michelle’s dad provided me, I’d probably be working at Ford Motor or some IT farm, so I donated almost $3,000 of my time.

Giving a bit of time to a legacy that I look up to and am thankful for is quite an easy thing to do.

I tell Michelle that the dinner completes the transaction and any perceived debt has been paid. I can’t state for certain, but Michelle might have gotten something in her eye about then. She thanked us both for helping the Foundation with the upcoming raffle.

Unfortunately it was time to get on the road again as we needed to get to Knoxville to visit my sister, her husband, and my mother. We walk back to the car to say our goodbyes and lo and behold, no ticket! Michelle says she told us so. She must be the mayor.

We hug to say goodbye and I think Michelle got something in her eyes again.

It was so fun.
It was so informative.
It was so rewarding.

It will always be something that my wife Liz and I will always treasure and remember.

Wes Taggart

September 2017

 

P.S. We can all help the Foundation in different ways. There’s nothing as rewarding and meaningful as giving back to help the Foundation carry Bob’s legacy forward to future generations. If you have been inspired by Bob’s work, join me in supporting their work by donating here.

One Response to “Wes Taggart’s Journey to Restoring the Memorymoog Plus”

  1. Lee Keeley

    Great the hear about this from Wes’ perspective….the gift that keeps on giving ! Thanks for posting this and Thanks to Wes for his generosity! All the best! Lee

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