Born March 24, 1937 and raised in Marlette, Michigan, John Landon demonstrated an early interest in the organ. At first it was the Hammond organ at his home church. Later on at a nearby church with a pipe organ, he told his mother that he wanted one of the gold pipes from the speaking façade.
As a child, he listened to famed theater organist Dick Leibert on Sunday mornings on the radio. His formal training on the piano began when he was five years old. That was when he discovered that he had a good ear for music.
Although his formal education took him in a slightly different direction, John Landon served as house organist at The Paramount Theater in Anderson, Indiana from 1955 until 1987. During this time and beyond, he travelled around the United States to hear and play theater organs. In 2002, he became the organist at The Kentucky Theater in Lexington, Kentucky, where, except for a brief hiatus in Florida, he has served as organist to this day. His brief time away from Lexington was spent playing at the Polk Theater in Lakeland, Florida from 2003 to 2005.
Dr. Landon studied for and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Social Work from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. His Masters of Social Work degree from Indiana University came next followed by his Masters of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Finally, he received his Ph.D. in Social Science from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He retired as a professor of social work from the University of Kentucky.
His love of the theater organ led to his serving on the American Theatre Organ Society board of directors from 1985 to 1987, where he served as chair of the Hall of Fame Committee. He helped to found both the Central Indiana Chapter and the Bluegrass Chapter of ATOS. In the theater organ world, he is perhaps best known for being the author of two of the seminal books on the subject. The first is Jesse Crawford, Poet of the Organ; Wizard of the Mighty Wurlitzer
published in 1974 by Vestal Press. A second edition of this volume is being considered at this time. His other work, Behold the Mighty Wurlitzer, The History of the Theatre Pipe Organ
was published in 1983 by Greenwood Press, and is still in print. The current publisher of this volume is ABC-CLIO of California.
John W. Landon has written extensively for Theatre Organ
magazine, and has interviewed some of the most revered names of the theatre organ world, both for the magazine and his books. His interviews and friendships along the way have included C.A.J. Parmentier, Farney Wurlitzer, Jessica Crawford, Gaylord Carter, Chauncy Haines, and many more. Parmentier was interviewed for both of his books. Dr. Landon interviewed Farney Wurlitzer at his home in Kenmore, New York, June 5, 1971. For the Crawford book, he interviewed Jessica Crawford.
John W. Landon now serves as the historian for The Bluegrass Chapter of The American Theatre Organ Society in Lexington, and is revered for his service to the theatre organ world, our community, and to those he has served as a minister. His is a life well lived, serving the needs of others and passing on the torch to future generations as a teacher, an organist, and as a friend.
by William A. Webber, IV