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Al Melgard

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Al Melgard was the third and best-known organist for the Chicago Stadium, from the early 1930s until retirement in 1974, at age 85.

Melgard, who lost his left index finger in an accident as a youngster, was nonetheless a highly acclaimed musician and played the Stadium’s world-famous Barton theater organ masterfully. He played at nearly two thousand Chicago Blackhawks hockey games and over four hundred Chicago Bulls basketball games, as well as hundreds of professional boxing matches and countless other Chicago Stadium events.

He was arguably the first sports arena organist to match songs to events during games and his favorite target was the referee. When NHL Hall of Famer Francis “King” Clancy called a penalty, Melgard would play “Clancy Lowered the Boom.” Sometime in the late 1950s, he decided to greet the referee and linesmen when they came onto the ice before the start of the game with “Three Blind Mice.” This practice ended quickly after a tersely-worded order from NHL president Clarence Campbell.

Melgard’s most notable performance came during a boxing match at Chicago Stadium during the 1940s. As the story (fact mixed with some fiction) goes, the fight ended with an extremely unpopular decision. The capacity crowd became unruly and a riot on the floor broke out with folding chairs flying. Melgard supposedly tried to calm the uproar with a religious song and then the Star-Spangled Banner.

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