R. Warren Hammann, 87, manager of his family's Towson music store

January 05, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Ross Warren Hammann, retired co-owner of Hammann Music Co. who managed the company's Towson store, died of heart failure Wednesday at the Blakehurst Life Care Community. He was 87.

Mr. Hammann, who was known as Warren, retired in 1970 as manager of the company's branch store in what today is Towson Town Center.

The store, located on the mall's lower level between two banks of escalators, was known by shoppers for the impromptu organ concerts performed by representatives of the Hammond and Conn organ companies, whose organs were sold by the music company.

Mr. Hammann was born and raised in the Homewood section of North Baltimore. He was a 1934 graduate of Boys' Latin School, where he played lacrosse and was an outstanding midfielder.

He continued playing lacrosse at St. John's College in Annapolis, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1938. While at college, he was a member of the 1935, 1936 and 1937 All-American lacrosse teams.

He joined the family-owned business that sold instruments, records and sheet music in 1938.

The business was established at 206 N. Liberty St. in downtown Baltimore in 1921 by his father, Frederick B. Hammann, a well-known banjo player and instrument dealer.

Mr. Hammann and his brothers, F. Burton Hammann Jr. and C. Gordon Hammann, took over the business, whose slogan was "Everything in Music," after their father's death in 1948.

After receiving a franchise to sell Hammond organs in 1952, the company expanded to branch stores in Towson and at Security Square mall.

Earl L. Hoffman, a retired accounting clerk who worked for Hammann Music Co. for nearly 40 years, spoke with Mr. Hammann several weeks before his death.

"We swapped a lot of old memories," said Mr. Hoffman of Northeast Baltimore, who recalled the store's large inventory of sheet music, musical gifts, records, instruments and organs.

"When I first came there in the 1940s, Warren was in charge of the record department in the basement of the North Liberty Street store. He was a fine fellow and very nice to work with," he said.

While his two brothers, who played bass fiddle and saxophone, established the Townsmen, a popular Baltimore dance band in the 1930s, Mr. Hammann remained in the background.

"He didn't play in the band. He was a lacrosse player," said daughter Linda H. Wilson of Timonium.

"He confined his musical activities to demonstrating instruments and giving evening organ classes in the Towson store," she said. "He never had any formal musical training and learned enough about an instrument so he could show a customer how to play it and how it would sound."

The former longtime resident of Springway Road, who moved to the Towson retirement community about five years ago, did have a piano and an organ in his Ruxton home.

"He played casually and strictly for pleasure. The two songs that I recall as being favorites were `Tenderly' and `If It's Time.' He liked the old tunes. He really liked that kind of music from the 1930s and 1940s," said his daughter.

Mr. Hammann retired in 1970 after C. Gordon Hammann purchased the interests in the business held by his brothers. The Liberty Street store closed in 1983 and the remaining stores in 1985.

Mr. Hammann was a former member of the Towson Chamber of Commerce and had served on the Towson Plaza Merchants Board.

He volunteered with the Baltimore Symphony Youth Program, which helped introduce classical music to schoolchildren. He also was an avid vegetable gardener and golfer.

Mr. Hammann was a communicant and usher for 45 years at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the chapel.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Elizabeth Carter Ford; another daughter, Elizabeth H. Schwindt of Germantown, Tenn.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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