Unique Boutique

Some time ago I came across an unusual specimen (as it’s name referred – Unicum) that was not in the greatest nick, but worthy of closer inspection. What I now realise, thanks to Pat Missin, is that I acquired a Weiss Mandola that was missing the cardboard tube in which it was embedded. I have to say it must have been ghastly to play. Thanks to Pat and surfing the net further information was obtained.

Christian Weiss founded 1850 in Trossingen. Taken over by Hohner in 1928.

The Weiss catalogue promotes the Mandola as “besides increasing the tone, the tube gives the instrument a peculiar, most agreeable sound.” It states the tube is made of Papier-mâché. Guru Pat’s explanation on the harp’s name, “After the takeover, Hohner used the name ‘Unicum’ on a few different harps with the Weiss branding. Not sure if Weiss themselves did that. However, the ‘Mandola’ was also called ‘Unicum’.” C H Weiss trademarked the name Mandola in 1909. There are probably not many of the original Mandola’s with their original tube in existence.

George from the Variety (August 1909) and an advertisement for the Mandola with George’s praise from the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland – December 1909)

I followed up with Pat to enquire on his knowledge of this gentleman referred to as the greatest mouth organ artist of these days, who was fond of Weiss products.

I’ve been trying to track his recordings for a few years now. He recorded a bunch of tunes for Pathé and toured quite extensively from the late 1800s until at least WW1. He seems to have been a solid Koch endorser and toured the US with the gimmick that he would pay $1000 to anyone who could outplay him! He also might have been the performer in a very early sound movie from 1908, “Mundharmonika-Potpourri” by Oskar Messter.” I wonder if George was judge and jury. I followed up with Pat on whether he was correct in his reference to George being a solid Koch endorser. He was, and he pointed out that, “although he stated what a great instrument the Mandola, is he didn’t declare he used it on stage.” George wouldn’t be the first, or last performer to switch teams or have his foot in different camps. Sadly George died from paresis in a state hospital for the insane in Elgin, Illinois in 1919 aged fifty five.

Here ’tis – after a very rough Shep restoration!

Lynchburg is a newly formed outfit that consists of two Aussie country legends Alan Caswell and Lindsay Waddington. Their debut album ‘How Country Do You Want Ithas a few tunes that feature mouth harp as an integral ingredient. The lead single Just Get Better, Drinking To Forget You (a cracker) and Black Jack Blues Again have seasoning harp added by guitarist Brendon Radford, who was a long term member of the Lee Kernaghan band.

Local Melbourne (Altona Beach) recording studio and label Belmar Records have released another fine compilation album under the banner of ‘Grubby Rhythm & Soul Vol. 1’. The song I want to highlight is I Can’t Stand It by Continental Robert Susz (remember the Dynamic Hepnotics) and Tania Lee Davies. This is a great rendition of this Spencer Davis Group soulful ditty that has been a regular in Continental Robert’s band sets. Check it out over on Bandcamp.

Good Will Remedy have just dropped a new upbeat single from their forthcoming EP ‘Same Old Crows’ titled Lightning Bolt. I think it’s having a shot at all the opinionated armchair experts. Out now on all good and bad streaming platforms. GWR continue to go from strength to strength and they deserve higher recognition from the Australian Music Industry.

Next months HRR feature will link directly to my Huff’n’Puff segment on Peej’s brekky show, The Imaginary Friends Show on local award winning community radio station 3MDR. If you haven’t listened before do yourself a service – either live or via the archives, which are kept for six months. I’m on the last Tuesday of the month from 8am to 9am. We have segments within a segment – NTRBSS (Name That Riff Before Shep Sings) and NSFSS (Now Something From Short Stop – not as far as Left Field). Here’s the link to last month’s show TIFS. Tune in next Tuesday to find out more about the article. Hear me play live and maybe if Peej doesn’t guess correctly hear me sing (hope he gets it right).

Thanks to Mark Hand from Okriftel, Germany for sending HRR a photo of the inside label of the Trump lid displaying Suttons of Bourke Street, Melbourne as sole importers.

Of course they had Suttons valves – oh yeah. You can read more on Suttons and Trump in this article Trump The Mouth Organ.

Cheers EssDawg

PS: Received an email from Mark Hand (with photos) re Mandola. I was particularly interested in the shots looking down the barrel.

Hi Shep, Nice article, thanks for remembering me. I have a few more pics of the mandola (from John Whiteman). It looks like it was a childrens harmonica (the youngsters delight)…….

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