The Dog Went Nuts!

Shep’s La Traviata
The Box top sticker for my model.

Several years back I picked up this La Traviata mouth organ for a couple of bucks from The Amazing Mill Markets in Daylesford, Victoria. It was nothing fancy, but a model I wasn’t familiar with. I certainly had no plans to write anything about it until a unique model appeared from ‘Down Under’ on an auction site this month.

On sale from Largs (South Australia), was this amazing double horn Hans Rolz La Traviata mouth organ. It had world collectors a buzzing and finally selling, I believe, to an Aussie for $2,025. The harmonica measures approximately 7 1/2” x 3 1/2” (190mm x 90mm). The seller stated it had been in their family for over a hundred years. Not too sure why they seller states, “unfortunately there is no one left who can play it so we are selling” as the bidders won’t be sucking or blowing into the chambers for fear of inhaling ancient fossils. There are other reasons for keeping such a fine specimen as they themselves have mentioned – a part of their family history. I wasn’t sure it would be quite this old, but it may well have been after researching the registration number and the trademark dating.

Inside box sticker for this model

Rolz had made numerous models under the banner of La Traviata (an interesting choice of name for branding this range). More than likely this brand name was taken from Verdi’s three act opera of the same name. The Italian translation of La Traviata means Fallen Woman. La Traviata in Verdi’s play is a Parisian courtesan named Violetta.

1931 Trademark

Guru Pat was employed to try and date this unique piece. We didn’t have much to go on except for the 1931 trademark. Pat declared, “Yeah, this is where it gets confusing. The 1931 DRWZ includes the DRGM number that dates from 1905 as part of the design. I’m not sure what aspects they were trying to protect.”

Note: DRWZ – stands for Deutsches Reichswarenzeichen, meaning that an item marked as such was officially registered under trademark laws inside all of the German states. DRGM stands for Deutsches Reichsgebrauchsmuster, meaning that the design or function of an item was officially registered inside all of the German states.

Canadian Collector Doug Dawson has a couple of La Traviata harps and I wondered if he could assist. Here’s his reply. “I only know of one other example, in Harley Crain’s collection. I date the La Traviata’s to about 1922.”

Single horn

I also solicited both lads in ascertaining if the single horn model wasn’t just a double missing a horn. Pat remarked, “It’s likely that the single horned versions shared a lot of architecture with the double horned versions, but they probably came like that from the factory, rather than losing a horn in the wild.” Doug had seen a specimen and declared, “Yes, they also made a single horn version. It has the same horn as the double, but the harmonica itself it slightly different in shape. It has a rounded closed-in cap at one end of the harp.”

I managed to locate one newspaper advertisement for a La Traviata sold by Glynn’s of Lismore, New South Wales in 1931.

A fine pair of La Traviata’s courtesy of Doug Dawson’s collection.
A couple of other models
From 1924 Catalogue – model on the right is from the 1930’s.

The River Rats from the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia have a fantastic single out now on a well known streaming platform titled Wildflowers. Karen Pater supplies the fruity harp on this cracker ditty. MIK’s Reaction is just MIK (Mick King) a 57 year old debutant to the music industry who has just recorded three tunes and his latest, Sanks Very Much (with the great lyric “the dog went nuts”), has a nice blend of a wee bit of harp, humour and melody. MIK hails from the central coast of NSW and I’m sure we’ll hear more from him in the near future.

Streamed the movie The Tender Bar and enjoyed both the music and the subject matter. The original Good Time Charlie had a spin. I was aware of Charlie McCoy’s instrumental version of Good Time Charlie having learnt that sometime previously. Good for the Charlie bend and all the bends on three.

I contacted Danny O’Keefe for two reasons: firstly, I couldn’t find any credit for the harp player and secondly, that I couldn’t locate the harmonica version on any of the streaming platforms. Danny wasn’t in for a long dialogue but here’s his reply “I played the harmonica, Shep” and on obtaining the original “Shep – The album cut has the harp and you can probably find it on YouTube. I never listen to Spotify or iTunes so I’m clueless.” It was on YouTube. Gotta say I have downloaded quite a few of Danny’s tunes. I’m a late fan! Not dead! Yet!

Had interesting email from Michael, who has a family Harola Mandolin Banjo heirloom. He contacted me via my article on the Harola mouth organ commenting that this was the only reference to the brand he could find. T C Beirne’s of Brisbane sold one in 1928.

I doubt Gebr. Ludwig manufacturer of the mouth organ was responsible for the banjo. If anyone can help please drop us a line.

My record collection has increased quite substantially – probably by about 1000 (78’s, 45’s LP’s even a couple of 16” vinyl records).

Long story short, I had an email from Dr. George Miklas (Harmonicat) who had been gifted Bernie Cardon’s (The Electrachords – pictured) collection.

Shipping costs and Customs requirements to the the US had made the project unwieldy and that’s where I stepped in.

A call out was made to save the collection from landfill and as I was only half an hour away from where they were being stored – Bob’s your uncle (Wal, Charlie, Albert and Roly in my case). I had the impression it was just a ‘few’ records and relayed that to my wife. Imagine our surprise when we found out it was a whole pallet!!! We only just managed to pack them into the family car. There must be almost every record Jerry Murad and the Harmonicats pressed. Also in the haul is: Larry Adler, Leo Diamond, Borrah Minevitch and his Harmonica Rascals, Albert Raisner, Richard Hayman, Ronald Chesney, John Sebastian, Toots Thielemans, Tommy Reilly, Claude Garden, The Mulcays and so many more.

Even picked up wonder kid Gene Jimae’s 78’s (pictured). A recent comment on The Gene Genius from Christian, a distant relative of the Jimae’s, recalls some childhood memories of Gene’s parents. Another relative, Vickie, also made contact. Don’t forget there was a follow up article Gene Genius Returns.

Radio

Back in the studio for 2022 and fun was had by all (at least in the Homestead). ‘Name That Riff Before Shep Sings’ was Goin’ Up The Country and ‘Something From Short Stop’ was Five Owls (Part three of Parthenogenesis) by Canned Heat (Blind Owl Alan Wilson). New music from Son Of Dave, The River Rats and William Crighton.

If you missed the Seven Blogs In Seven Days here are the direct links to each one.

#1 Besses & Beatles (Bess ‘o th’ Barn mouth organ) #2 Dyer ‘ere (Bob Dyer – Hillbilly Bob) #3 Gypsys Gotz & Beers (Gypsy Mouth Organ) #4 Busker Buttons (Percy Button West Australian Busker) #5 Western Providence (Matt Taylor Western Flyer) #6 Seydel’s Bob Each Way (Seydel’s Bandmaster Mouth Organ) and #7 Robbo’s Lauder Melodies (W V Robinson Mouth Organ exponent)

Vale

Sad to hear of Mick ‘The Reverend’ O’Connor’s passing. At one time a photographer with The Age (like his father Tom) then he turned his musical hobby into a profession. Steve Williams (John Farnham Band) disclosed to HRR that “he was in what he called ‘a funny hat’ band whilst working at The Age playing piano. I don’t know the name, but they appeared on the Penthouse Club with Bill Collins and Mary Hardy. This may have been organized by Mick’s uncle, Uncle Ivan Hutchinson (his Mum’s brother)”. Mick was hired as a guest musician with Goanna for their classic debut album ‘Spirit Of Place’ playing organ on Borderline. He was then hired as a salaried employee and taken on tour.

The Reverend performed at the Andy Durant Memorial Concert and was a member of Broderick Smith’s Big Combo featuring his Hammond organ and Leslie speaker. Mick was credited with writing two of the tunes on the Big Combo album, High Rise and Big Baby Brother.

Another record he could be heard on was Richard Clapton’s ‘The Great Escape’ and on its hit singles I Am An Island and the Best Years Of Our Lives.

Oh! Let’s not forget his stints with Spot The Aussie (there were many others). Check out Spot The Aussie’s live cover of Paul Siebel’s Louise over on SC and an instrumental grab from the tune below featuring Mick and then Steve Williams, who played in several outfits with Mick.

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