Suisse Piece

Pretty pleased to have stumbled over this beauty – a pretty slick Suisse Boomerang Chromorgan. This model and the Grand Chromorgan (there was no De Luxe model) were briefly produced in Switzerland after WWII. Albert’s Boomerang mouth organs were manufactured by Seydel, who were under occupation by communist Russia after WWII – so briefly Albert’s turned to Thorens in Switzerland to produce their Chromatics, at least for one year, 1949. Albert’s were probably keen to be up and about in the marketplace to compete against Hohner’s Chromatics, which had gained a strong foothold in Australia prior to the war. Hohner had been dealt a better hand being occupied by the French, and therefore increasing the likelihood of production for overseas markets. They too had similar issues to Seydel with shortages of material (primarily metal) for production and skilled workers. Then throw into the mix ‘Made In Germany’ stamped on the land Down Under harmonicas and you were certainly asking for trouble.

The Swiss Chromorgans are not distinctly marked ‘Thorens’, but the box and the back of the comb have a capital ‘T’ marked (see above). Also stamped on the comb is what presumably is the model number, 5305. I don’t know of too many harmonica makers in Switzerland and the longer button is distinctive of a ‘Thorens’.

Thorens Harmonica wax paper wrap
A Thorens enamelled Chromatic
July 1921 – US advertisement

Couldn’t locate one advertisement for Swiss made Chromorgan or a ‘Thorens’ harp in our papers. There were quite a few for their cigarette lighter. Many of you vinyl buffs would be aware of ‘Thorens’ exquisite turntables that are still manufactured today.

December 1937 – Australian advertisement

This is my second Australian harp stamped ‘Made In Switzerland’. I have The Kangaroo made for (or by) Koch just after WWI when Germany were first on the nose.

Great to have new music from Mitch Grainger. His new single is a tribute to all women who have stood strong in adversity. Strong Woman arrived in two formats; an acoustic version (my preferred) and a band version (still bloody great). Mitch outlined the derivation of the tune as thus, “The lyrics in the first verse were inspired by a hip, older woman I met at a blues club in a dangerous area of Los Angeles. She told me her secret was to ‘walk tall and hang loose’.” Play along with an ‘Ab’ harp Riff Raffers.

Memphis raised Charlie Musselwhite has revisited his birth roots of Mississippi, with a fine album of fourteen tracks, Mississippi Son. Not only do we have Charlie’s smooth harp in the groove, but we also have his hypnotic guitar riffing on all tunes. Check out his take on John Lee Hooker’s Hobo Blues – just three little French words “Ooh La La”.

It was a crisp Sunday afternoon in May at Emerald’s annual PAVE festival, where we had front row seats to a hot set from Matt Joe Gow. No rain (or dripping off trees) just falling autumn elm leaves (see on stage). Several numbers from the back catalogue, Flowers In Your Hair, Steady Life, At The Bar, It’s Not Hard, Down River and a few newbies, Break, Rattle & Roll, Old Hotel Room and an unreleased number that will be his next single.

HRR will review Matt’s next album when it drops and we’ll have a chat with him on all things harmonica.

Photograph Pam Sheppard.

John Whiteman, from the States, sent pictures of this amazing harp after reading last month’s blog Tubular Organ. Here’s what John proclaimed, “Hi Shep, I have what is certainly the first horn harmonica and probably the first harmonica made in the U.S. It was made by James Bazin of Boston in about 1831. I paid $5k for it on ebay in 2008, and would have paid twice that if necessary. It was said to have been crafted in the early 1830s. Another specimen is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Mine is so far out of tune that I suspect it was a prototype specimen. Cheers John” Thanks for sending John.

You Cannot Be Serious!

More exorbitant priced harmonicas offered on a popular online auction site. A ten hole, twenty reed Miniature Boomerang (with box) was recently advertised on a well known online auction site for an opening bid of $650 Australian – “You cannot be serious!”. Not that rare and not the most sought after model, although to be fair it is nearly an antique. The box has a wee bit of damage, but the harp appears to be in pretty good nick. It would date to circa 1926 as the label inside the box lid indicates the price of the Boomerang is three shillings from J. Albert & Son, 137/39 King Street. On its second cycle through the auction, $400 was shaved off – (second floor Mens and Ladies underwear) going down!

I have one in my collection and, if my Miniature Boomerang (above) is worth this princely sum, I’m definitely keeping it in my estate. By the way, there were no offers on my Echo Vamper from the last blog.

Blog Updates

A couple of pictures added to A Crackajack Story – one of George Leavis Allan and the other of his son George Clark Allan. Dicken’s Echophone sold by Meinhardt’s Fitzroy – photo and advertisement added to By Dickens.

Please check home page for copyright details.

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