Blog

Kangaroo Hop (The Swiss Connection)

7th November, 2019

G’Day Riff Raffers,

It’s an Australian hop, the Kangaroo hop, but it’s also the German hop.

Earlier this year I found The Kangaroo mouth organ in of all places Riga, Latvia. I had believed in the beginning that this was manufactured by Seydel for Albert’s here down under. In Ray Grieve’s magnificent resource book Boomerangs & Crackajacks there is a picture of a 1913 J Albert & Son advertisement with The Kangaroo in company with a Wallaroo and a Coo-ee (both of these were Seydel products). On closer examination of my specimen I noticed something was missing. Registered-Made In Germany wasn’t stamped on the front cover plate. The graphics and font, however appeared to be exactement.

Stamped on the reverse cover plate was a large letter R (perhaps some lettering after), Swiss Harmonica, a circular Made In Switzerland mark and the trademark pictured here. All I see is a lady in a dress. Pat Missin, harmonica savant, initially identified the maker as Thorens! Well blow me down with a harmonica!

Pat would also send me a page from a 1908 Catalogue which had The Kangaroo mouth organ stamped Registered-Made In Germany and clearly designated as manufactured by Ands Koch, the same mouth organ pictured in Ray’s book. What what what? This had us all scratching our heads. Where to next? I sent an email off to Isabella Kraph a fine harmonica player, who years ago stumbled across Bohm and Rauner stamps and dies in Seydel’s storerooms. Isabella replied to my email on how this possibly could be and if she knew of a Koch/Thorens connection.

Hi Shep,

……the cover stamp (the german term is deckel-prägestempel) was made by another factory …..it is very massive work …a heavy metal block and it was not made in the harmonica factory since this was a completely different thing…..also the boxes for harmonicas were usually made somewhere else – so it can also happen that you find quite similar boxes in different brands

so I guess that maybe the factory/ manufactory made two of these prägestempel and sold one to Switzerland and one to Klingenthal ….but also the : “made in germany ” would be on the stamp so it is not really the identical stamp

also back then there was not much choice for writings and kangaroo emblems ….like when you had a printed crocodile in a children’s book a long time ago you would also find the same crocodile picture in a lexicon or somewhere else

also I guess there were not so many factories who would made these stamps

so again …the only link I see here is the stamp …..but that came not from Seydel

greetings Isabella

Pat found some comfort in Isabella’s response stating, “Isabella’s comments make a lot of sense-I’m glad that something does in this story.”

I contacted Thorens in hope their historical records had been maintained. Michael Garner for the company told me that, “We do not have any information on old Thorens mouth organs at all. Sorry, no chance at all, all the documentation was lost during the decades.”

What’s that Skip?

Go get Pat Skip, we’ll have another look at the Trademark.

He’s not just a Kangaroo he’s a champion. Good on ya Skip.

Where does this leave us? Confused to say the least. We revisited the trademark once more and with meticulous forensic examination by Pat it was discovered to be a manipulated Koch trademark. Just a headshot of the goat that usually stands on a rock. Why is it so? Well history reveals Germany was on the nose around the period of 1914-18. Having Made In Germany stamped on your product was not great for business, however Made In Switzerland on the other hand did-you know it makes sense.

Trossingen’s proximity to the Swiss border and by somehow meeting regulations would provide Koch with a unique marketing opportunity. They removed their own brand name from the covers and replaced it with Rigi (Mountain Range In Switzerland) and cropped their trademark logo to have just the head of the Chamois (Goat-Antelope family). I can see a goat now! So there you go, the mystery demystified. It is speculated little or no manufacturing was done in Switzerland, but just enough to qualify for a Made In Switzerland stamp. Koch’s clever branding of Rigi on the harmonica reinforced the perception this is a Swiss harp-not German! It has to be doesn’t it?

(Picture courtesy of John Whiteman from his collection of harmonica box art)

I could also include in this journey the Kangaroo Charmer sold by Albert’s as early as 1896 and The Kangaroo they sold in 1923, but what would that prove?

(Picture courtesy of Ray Grieve’s book ‘ Boomerangs & Crackajacks’)

It’s well known Kangaroos like to hang around in Mobs and that’s what appears to be happening to the mouth organs that carry the same moniker. It’s just a Kangaroo hop, the Australian hop, the Germany hop.

Ch SD

PS: FYI Hohner also had a Swiss made line called Helvetia seen here with the box artwork from an Alliance harp.

In The Smith’s Weekly of December 1919 a report under a sub heading King Street Shop Displays Hun Goods stated the Alberts Music Store was advertising quite blatantly Made in Germany mouth organs. In one paragraph it mentions the Boomerang Miniature was described as, “Not Japanese and never will be, it is made in Switzerland.”

After WW2 the Chromorgan was made by Thorens for Seydel.

When I had thought I had finished my work here with the Swiss Connection I stumbled on this harmonica advertised in the Melbourne Weekly Times on the 23 September 1923 by Edments. Pat Missin confirms it is manufactured by Thorens. He also added Hans Rolz a Klingethal company made Brilliant harmonicas with a similar script and that they even had a Trademark that featured an anchor. There you go.

Thanks to Pat, John, Ray, Isabella and Michael for their contributions to this article.

 

Larry’s Lesson-NFSCD #11

1st November, 2019

Happy new month Riff Raffers. Our penultimate NFSCD, #11!

Larry Adler was a phenomenon worldwide and he took Australia by storm when he toured in the late 1930’s. He was even a good mate of our Don Bradman. Here’s some sound advice from the little master and a few caricatures to boot.

Ch SD

PS: Benoit has released another tune off his album Blue Bird for aural consumption. I had the honour of blowing a little harp on the melodic I Thought That I Would Always Have It All. Thanks Benoit. Details of his CD launch on his Facebook. A couple of new additions to Aussie Models Timeline 1925 & 1929. Check them out you need to scroll right down for pictures and information.

The Bells, The Bells.

18th October, 2019

Hey there Riff Raffers,

A look at an Aussie harp from yesteryear, a couple of record reviews and a few bibs and bobs. Don’t forget to visit Harmonica Riff Raff Soundcloud and YouTube for more treats.

In 1909 in Australia Albert’s was selling a unique Boomerang mouth organ with a double cup set of bells attached to the rear of the instrument via an arch with a boomerang shaped bend at the apex. It was a series called the B.A.B-Boomerang Arch Bell models. Pictured is the 40 reeds Professional edition which sold for five shillings and sixpence-there was a mini (20 reeds) of similar structure and a mini double as well. Two other models the 2-sided and the 4-sided (sold for seventeen shillings and sixpence) had one set and two sets of bells respectively, however they were mounted on top. The five versions can be viewed in Ray Grieve’s fabulous books on the mouth organ in Australia (a third is awaiting a publisher). The bells of different pitches would be tuned to the key of the harp and with the use of a lever on either side could be struck by both forefingers in an accompanying rhythm while blowing the tune.

The mouth organs were manufactured by Seydel in Saxony, however the bells would more than likely have been manufactured elsewhere. I don’t believe Seydel made a similar model for other world markets. It looks like the Arch Bell didn’t reappear after World War 1 and I don’t believe any have survived today. The very nature of it’s design found it wanting when withstanding the laws of physics. Even the top mounted bells of the day were fragile and extinction was never far away.

A similar bell structure emerged later on a harmonica made by A A Schmitt of Klingethal on their Lyra brand seen above. The University Chimes (German made-pictured below) sold by Sears Roebuck in America under the brand name of Beaver also had a similar double cup mounted bells, however this was attached on top.

The earliest mention I could find advertised Down Under was a ten hole mouth harmonica with bell, which sold for two shillings and sixpence in Hobart by J Walch and Sons in 1882. The model pictured below was advertised in The Farmer & Settler (Sydney) 18th July 1906 made by Gerbruder Schuster (Schuster Brothers) at Markneukirchen which sold for three shillings.

Ken Leiboff provides a fine demonstration of playing a harmonica with bells on the information highway. See here 🔔.

The bells have told!

Ch SD

PS: A wee bit of Album news. South Australian band Lazy Eye is set to release their sixth album Whiskey & Gin next month and they’re giving it away track by track. You can join the Whisky & Gin Rent Party by reserving a ticket here. It all starts on the 23rd October. A video clip of their fantastic title tune can be viewed here Whisky.

“Just when you thought Lazy Eye had reached their peak they take you over the top with their new album release Whisky & Gin. This is a toe tappin’ finger clickin’ treat. Not only have they put the hip into hypnotizing, but also the groove into groovy. No harp (mouth) but plenty of horn. Lazy Eye have added some herbs and spices to their Blues cookin’ with a three piece horn section and single malt harmonies. Do yourself a flavour and pick this up at all good and bad record stores.”  Shep (Harmonica Riff Raff)

“Every now and then a tune hits you right between the ‘ten speed gears’. Sunshine Coast band Flaskas have achieved this with their latest single Song Bird. Lovingly crafted with a marching rhythm, earthy vocals, singing slide and then when combined with the magic ingredient the ‘ten hole tin can’ Song Bird is elevated to higher realms. They did the Song Bird proud!” Shep (Harmonica Riff Raff) Hear here Song Bird . Out now at all good and bad streaming platforms.

While we’re on the topic of our feathered friends a quick update on Benoit’s fantastic album Blue Bird. His launch will be held at the Selby Folk Club on the 29th of November. The album cover is completed and I must say Lyn’s artwork is superb. Benoit has posted for want of a better word or cliche an interesting video clip of a tune from the album titled Familiar Cliche.

Just another quick one John Whiteman’s fabulous book on Harmonica Box Art is available for purchase here in Oz on eBay. Shame about the postage costs.

Oh, by the way Ken dug up a Cracker Jack relic and posted a pic and a comment on a previous Dawg Blawg #28285.

Buffalo Blues Burger

October 5th, 2019

G’day Riffers,

On a chilly Sunday evening in the winter of 2014 my wife and I had the privilege of attending the Burrinja Cafe here in the Dandenongs (it wasn’t raining-only dripping off trees). A local duo transported us back in time to a smoking blues joint in New Mexico called the Golden Inn where Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were doin’ their thang.

In 2013 Blackmarket Music suggested to Hoboken born Doc Span, who has resided in sunny Queensland since 1987 and local guitar virtuoso Nick Charles to collaborate on an album honouring Sonny and Brownie. The suggestion met with the affirmative as they were both long time devotees. Doc penned a tune for the album entitled the Golden Inn, which encapsulated a night when his band supported the dynamic duo at the iconic venue.

Nestled between the Ortez and San Pedro mountains resides ghosts of Native Indians, Spaniards and ‘Musos’ of past glories in the New Mexico town of Golden. If pointed in the direction north-west of Albuquerque on the long and winding road of State Highway number fourteen, twenty miles on you will find the town of Golden, then take the Sandia cut off.

(Photo courtesy of Andy Curry)

On a weekday visit you were welcomed to a vista of a nondescript log cabin, but on the weekends it transformed into a vibrant roadhouse with a delicious cuisine of Buffalo Burgers and jiving live music. Lucky Oceans formerly of the band Asleep At The Wheel now a resident of Western Australia recalled the Inn and the journey in, “Wow! The Golden Inn-always a wild gig, the bus snaking up the mountain, bikers and witches in attendance and the air awash with psychedelics.”

Early doors punters were yokel locals, who on lazy Sunday afternoons enjoyed the sounds of Emilio’s Rancheros. In the early seventies the Last Mile Ramblers a popular Western swing outfit rocked the patrons of the Inn. In lyrics from their tune on the Inn the punters of the time consisted of “hippies, bikers, Sante Fe characters, college kids from Alberquerque, the curious and the lost and amazed and bewildered locals.”

By the mid seventies the Inn regulars were all shook up when it was sold and renovations began. New York businessman Scott Washburn introduced a new era of music with the likes of Asleep At The Wheel, Toots & The Maytals, Leon Redbone, Muddy Waters and legendary folk blues duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Huey Lewis played there for five bucks entry and even our own (or if you want New Zealand’s) Split Enz performed on the 20th May 1981 in support of their Corroboree album (Waiata in New Zealand).

Doc Span had based himself in Santa Fe during winter. He and his band would rush North to Alaska to perform, but also down the road supporting many of the Blues bands at the Inn. On one magic night in 1983 it was with Sonny and Brownie. I’ll let Doc retell the events. “They were constantly arguing with each other in the green room (back stage). They even had their own bottles of whiskey as they couldn’t even share that. After playing ‘Walk On’ Brownie walked off leaving a blind Sonny on stage all alone. When Brownie eventually returned he quipped, I was just tuning.” Their chemistry and music on stage would never be in doubt. That night they drove to their next gig in Texas (would have loved to have been a fly on the inside of the windscreen).

The following morning news had filtered through that the Inn had been razed to the ground. Concern had been alerted a month earlier when the owner Scott Washburn located a home made bomb on the roof. Its crude construction consisted of glass jars filled with gasoline and rigged to explosives with a blasting cap. The fuse burnt to an inch of igniting. After an extensive Federal investigation a man would be charged with arson. The Inn was never rebuilt.

Today, tumbleweeds blow through what once was a unique and proud music venue. If you listen carefully you can hear remnants of a Sonny riff amongst the cries of an Apache warrior, or was that Sonny whoopin’ and a hollerin’.

Ch SD

Thanks to Doc Span, a wonderful person and an extraordinary harp player. Check out an excerpt from my radio interview with Doc, a live abbreviated version of Sonny’s Riffin’ by Doc Span & Nick Charles and also The Golden Inn, which was recognised with the prestigious Chain award. Lucky Oceans, amazing pedal steel guitarist, for his contribution and interest. Check out Lucky’s new LP Purple Sky it’s a ripper. To Andy Curry whose band Used Parts warmed up for Sonny & Terry at the Opera house in Lawrence. In his words, “I’ll never get over how they rocked the place. Just the two of them!”

For your aural pleasure is the Last Mile Ramblers tune on the Inn.

Level Playing Field-NFSCD #10

1st October, 2019

Happy New Month Raffers!

Now For Something Completely Different from 1938 an ex-Diatonic Aussie Champion with a gripe, but with an idea. I wonder who it was. Was it Percy? I’m declaring my bias here-nothing beats a diatonic and a chordal vamp! (If you hadn’t already guessed). I must question if there is any need for musical contests? Surely competition detracts from the intrinsic nature of music. How do you compare apples with pears? Yeah I know they are both fruits. Okay, how about Brussel sprouts and pears. Leave contests to the sporting world! Although a similar problem occurs there especially in team sports.

Our local brand of Australian Rules Football (not to be confused with the corporate game branded AFL) rewards individuals with Best & Fairest medals for the season. A mid-fielder/on-baller has a distinctive advantage/bias over those playing key roles in the forward or backline and they dominate voting at both club and league level. Why do they need a subjective adjudicated individual award in a team sport anyway? There’s no criteria for assessment, just who you reckon. Also predominantly at club level the judges are parents of the participants, however I do digress.

Interestingly a letter to The Herald a Melbourne newspaper in January of 1930 from J Herbert Hughes from Burwood suggested that, “the only way to find Australia’s best mouth-organist is to have a competition where each player is numbered and walk on to a darkened stage so that the judge would not know who was playing.” Surely there wasn’t bias in mouth organ judging based on who the participant was? Maybe there was nepotism here as well.

Ch SD

PS: By the way did I mention that at league level they get the umpires to vote on the best players and they can’t even get the free kicks right. Okay I hear you-that’s enough. I’ve taken a chill pill.

Feature article Buffalo Blues Burger out on the 5th October!

Another update to Aussie timeline in the way of a picture of Sydney Dickens’ actual Echophone.

1925

19th September, 2019

Hi there Riff Raffers,

Thought you may be interested in having a gander at the Mouth Organs sold by Albert & Son in Western Australia in 1925. No connection with J Albert & Son of Sydney. Do you have any of these? Maybe the short lived Baby Boomerangs? How short lived they were I’m not too sure as they were given away free with different items in 1934-a toy that fired a boomerang and a book titled 400 Ways To Get Rich were examples advertised in newspapers of the day. I have the more common Tiny. Never seen a Koala of the mouth harp kind-this would be a find. Interesting to see the Boomerang Grand sold with replacement reeds. I always wondered about the interchangeable parts branding. Hohner’s Blow With Ease has to be one of the worst monikers! Probably more appropriate for tissues. Mr Henry Bernard Albert proprietor of the Perth store was born in Wuerzburg, Bavaria in 1870 to a book selling family. As a young man he migrated to Victoria, Australia to seek his fortune mining gold. Not sure if he found any nuggets, but he found a bride (Eleanor de Fides) and they crossed the Nullarbor to settle in Western Australia. In 1908 he established a book selling and music store in Perth originally at the Central Arcade before moving to the premises in Murray street. Henry had one son (Norman) and three daughters (Mrs L E Pearce, Thelma & Melba).

Ch SD

PS: A couple of recent changes and additions have been made to the Aussie Models-Timeline.

Rebel’s Yell

6th September, 2019

G’Day Riff Raffers,

The year was 1970 when Rebel, a little known Melbourne record label released two highly significant singles in Australian music history, both featuring the mouth harp of a young Matt Taylor. Rebel was owned by Peter Goodman (a former member of the band The Town Criers) and they would press eleven singles and one long play in a short two year span.

The labels fourth single was by Meating, ‘Bad Luck Feeling/Back Home’ (DG-270/04) a collaboration between old Brisbane mates Greg Sleepy Lawrie and Matt Taylor. Greg had recently formed Carson County Band with Ian Fingers Ferguson and included Tony Lunt on drums and John Capek on keyboards. Matt at this time was with the short lived, but popular ‘prog’ rock band Genesis.

Sleepy had some ideas for songs and met up with Matt to flesh them out. This would be Matt’s second record. His first in 1968 was with Bay City Union with covers on the Festival label of Mike Nesmith’s tune ‘Mary Mary’ (recorded by Paul Butterfield) and ‘Mo’reen’ a Paul Revere and the Raiders tune. Sleepy and Matt’s single involved members of both their bands-Yuk Harrison (bass), Laurie Pryor (drums) from Genesis and John Capek (keyboards) from Carson County Band. The vinyl received some positive reviews in particular from music journalist Ed Nimmervoll. Here’s Matt’s recall of events, “I was in Genesis at the time and Sleepy was in Carson. So different players from both bands recorded Bad Luck Feeling as Meating. That paved the way for both myself and Sleepy to be taken seriously as songwriters.”

Matt’s desire for the band (for want of a better term as they only formed to record the single) was to be called Meeting, but Sleepy wanted something with a bit more grunt and called it Meating-even though Matt was a vegetarian.

A short time later the Carson County Band would release their first single ‘On The Highway/Resting Place’ (DG-270/06), both Sleepy originals. ‘On The Highway’ had bass player Ian Fingers Ferguson singing all vocals, including his own harmonies. Originally I had thought Paul Lever may have blown the harp on the tune as Matt Taylor had informed me he hadn’t. Ian Fingers Ferguson now better known as just Ferg put me on the right path. He had caught up with his old mate Sleepy who confirmed it was Matt. I sent Matt a grab of the harp from the song and he conceded graciously, “Yep, that’s me”. He, like others were forgetting when they were young. He hadn’t remembered playing harmonica on Russell Morris’ 1971 album Bloodstone. Matt blew licks on ‘Jail Jonah’s Daughter’ which appears as the ‘B’ side of Russell’s successful single ‘Sweet Sweet Love’.

Carson County Band shortened their name to Carson to avoid confusion they were a country band. In this picture (courtesy of Ferg) Matt is seen sitting in on a Carson gig at Melbourne night club Sebastians with Ian. Carson included a fine version of Meating’s Bad Luck Feeling in their live sets without the instrument that fits in your pocket.

The band headed to the studio to master a second single ‘Travelling South’ (under their new abbreviated name) this time on the Havoc label. Ian Ferguson’s vocals were later removed from this session and Brod Smith’s layered in when the 45 was eventually released in August of 1971. Ferg’s brilliant bass line, however would be retained. The planned ‘B’ side, ‘Morning Train’ was deleted and replaced with the tune ‘Moonshine’. Carson was experiencing line up changes around the time of producing the single. John Capek departed to join King Harvest and Brod Smith and Ian Willy Winter joined the group. Ferg would abscond a month before the release of ‘Travelling South’ and his reason, “I was never a big fan of Broderick and the band was shifting from progressive blues to more mundane twelve bar blues Bumpa Bumpa’s everything was sounding too Elmore James.”

With a rebel yell here’s some of Matt’s harp from his first three recordings, Rebel.

Ch SD

Thanks to Ferg for his help in providing information for this article. Here is a list of musicians on the recordings that he kindly provided.

Carson County Band and Carson Singles

Carson County Band:

“On The Highway”

Ian Ferguson; Bass and Vocals

Greg Lawrie; Guitar

John Capek; Electric Piano

Tony Lunt; Drums

Matt Taylor; Harmonica

“Resting Place”

Ian Ferguson; Bass and Vocals

Greg Lawrie; Guitar

Tony Enery; Electric Piano

Tony Lunt; Drums

Ian Wallace; Sax Solo

Jeremy Noone; Sax

Simon Wettenhall; Trumpet

Barry Harvey; Congas

 

Carson:

“Travelling South”

Broderick Smith; Vocals

Greg Lawrie; Guitar

Ian Winter; Guitar

Ian Ferguson; Bass

Tony Lunt; Drums

“Moonshine”

Broderick Smith; Vocals and Harmonica

Greg Lawrie; Guitar

Ian Winter; Guitar

Barry Sullivan; Bass

Tony Lunt; Drums

Run Rabbit Run-NFSCD #9

1st September, 2019

Happy new month. Lock up your grandmothers!

(The Herald, Melbourne, Monday 2 March 1936)

Here is the rest of the information contained within this article.

A grandmother appealed to the City Court today to stop her grandson playing a mouth-organ. Stanley Gorman, a young rabbit-trapper, who came to the City from Yarram for a week-end visit, was charged with having begged alms in Post Office Place on Saturday morning. According to Constable D. Trainor, a number of people placed coins in Gorman’s hat while he was playing his mouth-organ about 11.30 a.m. Granted permission to speak for the boy, his grandmother. Mrs Annie Gorman of North Melbourne, told Mr Bond P.M, that “that confounded mouth-organ has been his downfall. Always playing I wish you would make him leave it behind in the cell,” she said earnestly. “He spends all his time playing, playing so that it has become a jolly nuisances to him. I can’t understand it at all.” Mrs Gorman added that her grandson was a good boy. She had “reared him up” herself after his mother died when he was a baby. Mr Bond adjourned the case to a date to be fixed not later than June 29. “We are giving you this chance on condition that you get back to the country and stay there,” Mr Bond warned Gorman.

Another report this time in the Perth Daily News (Wednesday 11 March 1936).

He’s just a wee wascally wabbit.

Ch SD

PS: A quick shout out to Steve Cash one of my all time favourite harmonica players, who has recently announced he won’t be touring anymore with the Ozark Mountain Daredevils due to health reasons. Our prayers are with you mate.

While on the Daredevils they have a new record out and it has an updated version of If You Wanna To Get To Heaven (20-20), it’s an absolute ripper. I also dig the tune Your Still Here. Nice!

Chromatically Chromonica Chronologically

16th August, 2019

Hi Riff Raffers,

A new, very old harp housed in its original box now resides in my humble collection. Mark Weber has meticulously investigated and reviewed technical aspects of the harp at chromhistory.

What follows is an account of my pursuance from world experts on how, when and where this Hohner harp, ‘The Up To Date Chromatically Tuned’ fits into chromatic history. Remember if you know what and how, you should known when and where. First cab off the rank of course was harmonica guru, Pat Missin.

Hi Shep.

I have never seen “Up To Date” on a chromatic, nor have I ever seen a Hohner chromatic that looks anything like that, nor does it resemble, as far as I can tell from the photos, any of the Hohner patents for chromatic harmonica. I have no idea where this fits into the chronology of the instrument. — Pat.

Pat in a follow up email had this interesting titbit.

The whole history of the Hohner chromatic is really weird. The 260 first appeared in Hohner catalogues and the music press around 1911. Then it vanished for more than a decade and finally pops up in catalogues around 1923, with the music trade publications describing it as a new instrument. Then a few years later still, the patent for it gets published. It’s all very odd.

So where this one fits into it all, I have no idea. It could be a prototype that somehow escaped. That has happened – I have a 14-hole Super Chromonica that was never officially produced. It could also be a short-lived design that somehow never made it into their catalogs and escaped the attention of the music trade mags. Perhaps it was unsuccessful and Hohner tried to pretend it never existed. At this point, I honestly have no idea.

Have you run this one by John Whiteman? — Pat.

No I hadn’t, so I ran this by John.

Hi Shep,

It is well documented that the 260 10-hole chromatic made its commercial debut in 1911.  The chromatic that you have is clearly earlier than that. Here is how I date it at approximately 1901:

1) The label indicates 3,000,000 harmonicas produced per annum and 1,000 workmen.  This dates it to approximately 1900. 

2) There is a star in the trademark.  I believe it was added in 1901.  That would date it to 1901 or later, but the 3,000,000/annum holds it back at 1901

3) The slide handle and spring are of a less mature design than the 260 that appeared in 1911.

4) “Up to Date” in the name meant nothing and was evidently put there because they had nothing better to say, yet they failed to suffix it with “harmonica”.

5) “Patented in All Countries” couldn’t be true, so they put it out in limited numbers with a CYA statement about patent, and probably about registration.

I suggest sending the photos to Martin Haffner at the harmonica museum in Trossingen.  I saw nothing like this in that Hohner Museum. Thanks for sharing the photos and history of your purchase. John

I took on John’s suggestion and contacted the museum, however a response would take several attempts and efforts of people working behind the scenes for it to come to fruition. Then blow me down, Pat had this fantastic discovery.

Looks like my gut feeling on the date was wrong. Attached is a page from Music Trade Review, September 1898. I missed this the first time I searched. I’m not finding any later references to it in MTR. — Pat.

When thanked and questioned on how he had acquired this gem, Pat replied.

Happy to help. I’m pleased I gave it another shot – this time I just searched for “chromatically tuned” and that turned it up.

Up until you found this one, the standard chromatic history was that there were several prototypes in the late 1800s, then Hohner advertised the 260 around 1910 (describing it as “the first and only practical one”), but then it vanished for more than a decade. It suddenly popped back up in the early 20s, with Hohner promoting it as though it were brand new. Even weirder, the patents for it didn’t get published until several years later and I’ve never seen any reference to the chromatic “Up To Date” in any Hohner publications, or elsewhere, except for that MTR article. It’s all very strange.

I have a pretty complete collection of German harmonica patents and I’ve never seen a Hohner patent that resembles the chromatic UtD. It’s possible that they may have registered a DRGM for it, but that’s not as easy to dig up. However, I agree with John that “patented in all countries” is some creative BS.

Anyway, here is some background that might be interesting:

https://www.patmissin.com/patents/patents.html#chronology.

Finally, after a little behind the scenes prompting, Martin Haffner (to be fair he had been away) from the harmonica museum replied.

Dear Shep

In short: Your find is spectacular! We do have many different Up to date harmonicas in our collection, but no “chromatically tuned”.

And just now I had a look inside the catalogues, printed for the American / English market in the early 1900s (around 1902/1903). Your model is not mentioned at all.

I’ve got a mail by Roger Trobridge England with an attachment of the Musical Trade Review, Sept. 1898. There is the “Up to date chromatically tuned” mentioned as a new Hohner product. Since the fan community is not so big, you must have got this source meanwhile.

My theory: In fact the model was produced in 1898 (perhaps still 1899), but it must have been a commercial flop. Probably the mechanism didn’t work.(?) As far as I know, our archive has no single document telling anything about this rare model.

The “Up to date chromatically tuned” was an early try. And there was a break of minimum ten years, until the later well known Hohner “Chromonica” was mentioned the first time.

Please send me your report / keep me up to date!!!

Best regards

Martin Häffner

Director

During this chromatic journey I became intrigued into the tuning of all these harps and wondered when and where ‘solo’ tuning came into existence. I probed Pat’s endless knowledge once again. Remembering that if we knew why and who, that would tell us when and where.

“Richter Tuning” is a relatively new term. I’m not certain, but it seems to have originated in the 1980s. The original term was “Richter System” and it referred to one of the various types of harmonica construction:

https://patmissin.com/ffaq/q36.html

Using the name Richter to denote the tuning is a little iffy, as other types of construction (Knittlinger and Viennese in particular) use a similar note layout. However, there is no denying that the term “Richter Tuning” is in common usage. It gets a little messy with the typical chromatic harmonica being technically a Knittlinger System construction (they are basically made like Concert harp, with the addition of the mouthpiece and slide assembly), so referring to them as “Richter Tuned” is a little awkward, although most people would know what you meant.

The 260 is the catalogue number for what was originally termed the Chromatic Harmonica and later the Chromonica, changing to the latter sometime in 1924. It has been made in several different tunings over the years. Initially, it was tuned like a standard 10-hole diatonic in C, with the button changing it to a C sharp scale. This was later referred to by Hohner as “Regular Tuning”, but most people now call it a Richter tuned chromatic.

By the 1930s, it was also available in Solo Tuning. However, that was different to how a 10-hole Solo chromatic would be set up now. Hole 4 and upwards were tuned like the Regular Tuning. 1, 2 and 3 blow were tuned E, G and C, the draw notes tuned F, A and B, with the slide raising each by a semitone.

Then some time later, the Solo Tuned 260 was changed so that it was like a standard 12-hole Solo Tuned chromatic, but missing the top two holes. Not sure when that happened – maybe after WWII?

 

 

 

The slide spring was changed from external to an internal one in the late 1920s around the same time the Super Chromonica was produced. The Super was originally designated 260 1/2 and later changed to 270. It has always been in Solo Tuning, available in a variety of keys.

Solo tuning predates the Chromonica by some time and was originally intended for use on diatonics:

https://www.patmissin.com/ffaq/q41.html

Older chromatic players recall the change to Solo Tuning back in the day, but apparently at that time it was called Haussler Tuning, after William Haussler who worked for Hohner US and was apparently responsible for a lot of harmonica development and promotion:

https://www.patmissin.com/78rpm/78rpm.html#williamhaussler

For thoroughness, the two patents I’ve been able to locate for the Hohner Chromonica are (click on diagram):

 

 

On the latter page I say: “The Chromonica 260 had been available for almost two decades when this patent was granted”. That probably needs to be amended. As far as I can make out, they announced the 260 in 1910/1911, but it doesn’t appear to have actually been available until later. It reappears in 1923 and is touted as being a new instrument. The following year it was recorded for the first time:

https://www.patmissin.com/78rpm/78rpm.html#borrahminevitch

Which brings me back to the Up To Date. I have been unable to find any other references to the UTD Chromatically Tuned, aside from that MTR article. If it weren’t for you actually owning one, I would have dismissed it as vapourware. There have certainly been numerous instances of Hohner announcing a new instrument that never actually materialised. My wife had an idea about this. She worked in product development for a couple of large companies and often they would send out trade samples of items. These were small production runs that were past the prototype stage and in their final (or near final) packaging, sent out to various dealers to test the market. Sometimes the feedback they got from them lead to changes in the product or packaging, sometimes it lead to the item being killed before going into full production. It’s possible that’s what happened with the UTD Chromatically Tuned and might explain why there are so few records of its existence. — Pat.

I had better throw in the 64 Chromonica into the chronology, which was available down under in 1936.

1936-Hohner 64 Chromonica

While we’re at it lets quickly have a gander where a couple of Aussie Chromatics fit within the chronology.

1936-Albert’s Boomerang Chromorgan made by Seydel (Picture courtesy of John Whiteman)

 

1937-Allan’s Crackamonic made by F A Rauner (photo’s courtesy of Doug Dawson)

A few closing, late additions relating to Klingenthal companies still having the external spring long after Hohner’s internal design and the use of standard tuning on Chromatics. Over to you Pat.

It seems reasonable to assume that the chromatics in Regular Tuning were intended for use with vamped chords in the lower octave. There is also the factor that it meant that someone experienced on a standard diatonic would be able to pick up the new fangled chromatic, without having to learn a new tuning. I suspect that was a factor too.

Also, there was a tuning variant for the 260 I forgot to mention-Alto Tuning. This was the same layout as the older Solo Tuning (ie the one with just the lowest three holes changed), but one whole octave lower in pitch.

It does seem like the Klingenthal companies lagged a little with chromatic design. It’s also possible that Hohner were aggressively defending their German patent from 1930. Currently a German patent has a term of 20 years. It used to be 15 years, but I’m not sure when it was extended. WWII may also have affected things. — Pat.

Further to Pat’s earlier mention that the 260 was not sold until over a decade after it was first announced, a Nicholson & Co advertisement in The Sydney Daily Telegraph (12th December, 1913) for Hohner’s celebrated Chromatic (selling for 7/6) would perhaps suggest otherwise, although this is the only evidence I could find of its sale before the 1920’s.

Pat responded.

As for the Nicholson’s ad, that is the earliest evidence of them being offered for sale that I’ve heard of. I had more or less come to the conclusion that they were advertised in 1910, but never actually sold until more than a decade later. That said, is it possible that Nicholson’s were advertising them without actually having any in stock? – – Pat

My immediate thought was that ‘The Great War’ may have impacted production and sales of the Hohner Chromatic.

Cheers and Guinness frothies to all participants, in particular to Pat Missin (& wife) whose efforts went way beyond the call of duty, John Whiteman, Martin Haffner & Mark Weber. In finishing, how and when didn’t tell us what and where, but it was who and what that told us when and where. Ch SD