Sunday, December 2, 2012

The most ridiculous instrument?

Image found by author
This photo and brief article appeared in the March-April 1953 edition of The Instrumentalist (vol. 7, no. 5, p. 21), supposedly providing a thumbnail sketch of the earliest history of the Sousaphone.

Notice what it says about the bell-front design, which appeared in 1908:

None of the earliest information on Conn's Wonderphone Helicon (as it was called for the first ten years of its existence), suggests that Mr. Conn reacted initially in this way (see post below). But perhaps he did - who knows?

However, other parts of the article are inaccurate, so that should give us pause. For example, it says that this new bell-forward horn was called "the sousaphone grand," but that name wasn't used regularly until 1918.

Further, the article states that John Kuhn, "a member of Sousa's band," weighed in on the new horn, telling Conn that he "really had something there." But Kuhn wasn't with Sousa's Band until 1915, and according to this photo from 1912 (C. G. Conn's Musical Truth, January 1912, vol. 9, no. 10), which is four years after Conn introduced the bell-forward design, Kuhn was still playing a bell-up Sousaphone - not a Wonderphone Helicon:
Image courtesy of Mark Overton at
Finally, while I have already shown in a previous post that the Sousaphone in the photo at the top of this post is most definately not the "Original Sousaphone," I discovered this week that it isn't even the Sousaphone that "'Stars' In Movie" - that movie being Stars and Stripes Forever (1952).

The Sousaphone shown with the article is a four-valve Monster Sousaphone (while the four valves cannot be seen, the tubing coming from the fourth valve is clearly visible). The Sousaphone used in the movie is a three-valve Monster, as seen in this photo from one of the scenes in the film:

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