Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga Part VII

When we last left the Saga Part VI, we were discussing whether M.C. Gregory was ever involved in Gale Products, Inc. (GPI) and the rumor that Cesar Tschudin's Gale (CTG) was in possession of the M.C. Gregory molds and sold them to Charles Bay in 1969.  

We have direct evidence that shows the improbability of Gregory being involved in Gale (either Gale).  Why wasn't Gregory listed as a officer or director in the Articles of Incorporation for Gale Products, Inc.?  Why was he never added as an officer, director, or shareholder?  We now know that Gale was sold to Cesar Tschudin within one year of GPI being incorporated.  Why sell the assets of Gale Products, Inc. after one year if M.C. Gregory was actually running the operation, i.e., if Gale was simply a continuation of his existing business?  

And look what was sold to Tschudin.  Thousands of mouthpiece blanks.  Why didn't Gregory just help out his ex-son-in-law if Gregory was in any way involved in Gale?  Gregory had proven himself to be a successful producer of mouthpieces (he lived in a very nice house and, according to Gale Satzinger, was a neighbor of the actress and Hollywood sex symbol Jane Russell).  He could have simply taken all of those unfinished pieces in house in his own business.  And if Gregory was directly involved in GPI, why the apparent infusion of $17,600 in capital shown in the Articles of Incorporation?  And the kicker for me, if Malcolm Gregory was directly involved with either Gale and Cesar Tschudin, why would Tschudin need to recruit an experienced partner like Elmer Beechler in 1949?  

In light of the documentary evidence, alleging that Gregory was involved in Gale doesn't make sense without a very elaborate explanation.  And it appears that Cesar Tschudin may have provided some of the required story.  Gregory starts Gale Products, Inc., gets glaucoma, commits suicide in 1950, leaves the business to his daughter Gale, she dies in a house fire, and company attorney (Tschudin) runs the "Gregory" business for 20 years.  In the end, JJ Babbitt makes the blanks (and ends up with the Gregory molds?)  There's your story.  We would need to ignore a lot of factual evidence that we have uncovered in order for this story to still work, but you can see that this tortured narrative is really the only way to make a tenuous connection between Gregory and either Gale.  

I can't say that Tschudin came up with the whole story by himself. He was probably aided by the passage of time, the interpretation of Charles Bay, the retelling by Ralph Morgan, and possibly the narrative provided to him by a "company attorney." After all, there actually was a company attorney involved.  Remember Nathan Snyder, the attorney who signed the Articles of Incorporation as a member of the Gale Products, Inc. Board of Directors?  He would likely have also been involved in the sale of the Gale Products, Inc. assets to Tschudin.  He wouldn't have to reveal the identity of his clients (the Rico principals Roy Maier and Frank deMichele) and they simply disappeared from the picture.  Maybe Snyder even knew that Malcolm Gregory's daughter (Maxine) had died in a house fire the year before (it was national news).  And somewhere along the line M.C. Gregory's death got moved backwards from 1955 to 1950 in order to make the story work.  And Carl Satzinger became just some engineer and not Gregory's daughter's ex-husband and a founding principal in Gale Products, Inc.  Things got really, really jumbled up in order to claim that M.C. Gregory was involved in Cesar Tschudin's Gale.

Speaking of jumbled up, lets go back and look at another alleged Gregory/Gale mouthpieces.  On several websites, the Rico Reloplex is alleged to be a Gregory/Gale mouthpiece.  As we have seen, both the Gregory and the Reloplex were Rico products.  

Fortunately, there is no mysterious Mr. Reloplex about which we can make up a saga.  The Reloplex is just a Rico mouthpiece.

There isn't any evidence to indicate that the Rico Reloplex was made by either Gregory, or GPI, or CTG.  This advertisement is circa 1955, so Gale Products, Inc. was out of business and Gregory was dead.  The Reloplex is reported to have been available from 1955 into the 1970's.  But for the Reloplex to be made by CTG, that would mean that Rico Products went to Cesar Tschudin, the jeweler who had purchased some of the assets of their defunct Gale Products, Inc., and contracted with him to produce their new flagship mouthpiece.  I had my doubts.  Then, in our emails with Judy Beechler Roan, Judy mentioned that her father had once contracted to produce a mouthpiece for Rico.  The Rico Reloplex.  

It is time to take a closer look at Elmer Beechler.  Like Maier and deMichele, he was a musician from Chicago and showed up in various directories listed as a "dance hall musician."  Married and with a small child, his wife died suddenly and he moved to New York.  There he worked with Arnold Brilhart in a mouthpiece facing and synthetic reed business.  He remarried (Sadie Roan, mother of Judy Beechler Roan) and then moved to Los Angeles to start his own business.  We learned in Part VI that he partnered with Cesar Tschudin for a very short time, but left to start his own business.  A few years later, when looking for somebody to produce a new model of mouthpiece for them, Rico approached Elmer Beechler.  

By 1953, Elmer Beechler's mouthpiece business was up and running.  He later incorporated as Reml√© Musical Products, Inc. (notice the acute "e" pronounced like the French word for father "p√©re".  Sounding French is still good business).  No similar advertisements have been found for Gale Products, Inc. or Cesar Tschudin's subsequent Gale business.

Lumping the Reloplex into the Gregory family of mouthpieces might be plausible if we had evidence of Gregory working with Gale Products, Inc., or with Cesar Tschudin, or Tschudin working with Rico.  I haven't found that evidence, and based on what I have found so far, I don't think either is a likely scenario.  

Correspondence with Judy Beechler Roan is ongoing, and she is coming up with some more rather remarkable documents and evidence.  Some of it has to do with the Gregory molds.  The 1949 Tschudin inventory, shown at the end of Part V, lists one die (presumably a mold) and nothing is listed that has anything to do with Gregory.  We have seen that it was also unlikely that Gregory had anything to do with Gale Products, Inc. and its collapse, so it isn't likely that GPI had any Gregory molds to sell to Tschudin.

The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga implies that Charles Bay ended up with the mold(s) that were in Tschudin's possession.  But what exactly did Tschudin have?  Based on the documents and time line, it is unlikely that he had Gregory molds.  Even if the Gregory molds were controlled by Rico, it is unlikely that they would approach the jeweler who purchased part of their failed business (Gale Products, Inc.) to later make additional Gregory mouthpieces, including the new "Master" by Gregory (during Gregory's lifetime) or, still later, the new Rico Reloplex.   

And if Tschudin sold the Gregory molds to Bay, that would mean that Bay could reproduce the mouthpieces used by Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, and others.  That was sort of hinted at in the Saga, but then there was this odd statement.  "In 1969 the making of mouthpieces was done in part by the J.J. Babbitt Co."  Does that mean that J.J. Babbitt ended up with the Gregory molds?  

There must currently be 10 different knockoffs of the vintage Otto Link Slant Signature hard rubber mouthpiece, so the demand is out there for famous vintage "tribute" pieces.  If you were in the business of making mouthpieces (like Charles Bay) and you were a big fan of Gregory mouthpieces (like Charles Bay) would you use the Gregory molds?  What would you do if you had the mold necessary to begin production of the very mouthpiece used by Paul Desmond?  How about the mold for the mouthpiece used by Gerry Mulligan?  Just think if you had any Gregory mold.  If only, if only, if only.  Yeah, it doesn't look like that part of the Gregory Mouthpiece Saga is accurate, either.  

What would those old M.C. Gregory molds look like if we were to find them?  They would look like these.  Hey, look!! There's the alto 18 chamber plug we could use to make a new Paul Desmond mouthpiece!

Those are recent pictures of the mold pieces used for making the various M.C. Gregory chambers.  They are stored in old cardboard tubes that are stamped with the "M.C. Gregory Los Angeles" diamond logo.  That's what we would expect Charles Bay to have purchased if Cesar Tschudin had run M.C. Gregory's mouthpiece business for 20 years.  But these didn't come from Charles Bay.  They came from boxes that Elmer Beechler had in storage.  After our contact with Judy Beechler Roan, she decided to go back through some boxes that her father had in storage. 

We now know that Elmer was retained by Rico to produce the Reloplex.  It appears that Rico may have had other molds in their possession, some of which ended up with Elmer Beechler.  Hmmm, we should look more closely at old Beechler hard rubber mouthpieces!  It is more likely that those old Beechler pieces are Gregory clones than it is that Gale ever produced any Gregory pieces.  Wait, I'm just kidding!  You can see how easy it is to start new saxophone lore. 

I'm going to end Part VII here.  I think that I said at the start that there would be three more parts, and now I have already written four.  And I'm going to write a fifth.  Along the way, I've included some of my best guesses as to what happened just because it is difficult to not make conclusions when presenting new facts (or maybe the only facts).  In Part VIII, I'll give my theory of what probably happened and how one might further find out what actually happened.  

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga Part V

When we left Part IV of the Gregory Mouthpiece Saga, we were looking at Gale Products, Inc., incorporated in 1948, and supposedly a continuation of M.C. Gregory's mouthpiece business.  It was implied that Gale Products, Inc. continued production of Gregory mouthpieces until it was sold to Charles Bay in 1969.  Further, the original Saga, when published in the Saxophone Journal, stated that the newly formed Bay-Gale Products began producing mouthpieces "one of them being the Gregory sax mouthpieces."  I can't wait to find evidence a Bay-Gale-Gregory mouthpiece.  I'm not holding my breath.  

First, let's go back to the start of Gale.  The 1948 Articles of Incorporation list the founding shareholders and complete Board of Directors for Gale Products, Inc.  They are Carl Satzinger, Roy J. Maier of Rico Products, Ltd., Frank V. deMichele of Rico Products, Ltd., plus a well known L.A. attorney, Nathan H. Snyder, and his secretary.  (It's not unusual for an attorney, and even his secretary, to sign incorporation papers at the inception of a corporation if there are insufficient people to comprise a full five-member Board of Directors.)  The business venture was named Gale, after Carl Satzinger's daughter.  You can click on these documents for a better view.

There are two immediate things in the Articles of Incorporation that don't support the story related in the original Gregory Mouthpiece Saga.  First, M.C. Gregory is nowhere to be seen in the newly formed Gale Products, Incorporated, which was claimed to be "his" company.  Second, Maier and deMichele, as the primary partners in Rico Products are listed as Directors of Gale Products, Inc. and the Articles seem to indicate that there was a $17,600 infusion of capital to start the new company.  Why would all of this be necessary if Gale Products, Inc. was merely a continuation of M.C. Gregory's existing mouthpiece business?  

There is really no evidence at all that Gale Products, Inc. was any type of continuation of M.C. Gregory's prior venture (which was never independently incorporated) or that Malcolm Gregory was ever involved in any way with Gale Products, Inc.  Based on what we now know, to support a claim that Gregory was ever involved with Gale, we are going to need some extraordinary evidence.

At about this time, the catalogs that had featured the M.C. Gregory Model A and Model B "Rico Products Ltd. Distributors" stopped advertising those mouthpieces.  It is not clear whether those pieces continued in production and, if so, who produced them.  The newly incorporated Gale Products, Inc. began making completely different models (a torpedo shaped piece, and later, the Gale Companion, apparently the same model re-badged, although the Gale Companion also changed over the years.)  There were also some oddball pieces like the Gale Triple Rail.     

Early Gale pieces were imprinted "Hollywood" in script and did not have serial numbers.  M.C. Gregory pieces all had serial numbers and "Hollywood" was always in block letters.  Later Gregory models, like the Master, were imprinted "Hollywood" instead of the earlier "Los Angeles," but still only in block text.  Looking only at the models and stampings on the mouthpieces, it is difficult to assert that Gale Products mouthpieces are in any way related to Gregory pieces, as was alleged in The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga.

This is a quote from the website Mouthpiece Museum "From what we have seen Gale Hollywood mouthpieces were kind of all over the place as far as stamping goes.  It seems they never stuck to one thing."  Further, Gale mouthpieces never used the embossing stamps used on known Gregory pieces.  Gregory pieces seem neat and tidy compared to Gale pieces.  If M.C. was directly involved, how did things get so loosey goosey?

Satzinger family members were familiar with Carl Satzinger having developed a logo for Gale Products, Inc.  Carl was proud of the round circle formed by the letters GALE.  Here is the custom logo on a Gale Products, Inc. metal tenor piece.

Here is Satzinger's GALE logo on a hard rubber piece.

Gale Products, Inc. didn't seem to have had nearly the success that Rico had with the M.C. Gregory pieces.  Gregory by Rico mouthpieces, when advertised in the 1930's and 40's, sold at a slight premium even over the Otto Link hard rubber Tone Edge mouthpieces of the era.  Then, Gregory "Rico" pieces were dropped from the Selmer catalogs, but Gale Products mouthpieces were not picked up.  In fact, it appears that paid advertising for Gale mouthpieces is non-existent, although other Rico Products accessories continued to be offered in the later Selmer catalogs and advertised elsewhere.  And none of the Gale mouthpieces ever stated "Rico Products, Ltd. Distributors" even though we now know that the officers and directors of Rico Products, Ltd. were directly involved with Gale Products, Inc. as members of its Board of Directors (and certainly shareholders and investors.)

So how long was Gale Products, Inc. in business?  Some think that it was sold to Charles Bay in 1969.  Not true.  Gale Products, Inc. was incorporated on April 5, 1948, as shown in Part IV of the Saga.  In order to remain a corporation in good standing, it would make yearly corporate filings and pay excise tax by April 15th of each succeeding year.  That never happened.  Here is the record of the Franchise Tax payments made by Gale Products, Inc., also obtained from the California Secretary of State.  

It is blank.  That means that the corporate status of Gale Products, Inc. was revoked and it was administratively dissolved in 1949 for failure to make the mandatory filings.  Gale Products didn't last a year.  A legal courier service in Sacramento was hired and found that there are no further filings of any kind at the Office of the Secretary of State.  M.C. Gregory was never added to the Gale Board of Directors.  By April of 1949 the corporation was dissolved.  Satzinger, deMichele, and Maier were "out."  There is no evidence that M.C. Gregory was ever "in" and there is plenty of indirect evidence that he was never involved with Gale Products.  

Going back to the Articles of Incorporation for a moment, Carl Satzinger lists his address as 1096 Stueben Street, Pasadena, in April of 1948.  In the 1949 LA City Directory, Carl is back living at his mother's home with no occupation listed.  Satzinger family members said that this was not uncommon.  It looks like something went wrong.

There is also some evidence that when Gale Products, Inc. was dissolved some of the corporation's assets were sold to a local jeweler named Cesar Tschudin.  Remember Cesar Tschudin, the "company attorney" who allegedly ran Gregory's mouthpiece company for years until he sold it to Charles Bay?  Okay, first we know that there was no Gregory company, so there was no Gregory company attorney.  And the California Bar Association has no record of Cesar Tschudin (no surprise).  And there is no evidence that Cesar Tschudin ran the family business after Gale died (which she did not).  Or that Tschudin ever met M.C. Gregory.  Or that Tschudin played a musical instrument.  But we do now know that Cesar Tschudin was a really good skier.  I'll bet Charles Bay and Ralph Morgan did not know that.

Cesar Tschudin emigrated to the United States from Switzerland with the help of a skiing club in Estes Park, Colorado, where he taught lessons in the 1920's before moving to Los Angeles.  Early L.A. city directories and census reports list him as a salesman of redwood novelty items (1930) and jewelry (1940).  Here he is in a 1937 petition for the naturalization of his Swedish wife.

 At the time, he was a jewelry salesman living here in Apartment number 6.

In late 1948 or early 1949, Cesar Tschudin purchased the remaining inventory and equipment of Gale Products, Inc. and went into the mouthpiece business.  How do I know that he purchased the business?  Here is an inventory that Tschudin prepared in April of 1949 when he was seeking a partner for his new mouthpiece business.

That's enough for Part V of the Gregory Mouthpiece Saga.  In Part VI, I will continue with some of the additional documentary evidence and my theory as to how all of the history got jumbled up.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga, Part IV

In 1992, a three-part article appeared in the Saxophone Journal written by Ralph Morgan.  Among his many talents and accomplishments, Mr. Morgan was a woodwind historian.  The article, The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga, gave an accounting of the history of M.C. Gregory, a Los Angeles mouthpiece maker.  M.C. Gregory had been dead for almost 40 years by that time, so the article was based on secondary sources, i.e., what people remembered about what other people had said.  This blog, Part IV , Part V, and Part VI of The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga, if you will, is based on more direct evidence.  

This information was gathered in a collaborative effort, almost a full year, with Paul Panella (bluto on Sax On The Web).   We went back and forth, round and round, and back and forth some more on trying to decipher what we were learning and trying to align that with the prior stated history of M.C. Gregory.  It was frustrating to find evidence that just couldn't be reconciled with prior allegations.  For me personally, I basically decided to ignore most of the prior assertions and just go with what evidence we could uncover.  We found "dots" of evidence, but connecting the dots requires some (ongoing) guess work.  And if we had a picture in our minds of what the dots would create, that could effect how we tried to connect them.  All in all, a frustrating and fascinating endeavor. 

Why so many new parts to the Saga?  Because there is so much to correct.  Where the new parts of the Saga are based on conjecture, I'll try to make that apparent so that you can draw your own conclusions.  I will also include my own analysis and conclusions.  

A partial cast of characters:
Malcolm Culver Gregory
Carl Max Satzinger
Arnold Koenig Satzinger
Gale Satzinger
Roy John Maier
Frank Vincent deMichelle
Cesar Tschudin
Elmer Harold Beechler
Judy Beechler Roan
Nathan Harris Snyder

To begin at the beginning, Malcolm Culver Gregory was born in Beloit, Wisconsin on April 26, 1891.  On his 1917 World War I registration card, he lists himself as a postal clerk in Redfield, South Dakota, with a wife and one daughter.  He went into the service on August 10, 1918 and was honorably discharged on February 4, 1919, having attained the rank of "Musician 3rd class" in a Texas regiment.  

The picture is not of M.C. Gregory, just what he might have looked like had he played the saxophone as a doughboy.  Well, maybe not the cape.  Unfortunately, there is no evidence that he played a woodwind and I have yet to locate his service records, although they may exist. 

The war ended November 11, 1918, so M.C. was only in the service several months and never left the country.  (His contemporary, Mr. Otto Link, had a similar, even shorter, military experience, but that will have to wait for the Link Mouthpiece Saga).  Shortly after being discharged, Gregory moved his family to California, where his parents had previously moved.  His father Wallis was a private investigator is southern California.

We next find Malcolm living with his wife Hazel and daughter at his mother-in-law's house in Glendale, California in 1920.  The 1920 census shows that there was also a guest at the house; Malcolm's 60 year-old mother, Mary (Culver) Gregory, who lists her occupation as a piano teacher.  That could be the source of Malcolm's musical training.  Malcolm lists his occupation as a clerk at a shoe store.  Ten years later in the 1930 census, Malcolm lists his occupation as a salesman at a music publishing house.   He had remarried (Gladys) and his then 13 year-old daughter was living with his first wife Hazel (who had also remarried).

We should now go back and look at The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga as printed in the Saxophone Journal.  The article picks up where the above history stops and states that M.C. Gregory was "a fine woodwind man in the Hollywood studios"  who developed a line of mouthpieces in the 1930's and named his company (Gale Products) after his daughter, Gale.  M.C. later "contracted glaucoma" and committed suicide.  Charles Bay told Ralph Morgan that "Gale, in fact, was M.C.  Gregory's daughter, to whom he was very devoted, and who took a great interest in the firm." Gale ran the business until she "lost her life in a house fire."  The company was then run for 20 years by the "company attorney, Cesar Tschudin," who many years later sold the company to Charles Bay.  The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga also mentions Carl Satzinger as an engineer who developed the molds and equipment used by M.C. Gregory.  There is also a claim that a super-secret special rubber compound was provided by a local rubber manufacturer.  We've heard that one before.  And there is quite a bit of text about how Charles Bay really admired M.C. Gregory mouthpieces and jumped at the opportunity to own Gregory's old company.

We might as well stop at this point because the facts don't support any of this story.  In prior blogs, I have advocated that we should use Carl Sagin's rule of critical thinking - "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."  I generally find that evidence, let alone extraordinary evidence, tends to be lacking in claims about musical instruments and accessories.  I'm going to give you my theory as to why that is. 

Musicians like things that sound good.  That's what making music is all about.  If an instrument or an accessory sounds good, musicians will buy it.  This also holds true as to assertions about musical instruments and accessories.  If an assertion about a musical accessory sounds good, musicians will buy it.  If the story sounds fantastic, they'll buy it.  If it sounds incredible, even unbelievable, they will still buy it.  I will try to resist this tendency of "musical make-believe" in telling a different version of The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga

M.C. Gregory did not have a daughter named Gale.  He did not have a company named Gale.  In fact, he never had a company.  He did not have a company attorney named Cesar Tschudin.  It is unlikely that he ever met Cesar Tschudin.  There is no evidence that Carl Satzinger developed the molds and equipment used by M.C. Gregory.  We have no evidence that Gregory played a woodwind or was a fine musician (nowhere is he listed as a musician of any type, unlike other characters in this Saga).  I could go on, but maybe we should just go back to what we actually know about Malcolm Culver Gregory and the mouthpiece business.  

Most of the information comes from public records.  Some of the information comes from my conversations with Gale.  Remember Gale?  M.C. Gregory's daughter who died in a house fire?  Since both Paul and I have recently talked with her, and Paul has met her, that part of The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga is easy to correct.  (Gale doesn't remember Malcolm ever playing a musical instrument.  Not that he didn't.  It's just strange that she never saw or heard of him playing anything.  Back to our story.)

M.C. Gregory's daughter was named Maxine.  She was married at the age of 17 to Carl Satzinger, age 25.  She was married in Arizona, apparently under an alias, and the marriage certificate was signed by her birth mother, Hazel, as Maxine was a minor at the time.  Using census records, city directories, phone books, draft registrations, marriage licenses, etc., we know that M.C. Gregory started his mouthpiece business in about 1935-36.   M.C. Gregory listed himself as employed in the musical manufacturing business beginning in 1936.  M.C. Gregory mouthpieces first appear in the Selmer U.S.A. catalog in 1937.

In 1938, his business address was listed as 1008 Hill Street in Los Angeles.  Here's a picture of it.  If you click on the picture, you can see that it's available for rent!

In 1939, Gregory was located at 5907 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.  That store front is also still standing and was available for rent, but when I recently went back to Google Earth, the sign had been taken down.  

Neither location is what anybody would call a "factory."  They are of sufficient size to run a one or two man mouthpiece fabrication operation.  You may have read something about the M.C. Gregory "Company."  There was never a company.  M.C. Gregory never incorporated a business.  I think I know why that is.  M.C. Gregory did not begin as a stand alone business.  Let me explain.

No matter where his early business was located, the first M.C. Gregory Model A and Model B mouthpieces were all stamped "Rico" or "Rico Products, Ltd. Distributors."  In the original Gregory Mouthpiece Saga, it sounded as though Rico Products distributed "some" M.C. Gregory mouthpieces.  The Saga states "The Rico line of mouthpieces was a carbon copy of the Gregory, but with the Rico logo also imprinted above the Gregory name."  Unfortunately, there is no evidence of any early Gregory pieces that were not stamped "Rico" or "Rico Products, Ltd. Distributors" and distributed exclusively by Rico.  That lead us to suspect that M.C. Gregory was very closely affiliated with Rico and maybe even part of Rico Products, Ltd. from the start.  This is not just conjecture.

His association with Rico Products appears to have been very close.  Malcolm's 1941 WWII draft registration card shows him as a self-employed "reed instrument mouthpiece maker," but he states that his then business address was 407 E. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.  That was the corporate address of Rico Products, Ltd. at the time.  

In the 1942 Los Angeles City Directory, Malcolm Gregory lists himself as a Manager at Rico Products.  Not as the owner of a woodwind mouthpiece business, but a manager at Rico, i.e., an employee of Rico.  All woodwind players know Rico Products because of Rico reeds.  They might even be familiar with the Rico Products, Ltd. major partners at the time, Roy J. Maier and Frank V. deMichele.  More on them in in Part V.

Based on the historical evidence, it is difficult to see any distinction between M.C. Gregory and Rico Products.  There may have been some business justification for making M.C. Gregory mouthpieces appear distinct from Rico Products, with Rico only being a "distributor," but in reality the businesses seem to have been one and the same.  Maybe a mouthpiece embossed with the name M.C. Gregory "sounds better" to a musician than the same mouthpiece embossed with just the name Rico Products?

Here is the first public advertisement we could find for Gregory mouthpieces, or maybe I should say Rico mouthpieces.  In the 1937 and 1938 Selmer catalog, the Rico trademarked treble clef and staff lines logo is embossed above the Gregory diamond logo.  Click on it to read the text about Rico Mouthpieces.

The text claims that Rico found somebody to develop a mouthpiece for them.   It was designed by M.C. Gregory with the help of musicians and technicians.  The Rico mouthpieces were available for several instruments and in many different lays and chamber configurations.  But it is a Rico mouthpiece featuring Rico's new trademarked logo on it (at page 2).  Thank you, M.C. Gregory, for developing a line of mouthpieces for Rico. Because some later mouthpieces had the M.C. Gregory stamp above the Rico distributors stamp, it was claimed that they were M.C. Gregory mouthpieces and some people lost track of the "Gregory by Rico" history.  

There is no evidence at this point that the tail ever wagged the dog.  By that I mean that the evidence is that Rico Products, Ltd had M.C. Gregory (its employee) produce some of its mouthpieces and not that M.C. Gregory had Rico distribute some if his mouthpieces.  Let's look at some more of the earliest advertising.  In 1938, the mouthpieces were advertised as Rico mouthpieces designed by M.C. Gregory (sorry about the low resolution).

The Gregory Mouthpiece Saga says that the logo in the middle bottom of the page was Rico's registered trademark in France.  Nope, but it was intended to look like Rico had some connection with France.  The Saga also states that the Rico Company was "then based in France."  Also not true.  It was run by two guys from Chicago.  Like other woodwind ventures at the time, implying a French connection "sounds better."

In 1943, it was still a Gregory "Rico" mouthpiece.  In a 1943 picture advertisement, the diamond had moved above "Rico Products, Ltd Distributor."  

Jimmy Simpson mouthpieces came out at about the same time and have been lumped in with Gregory pieces, although it isn't clear if the Simpson piece was another Rico offering.

There were also published tables for the tip openings and lays for mouthpieces of that era.  Here is a chart that has the facing numbers for Selmer, Goldbeck, Link, etc.  It also has facing numbers for the Rico tenor mouthpiece.  Notice that the Rico tip and chamber designations are what are now called "Gregory" tip and chamber numbers.  Somehow over the years, the Rico mouthpiece became the M.C. Gregory mouthpiece.

Here is an advertisement for the Rico Reloplex and the Rico Gregory.  Actually, the ad says Reloplex by Rico and Gregory by Rico.  

Somehow this all got interpreted as Rico was only distributing Gregory mouthpieces and every Rico mouthpiece, including the Reloplex, was hand made by M.C. Gregory.  Don't ask me how.  I'll get to more evidence in Part V that this is not correct.

First, let's move on to another player.  In 1936, Carl Max Satzinger, who had married Malcolm's daughter Maxine in 1934, was working at a battery business in Monrovia, California.  Thus, he was working full time at a different location in a different industry when Gregory first began production of his mouthpieces, so it is unlikely that Carl developed the first molds and equipment used by Gregory.  Carl later came to work for Gregory.  In a later Los Angeles City Directory, Carl Satzinger listed himself as a "clerk" working for M.C. Gregory.  So there is some evidence of M.C. Gregory and Carl Satzinger working together in the mouthpiece business for a short time.  It is likely that Gregory taught Satzinger how to finish mouthpieces, as Satzinger had no woodwind or musical experience.  

Oddly, by the 1940 census, Carl lists himself as a "manufacturer of musical instrument parts" with his "own business."  Also strange is that in the 1940 Los Angeles City Directory Carl's younger brother, Arnold Satzinger, is listed as a machinist for musical instruments.  Arnold's 1942 WWII induction papers also list him as a machinist of musical instruments.  In speaking with his surviving children, none of them were familiar with this part of Arnold's work history.  It appears that Arnold may have helped his brother Carl start a mouthpiece business.

Satzinger family members were familiar with the idea that Carl figured out a way to get around the rubber shortage during the war (Arnold went off to become a Navy pilot).  Carl developed a way to make mouthpieces out of resin (as did other mouthpiece makers).  What isn't as clear is what happened after the war.  We can tell from newspaper articles that Carl and Maxine divorced in about 1947 (no divorce decree found yet).  Maxine died on Valentine's Day, 1949, apparently from smoking in bed in her LA bungalow apartment.  But the strangest thing that happened during this time is that Gale Products, Inc. was incorporated on April 5, 1948.  You can click on this to enlarge.

The Articles of Incorporation that we obtained from the California Secretary of State claim that Gale Products, Inc. had been in business since 1946.  That may or may not be accurate.  As with trademark and patent claims, incorporation claims are sometimes generously backdated.  It isn't clear just how much of a going concern Gale was in 1946.

Gale mouthpieces are often included as being M.C. Gregory mouthpieces.  The only "evidence" for this proposition seems to be the story as told in the original Gregory Mouthpiece Saga.  But there is a simple way of finding out if the assertion is accurate.  We can examine the Articles of Incorporation to see if M.C. Gregory continued his company by naming it after his daughter, Gale.  Okay, we now know that he didn't have a company and that he could not name a new company after his daughter Gale because he didn't have a daughter Gale.  But forget about those inaccuracies.  Is there any plausible evidence that M.C. Gregory was ever involved in Gale Products, Inc?  

That is probably enough for Part IV of the Saga.  I'll pick up in Part V with what happened at the time Gale Products, Inc. went into business.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How mouthpiece material matters - Thickness

In a prior blog, we looked at how mouthpiece material might matter.  There is a great deal of mythology about how a certain material might "resonate" and have some effect on how a mouthpiece sounds.  Using material science, available evidence, and common sense, we could find no evidence to support such a claim and, in fact, the more the claim is examined the more ludicrous it sounds.  

We could not find the "material matters" proof that some players were hoping for but there actually are some areas where mouthpiece material does matter.  At the beginning of the prior blog, there is a list of those areas where material makes a difference (production costs, weight, electrical conductivity, etc.).  Unfortunately, we couldn't find any evidence that related to sound production.  

We tried to decipher the statement that "Metal mouthpieces are not subject to the same tonal changes we note in hard rubber, since the average thickness of material used can do nothing but act as a damping effect on the reeds (sic) vibration."  Here, it is difficult to determine what is being stated.  Metal mouthpieces tend to be thinner than hard rubber pieces.  So maybe the claim is that the thinner the metal, the less vibration?

I devised a test to see whether thin metal had a damping effect on vibrations.  Here is the test equipment.

It turned out that not only could vibrations pass through metal, but the vibrations could be transmitted via a string to another piece of thin metal and heard at a considerable distance.  I call it "metallic resonance string theory."  Try doing that with a vulcanized rubber can!  

Maybe I have misinterpreted the "vibration in metal" assertions.  I do think that the thickness of the mouthpiece material can make a difference in how a mouthpiece plays.  But it is not in a way that is generally discussed when talking about mouthpiece material.  

To test a "material thickness matters" claim, I purchased two identical mouthpieces.  One showed up free in the case of a saxophone that I purchased on Ebay.  It is a Buffet mouthpiece that is embossed with the name of Buffet's line of Evette & Schaeffer saxophones made from the 1950's to the 1980's.  It is sort of a generic student piece, probably produced for Buffet by Riffault, and almost always seen in the common "C" facing.  

Although these are relatively common, when shopping for an identical mouthpiece for my test I learned a bit of saxophone lore.  The "C" facing used on Buffet mouthpieces has been interpreted as meaning that Buffet mouthpieces were made by Charles Chedeville!!! Charles Chedeville is another figure that has his own sax lore about using super-duper rod rubber in the creation of his mouthpieces.  There is no evidence, of course, but it drives up the prices of old mouthpieces if they are claimed to be connected to Chedeville.  Ignore the fact that Mr. Chedeville was dead and gone by the time Buffet tossed one of these mouthpieces into the case with every new student saxophone.  I assume that this sax myth explains why I lost several auctions and finally had to bid $30! for a matching old Evette & Schaeffer (E&S) student mouthpiece.  

Here is what they look like.

Now for testing the theory that the thickness of mouthpiece material matters.  

The E&S mouthpiece has a beak* that reminds me of a clarinet mouthpiece.  Other than one white plastic mouthpiece, like one of mine shown in this blog, I had never had a mouthpiece with this steep of a beak angle.  It felt like I was playing my contrabass clarinet.  The beak is actually not quite as steep and thick as the contrabass, but it has a much thicker beak profile than my vintage hard rubber baritone saxophone piece.
E&S tenor in front, BBb contrabass in rear.

That made me curious as to just how "thick" is a thick beak?  And from where does one measure?  For me, I found several old mouthpieces that I had used with tooth guards.  They had indentations that showed approximately where my teeth had rested on the beak.  It turns out that my right front tooth (the "upper right central" for you dentistry types) was the primary point of contact.  That was about 15 mm back from the tip.  But I'm not convinced that that point is always my point of reference when deciding whether a beak feels thin or thick.  It may actually be my lips (further along the beak) that gives the sensation of thickness and where to place the mouthpiece.  Regardless, I decided to use 15 mm as my reference point.

Here is the basic measuring technique.  Outside calipers

Measuring beak material thickness at 15mm from the tip.

Thickness of the E&S mouthpiece at 15 mm.

It turns out that whether the mouthpiece beak feels thin or thick doesn't directly correlate with whether the beak material actually is thick or thin.  Using an outside caliper shown above, I measured my hard rubber Link Tone Edge as being 3 mm thick at 15 mm back from the tip.  My metal Super Tone Master has a thickness of 2.2 mm at 15 mm.  But, my hard rubber Babbitt Artist (which shares a large chamber design with the Links) has a beak thickness of only 2 mm at 15 mm.  Finally, the E&S hard rubber mouthpiece has a thickness of a whopping 4.9 at 15 mm.  

It turns out that the metal STM has the second thinnest material but the thinnest profile.  By "profile," I mean the distance from the reed to the top of the mouthpiece.  That's what I actually feel when playing the mouthpiece, not the thickness of the beak material.  Again, I looked at that measurement based on the mouthpiece profile at 15 mm back from the tip.  Because of the steepness of the beak profile, this measurement can also vary.  It is possible to have a steep profile and a high baffle (by increasing the material thickness) or a low profile and a large chamber with little baffle (by thinning the material).  Or you could have the same beak profile and a large difference in material thickness.  Compare a Dukoff Super Power Chamber with a Link Super Tone Master.  Similar beak profile but a huge difference in material thickness (creating a high baffle in the Dukoff).

Here is how I measured the mouthpiece profile, again at 15 mm back from the tip.  This mechanic's ruler is 1 mm thick and end indexed, so it made measuring simple.
The hard rubber E&S.

The Link Super Tone Master.

The Link STM was 7.7 mm and the E&S was 10.7 mm, both measured 15 mm from the tip.  That means that my mouth is open an additional 3 mm when using the E&S mouthpiece.  Or, if I insert the mouthpiece based on the profile thickness, I would insert the E&S only 9 mm (not 15 mm) to get the same profile feeling.  Turns out that I don't do that.  I measured my right front tooth contact point on various mouthpieces.  It appears that I prefer to put the mouthpiece in 15 mm regardless of the beak profile (probably for ease of tonguing).  So a mouthpiece profile directly effects how wide my mouth is open.

The thickness of the beak material on the E&S mouthpiece (4.9 mm) means that I can alter the beak quite a bit.  Most people who make changes to a mouthpiece concentrate on modifying the lay, the baffle, the chamber, or all three.  But what might be the effect if I leave the lay and the interior alone and simply reduce the beak profile by reducing the thickness of the material on the top of the beak?  In other words, does material thickness matter?

I used a fairly aggressive woodworking rasp for the initial reduction in the beak thickness (while taking occasional measurements).  Then I used a file, then sandpaper, and finally metal polish.  Here are the two pieces shown in profile.  I ended up with a little bit of a "duck bill" profile on the mouthpiece in front.

The mouthpiece in front had the beak material reduced by over 2 mm right where my tooth makes contact and reduced even more further up the beak.  An interior 2 mm difference in the chamber shape and size would be substantial change and one would expect it to make a difference in how the piece played.  But a 2 mm difference in material thickness only on the outside of the beak?  It turns out that the exterior change also makes a difference.  The original piece seems sedate, almost bland.  Just what a student needs.  The modified piece played a little livelier.  They also tune a little differently.

It is the second characteristic that makes me believe that it isn't really the thickness of the material that is making the slight change.  It is likely that it is the size of the oral cavity that is the difference.  My mouth is closed by an additional +2 mm on the modified piece, which means that the profile is now 8.7 mm at 15 mm from the tip, closer to my STM than to the original E&S mouthpiece.  By making my oral cavity smaller, the piece is livelier.  Or it could be that, with the thinner profile on the beak, I'm putting it into my mouth slightly further, thus getting a slight boost in volume and a livelier reed action.  Or it could be a combination of the two.  

Closing my mouth more would also make the piece tune slightly higher.  Nobody uses a pitch pipe anymore, now that there are accurate digital pitch producing gadgets.  

But if you've ever used one, you know how much the size of your oral cavity can change the pitch.  If I can find mine, I'll add a video showing the effect of simply changing my oral cavity while blowing a concert C on a pitch pipe.  


(7/26/17 update:  I found my pitch pipe and made a video.  Here is what you are looking at.  I first blow a C on pitch.  For me, that means reducing my oral cavity smaller than what feels "normal."  Then, I reduce my oral cavity about as small as possible without squeezing off the air passage.  Then, I make my oral cavity as large as possible, both while trying to maintain a constant air flow (as that can also change the pitch.)  Then a little large and small.  All I want to show is the effect of changing the size of the oral cavity.  How wide my mouth is open effects how large and small I can make my oral cavity.  In other words, even the thickness of the pitch pipe will effect how the pitch pipe tunes and plays).

I don't own enough metal mouthpieces to measure a sufficient sample to see if and how much they differ from hard rubber pieces in their exterior dimensions.  It seems strange to think that the claim that metal pieces play louder and brighter may have some validation, but all due to metal being generally thinner and therefore the oral cavity being generally smaller and/or the mouthpiece inserted generally further.  That would mean that the difference isn't directly because of the material, it is because the material allows for a different oral cavity profile and placement in the embouchure.  

I could try putting the original mouthpiece further into my mouth, but I would have my mouth open considerably further and changing too many variables at once.  Because of the steepness of the original profile, I know opening my mouth wider offsets any gain in liveliness and (for me) makes reed control more difficult.  I tested this by fabricating a ridiculously thick "tooth guard."  My ridiculously thick tooth guard only required me to open my mouth an additional 5mm on the original E&S mouthpiece, but it was like trying to speak without being able to close your lips.

So I have found another way in which material matters acoustically on a woodwind mouthpiece.  The thickness of the material can effect the size of the oral cavity because it can control the profile of the beak.  The thickness of the material can also effect where you place the piece in your mouth.  Not very exciting to those who were hoping for a secret mystical resonance created by a proprietary blend of ingredients.  Sorry.

P.S.  When I was done with this experiment, I couldn't help myself and decided to put a different facing on the already modified E&S mouthpiece.  Nothing radical.  Just opening it up to .095" (a Link 6*) from the original .080".  The combination of thinning the beak and opening the tip really changed the piece.  Or maybe, Buffet-Crampon mouthpieces, including their Evette & Schaeffer student mouthpieces, really are made from a super-duper Charles Chedeville secret rubber recipe formulated in the nonexistent "Chedeville factory."  Like Aladdin's lamp, when I rubbed the Buffet mouthpiece (with a file), it released a Chedeville musical magic genie.  

I just added that for those of you who like fairy tale endings.  Google "Chedeville factory."  You will find that it never existed except in the minds of those who believe in a super secret hard rubber recipe that produces superior acoustics.  Those who can hear the difference can also imagine a fictitious factory.

Where's Charlie?

*  I know that a lot of players reading this blog use a different terminology for parts of a mouthpiece.  For this article, a beak isn't the entire mouthpiece.  The beak is only the thin area placed in the mouth.