Friday, November 15, 2013

Revere horns - A trademark of Sorkin Music Company

I bought a nice Revere saxophone (then I bought a few more) and wondered who had them stenciled, stencil being a term applied to designate a horn that was ordered by a music store to be used as a private label instrument for their exclusive sales.  I thought Revere might be related to Sorkin Music because one Revere closet horn (not a sax) on the website Hornucopia had a Sorkin Music registration and warranty card in the case.  So I looked into the history of Sorkin Music.  The little Sorkin Music history that I had already heard was that Sorkin had used the Martin company to stencil a saxophone in the 1930s-40s with the name Dick Stabile (a then well known player).  I needed more Sorkin history.

Sorkin started as a music store owned by Lou Sorkin in Philadelphia during the depression.  It then moved to New York and became a musical instrument wholesaler.  The company changed its name to Peter Sorkin Music Company in the 1940s. Lou's nephew, Joe Saltzman, was the buyer for the business and travelled around the world to source products that were often branded with one of the Sorkin held trade names. 
Instruments were also sourced from the U.S., as in the case of Sorkin using Kent Drums of New York to produce the Revere drum kits sold by Sorkin.  The Sorkin Revere drums had the exact same distinctive metal foil lyre logo sticker on them as on my Revere saxophones and sax cases.  That was my second clue that Revere might be a Sorkin trade name. (the Revere badge is 2/3 down the page). The lyre seems to emphasize a mirrored S (for Sorkin?).  The same lyre logo appears engraved on the brass instruments and on the cases.  Click on any picture to enlarge.

From looking at various articles about Sorkin instruments on the web, Sorkin began by sourcing quality instruments and sometimes helped to develop new lines of instruments.  Sorkin always seemed to be close to the cutting edge in the musical instrument field, if not at the cutting edge.  Sorkin got on board with electrically amplified guitars early on, including developing a line of tube amplifiers through a subsidiary called Multivox.  One of its lines was Premier amplifiers (which supposedly introduced the first piggyback amp, usually attributed incorrectly to Fender).   (Scroll down for the Premier piggyback amp shown next to the Cannonball Adderly record release notice).  
 Premier electric guitars were built with parts sourced from various vendors, including DeArmond pick-ups (and made-in-Japan knock-off pickups when they could get the same quality from another supplier).  Some of the electric guitars were badged “Marvel” or “Beltone.”  All of these badges have their cult followers today and are thought of as good examples of instruments of the era.  Other collectible Sorkin guitar trade names were Rhythm Ace and Royce.  The Premier line of guitars had a flashy scrolled upper bout, along with some eye-catching trim.

Sorkin was also the sole US distributor of Hofner guitars from Germany.  When the British invasion hit, Paul McCartney was playing a distinctive Hofner violin-shaped bass guitar, and sales must have been good at Sorkin.  At about the same time, Mr. Saltzman was at NAMM in 1964 and a Japanese inventor (Ikutaro Kakehashi) was showing an electric drum-like metronome thingy.  The big organ companies passed on that idea.  Sorkin then became the sole U.S. distributor for the first programmable drum machine (still in business as the Roland Company).  No matter what your opinion of drum machines, this was cutting edge stuff.  Sorkin also distributed the Ace Tone electronic organ, another Kakehasi product.  The organ was endorsed by Steve Chapin (brother of Harry Chapin and later the leader of a Harry Chapin tribute band).  A few years later, engineers at Thomas Organ finally got on board and developed the wah wah pedal and used it with a saxophone until somebody had the idea to use it with the electric guitar.

Despite a successful 1960s, Sorkin Co. was dissolved in the 1970s, but Multivox Corporation of America continued active production until the 1980s and still exists as a corporation but apparently does not presently produce or distribute electronics. 
Ace Tone.  Yeah, man. (see what a vintage Multivox synth can do).

Sorkin also had U.S. made acoustic guitars, banjos, ukuleles, and mandolins that they sold under their trade name “Stra-Do-Lin  in the 30s-60s.  There was even an electric Stra-Do-Lin hollow-body bass.  There is some evidence that in the early days Sorkin owned the Stra-Do-Lin shop that made these instruments.  The early mandolins are highly regarded, despite the fact that even those who deal in vintage mandolins don’t seem to know where Stra-Do-Lins came from.  (calling it a “catalog instrument”).  That catalog was Sorkin.  The early reputation for these instruments is good (mandolin player Bill Munroe liked them).

The Sorkin ukuleles were endorced by Bobby "Uke" Henshaw and claimed by one web site to have been "made in Sorkin, N.Y."  The early ones are said to be of a very high quality.  Check out the foil badge on the headstock.  There's the lyre again.

As with the Revere drums and Stra-Do-Lin mandolins Sorkin later sourced cheaper, lesser quality imported ukuleles and sold them using the trade name recognition that it had built.  By the 1970s, the guitars were from Korea, drums from Japan, and who knows where the banjos and mandolins were from.  The badging of Revere instruments seems to have ended in the 1960's.
What’s interesting about the Stra-Do-Lin trademark is that Hornucopia and other brass wind web sites show 1940-60s vintage trumpets, flutes, cornets, trombones, etc. engraved “Revere by Stradolin.”  They all appear to be stencils using two of the Sorkin trade names at once, but it caused some people to think that the Revere instruments were manufactured by a company called Stra-Do-Lin when a close inspection of the horns shows that they are stencils from well known brass and woodwind manufacturers.  All of the “Revere by Stradolin” instruments that I’ve found seem to be U.S. sourced stencils.  Maybe I just haven’t seen enough of them, because horns badges with just Revere were commonly high quality German, French, and English (also Japanese and maybe Italian).

Getting back to the Revere lyre logo, Sorkin’s Premier line of amplifiers also included wonderful little “harp” amps, popular with harmonica players.  In fact, one of the Premier amps was called the Harp.  Of course, there is also type of harp that is a stringed instrument, like a lyre.  Check out this Sorkin Premier Harp amplifier. Notice anything about the logos on that little baby?  I couldn’t believe it. I had to stare at that a while (after hitting mute).  And it's small enough to busk at the Laundromat, like this guy is apparently doing.

And then I came across a good picture of a Dick Stabile saxophone stenciled by Martin Band Instruments for Sorkin Music from the mid 30s to the mid 40s.  The Stabile model is said to be one of those horns where the stencil is better than the manufacturer's "run of the mill," and Martin tenors from the mid 30s and 40s are no slouch.  Here is a picture of the tenor on the left and an alto on the right.
Notice anything interesting about the logo below the name Dick Stabile and above the name Sorkin New York?  Yeah, it's not a Stabile lyre, a Revere lyre, or a Premier lyre, the logo could really be called a Sorkin lyre. 
What's interesting is that I've found few of the Sorkin house brands of the 1930s through the early 60s ridiculed as second line or student instruments.  Those instruments that were intended to be student grade they were clearly marked as such.  Here is a student metal clarinet, probably from the 1930s.  I have one of these (not a Sorkin) and kept it only because it plays very well and cost about $40.  Still a bargain.  Notice the lyre above the name? 

Here is a wood Sorkin clarinet.  I have no idea where they sourced these or their reputation, but considering the reputation of other Sorkin stencils, I wouldn't hesitate to bid on one.

Here is Dick Stabile saxophone that makes it clear who was ordering the Martin stencil.

 Some Sorkin stencils might not be top-of-the-line professional instruments, but Premier, Revere, Marvel, Rhythm Ace, Multivox and a few other Sorkin lines were quality competitive in their day.  Multivox, for instance, the electric part of the Sorkin line that was started in the 1940s, was very well known in the late 1960s for wah wah pedals, fuzzboxes, etc.!multivox-big-jam-pedals/cig3  (go back and listen to the Marvel video at :33 to hear what they do).  Multivox continued into the 1980s with less expensive, allegedly “lower quality” keyboards, pedals, and synthesizers, said to be inferior to the top-of-the-line keyboards and synthesizers made by the Roland Company and others.   
Remember the Roland Company?  That’s a company started by Ikutaro Kakehashi, the guy that Sorkin partnered with and had exclusive rights to distribute some it his electronic synthesizer products.  The “lower quality” claim might be a bit bogus on the early products.  Multivox synths could be stencils of Roland equipment, and like many stencils, they could be identical except for the badging.  That’s the same problem with all stencils, including the Revere badged instruments.  They are immediately considered inferior until somebody recognizes that the stencil horn was made by Blessing, Holton, King, Martin, or one of the quality European makers.  Then they get a second look (or hear) after their parentage is determined and many players recognize that stencils are often a hidden bargain.
There is a U.S. trademark for “Revere” musical instruments that is still in effect.  It covers “Musical Instruments-Namely, Trumpets, Cornets, Trombones, Alto Horns, Mellophones, French Horns, Baritone Horns, Bugles, Bass Horns, Sousaphones, Clarinets, Saxaphones, Piccolos, Flutes, Oboes, English Horns, Bassoons, Mouth Pieces for Musical Instruments, Mouth Piece Caps, Drums, Drum Covers, Drum Sticks, Drum Spurs, Tamborines, Triangles and Maracas.”  The misspelling of saxophones as saxaphones is in all of the trademark references that I found.  Same with tambourines as tamborines.  Weird.

Best I can tell, the Revere trademark was first filed in 1947 by the Peter Sorkin Music Company and is still held by Entertainment Music Marketing Co. of New York.  The trademark is held in common with the Multivox Corporation of America.  Hey, we know them.  These two entities also still hold the trademark for Premier amplifiers and guitars.  Oddly, they also hold the U.S. trademark for Kohlert musical instruments (a well respected German company that stenciled different types of woodwind and brass instruments for Sorkin Music with the Revere name, including one of my saxophones from 1957, before going out of business in the 1960s). 

 The common story is that Kohlert entered into a contract to sell stencil instruments to a foreign wholesaler at a set price for 10 years.  When it couldn't meet the terms of the contract because of inflation, it filed for bankruptcy.  Often, one of the most valuable assets remaining when a business fails is its reputation (i.e., its trade name).  The creditors divvy up the inventory, equipment, etc., and somebody ended up with the Kohlert trade name. 

If you check Ebay, you can buy a new Vietnamese-made Kohlert saxophone for about $700, which means that Entertainment Music Marketing Co. of New York and Multivox Corporation of America are still in the horn business and are presently using their Kohlert trade name.  There are also new "made in the USA" plastic saxophone mouthpieces.  It looks like Sorkin Music was the foreign wholesaler who contracted with Kohlert and ended up owning the Kohlert name. 
A “real” vintage Kohlert saxophone is shown here and valued at about $1,500 completely rebuilt.  The majority of the Revere alto saxophones that I have seen (and purchased) were made by Kohlert in 1957, based on Kohlert serial number charts.  The 57 Kohlert is a great horn and the Revere is identical.  That is one of the great things about sourcing from foreign manufacturers in the 1930s through the 1960s; foreign companies didn't generally have "second tier" lines or "student horns."  The Revere badged Kohlert is identical to the company's well respected "Kohlert 57" professional model.  

My Revere badged Beaugnier tenor saxophone is the same horn as the Beaugnier "Perfect" model, another very nice horn.  Mr. Saltzman was doing a good job finding quality manufacturers for the Sorkin house brands. These Kohlert and Beaugnier produced saxophones, even if in great condition, now sell for half or less than a beater Kohlert if they are badged Revere.  So the name engraved on the horn can drive prices up or down completely unrelated to quality or condition.  It’s that old trade name magic.

From looking around the web, I’d guesstimate that the Revere trademark was used on woodwind and brasswind stencils from 10-20 different foreign and domestic quality instrument manufacturers in the 1940s through 1960s.  From watching Ebay, I know that Revere horns have ended up in Europe, but I don’t know if that was from original sales or if they were taken there by players.  Revere musical instruments were manufactured all over the place, but all paths lead back to the house brand of a U.S. wholesaler . . . Sorkin Music. 

(addendum:  I later found a 1958 Sorkin Music catalog and it shows the Kohlert Revere alto and the Beaugnier Revere tenor.)


  1. Good evening sir,

    I noted several errors on Mister Frédéric Paul Parme on your post, he was born in Nantes in 1871, his father, Léon Gustave Parme was a professor to the academy of Nantes. Frédéric was a professor of clarinet in 1892-1893 in Versailles and already a soldier musician... The continuation(suite) is on my blog:
    Your blog is very well made and I am a reader, sorry for my traduction and all my thanks.

  2. Thank you for the dates. The Philadelphia Orchestra listed Mr. Parme as born in 1872 and the date of his death as unknown. As I said in the blog, information on Mr. Parme is available. The difficult part is what can you tell us about what happened to Mr. Chiron or the mouthpiece company Riffault ef Fils?

  3. What do you know about the American Trumpeteer Trombones sold at Sorkin New York?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Sorkin used that trade name on trombones and trumpets. Usually they say "Made in the U.S.A.," which narrows down the maker a little. Sometimes they say "Elkhart, Indiana" which narrows the maker even further. You would need to ask a trombone person to help you identify the actual maker and quality of the horn.