Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Fake Jody Jazz HR* mouthpiece

I saw that fake Jody Jazz mouthpieces were appearing on Ebay.  The text in the Buy-It-Now "auction" was constantly changing.  They first appeared as Jody Jazz mouthpieces.  Later descriptions said that the mouthpiece was a "JJ" brand, however the name on the mouthpiece was obviously Jody Jazz in the same gold font as the real thing.  Some auctions said it was made of hard rubber, others said that it was bakelite.  Bakelite (the real name is polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride
 is a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin that is not universally considered "food safe."  It might not be something that you would want to put in your mouth every day (or ever).  Apparently, the people manufacturing this fake don't know or don't care about what woodwind mouthpieces are made of.

Mine was obviously made in China.  In fact, mine was shipped directly from China (although the Ebay store was located in Indonesia).  Authentic Jody Jazz mouthpieces are hand finished in the U.S. and, according to their advertisements, are individually played prior to sale by Jody Espina (or somebody at his facility in Savanna, GA).  Mine, being shipped directly from China, obviously was going to miss out on this essential quality control.  

There were other telltale clues that mine would be a fake.  The Jody Jazz HR* sells for about $200 in the U.S.  The Ebay Buy-It-Now price was $26.  I bought one and was immediately told that it was out of stock and my purchase price was refunded.  I went back to the same site, where the price was now $28, and bought it again.  Same thing happened.  I went back and bought it at $30 and that transaction went through.  It appeared that the seller had some kind of automated "sucker pricing" algorithm.  That is exactly what one would expect from an Ebay scammer selling knockoff products.  The mouthpiece showed up in two weeks with a cheap ligature and cap.  Guess what?  It was fake!

Although most fake Jody Jazz mouthpieces had disappeared from Ebay by the time I wrote this blog, many other fakes of various brands have recently appeared.  Many of them also claim to be made of Bakelite.  If you search Ebay for Bakelite saxophone mouthpieces, you may find fake Vandoren, Meyer, etc.  Here is a picture of the fake plastic Meyers (falsely claimed to be made of Bakelite, but who cares).  Notice that they have faked the current model of Meyer mouthpieces.  Don't they know the saxophone lore that the vintage Meyer Brothers mouthpieces magically enhance a player's ability and are therefore worth thousands of dollars?

Late model fake altos.

$26 for a fake Meyer medium chamber.  I have no idea what these are made of or what the chamber, lay, etc. looks like.  You should not expect that it looks or plays anything like an actual Meyer.

Back to my fake Jody Jazz.  Here is what a real Jody Jazz hard rubber HR* looks like.  This is a 7 tip (.105 inch).  The shank has a smooth "bugle" shape.

Notice that the thickness of the font script is fairly uniform.

Jody Jazz refers to their HR* model as having a medium round chamber.  Because the chamber is slightly larger than the shank bore, I would refer to it as a medium large chamber.  Here is my "chamber designation" rule for this type of mouthpiece.*  If I look in from the tip and see the mold line between chamber and shank, it's large, i.e., the chamber is larger than the shank bore.  If I look in from the shank and see the mold line, it's a small chamber.  If there is no mold line, i.e., the end of the chamber is the same as the shank bore, it's a medium chamber.  That's my test.  Probably too simplistic and it's not too important here.  

If I can't see the mold line from this direction, that means a large chamber.  On these the mold line is very small viewed from the tip (previous picture), hence my calling them a medium large chamber.

Below is the fake Jody Jazz mouthpiece viewed from tip and shank.  The view from the tip makes it look like it is a large chamber, but that "line" is just where the chamber drops into the larger shank bore.  When viewed from the shank, it is obvious that this is a small chamber not anything like a real Jody Jazz.  It is actually similar looking to an old Selmer.

A "pea shooter" style chamber.

We don't have to go into much detail about the differences between a real Jody Jazz HR* mouthpiece and my fake Ebay piece because they are clearly unrelated.  First, it didn't even look like the picture used on Ebay (which might have been a picture of a real Jody Jazz mouthpiece).  
The shank shape is wrong

The embossing on my mouthpiece was a complete ripoff of the Jody Jazz logo, but was apparently laser etched from directly above.  This distorts the font a little.  

The logo is distorted because it was printed from directly above.  This makes the font lines thicker as it wraps around the mouthpiece, shown here as the start of the "J" is further from the center of the logo.

Second, it isn't Bakelite or hard rubber.  It appears to be injection molded ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), the same plastic used for black plumbing pipe and Legos toys.  Is it food safe?  Some say yes, some say no.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated in 2015 that some ABS formulations are food safe.  Is my fake Jody Jazz one of those formulas?  I wouldn't bet on it.

The rear edge of the barrel by the table shows the "flash line" common with injection molding.  Not Bakelite, not hard rubber.  

Yes, I put it in my mouth and played it in the name of scientific discovery.  I died later that day.  Fortunately, I also own a Meyer Brothers mouthpiece that is the Holy Grail.  The Holy Grail enabled my corporal resurrection and the completion of this blog.

The fake Jody Jazz played, sort of.  In the Ebay advertisement, I had my choice of tip openings.  I chose a #7 tip (listed as .105 inches).  What I got was about a .060 tip opening.  I'm guessing that, no matter what tip opening you request, you would get a .060 tip opening.  A lot of players would never measure and many would never know.  They find a mouthpiece that they like and simply assume that the tip opening is related to the embossed number.  This fake didn't even have a number (no surprise).

The tiny tip opening on my fake Jody Jazz is okay because the "finish" on the facing curve looked like it was put on with 100 grit sandpaper.  There were obvious milling marks on the tip and rails and slightly less, but still visible, marks on the table.  The rails were tipped, the curvature was flat, etc.  Just what I would expect from a fake $30 Ebay mouthpiece.  Still, I was hoping that it would actually be hard rubber.  It turns out that you have to pay $40 to get a hard rubber mouthpiece.

The first thing I did was to flatten the table.  As is common with many mouthpieces whether new, old, Chinese, French, whatever, there was a sunken spot right at the top of the window.  I suspect that this is a result of the temperature increase resulting from machining the table flat.  Fixing it gave me a chance to use a butt cut while flattening.

This is what I'm talking about.  

I wiped this mouthpiece table across 1000 grit sandpaper to show me whether the table was flat.  It revealed a high spot before the end of the window and another at the heel of the table (both shown as a lighter "scuffed" finish), This indicates a sunken spot in the middle of the table where you can still see the original milling marks.  It could be that a reed is flexible enough to fill this area given enough ligature pressure, but it might also flex the reed in a way that effectively increases the tip opening and throws off the curvature.  The picture above is an old Rico "Gregory" alto mouthpiece blank, but it is common to many mouthpieces. 

Even with a butt cut to cant the table, that only opened the tip to about .072.  Fortunately, the tip was thick enough to allow for a larger opening.  And, given that the piece was a $30 fake, I didn't care too much how I altered it.  The crooked rails took some time.  Also, even though I thought that I was being careful, I kept getting the lay too long for my intended tip opening.  I generally like long lays, but it was really easy to take a swipe and find that I had increased the "takeoff point" for the curvature by a millimeter too much.  Frustrating.

I decided to concentrate on simply putting on a lay for a .095 inch tip opening and not worry about the length of the lay for the moment.  This is not the accepted procedure.  If you get the lay perfect from the .005 feeler gauge to the tip, and then go back and adjust the table so that the .0015 gauge measures perfect, you will find that you have altered every measurement.  Your "perfect lay" will no longer be perfect.  That is true in theory.  But . . . .

Traditionally, you  measure the "start" of the curvature with a .0015" feeler gauge and a rigid piece of glass.  But you don't play the mouthpiece with a inflexible piece of glass.  You play with a flexible piece of cane (or resin infused carbon fiber if you are smart).  Try this test.  Measure with your .0015 feeler and mark the side of your mouthpiece with a pencil.  Put a reed on, tighten the ligature, and slide the .0015 feeler in.  Are you close to your mark.  Further?  Less?  You will find that you don't end up in the same place.  The reed, under pressure by the ligature, doesn't result in you actually starting at what you thought would be the .0015" starting point.

Even if you accidentally end up at the exact same point, you don't play with the mouthpiece and reed outside of your mouth (at least I've never seen a saxophone player that could do this).  So, put a tiny little bit of pressure on the reed tip and see where that moves your curvature "starting point."  Just the softest kiss of pressure.  You will see that you are well past what is commonly considered the "take off" point.  Your .005 measurement will be different.  Your .010 measurement will be different.  They will all be different when using a reed and a tiny little bit of pressure.  The measurements that you so carefully adjusted using a rigid piece of glass are not really the measurements that you end up playing.

The measurements will all still be "fair," meaning that there are no lumps or anomalies in the curvature (assuming that you have done a good job).  But I'm not convinced that the "starting point" is all that important because the reed has flexed past that point just from holding the mouthpiece in your lips.  A crooked starting point might have some effect (although I've enjoyed playing some remarkably crooked tables and only learned the condition after measuring), but your actual reed "starting point" will be well short of your measured rigid glass starting point.  

Anyway, I chose to simply give up on getting the take off point exactly right.  It's a $30 mouthpiece.  A good mouthpiece has to cost at least $200, right?  Based on current mouthpiece prices, this one shouldn't play at all.  Or, it should only be capable of making horrific inharmonious noise.  At best, it should sound like a student mouthpiece (although I have listened to hundreds of grade school students who play and sound better than I ever will).

It turns out that it plays just fine, except that I thought that it sounded a bit abrasive.  Abrasive is my terminology for the sound that the vast majority of saxophone players are striving for.  Most seem to be looking for the Superman of mouthpieces while I'm happiest with Clark Kent.  Although that sounds boring, keep in mind that Mr. Kent can turn into Superman when necessary.  Superman, constantly walking around in blue tights with red trunks, red boots, and a flowing cape isn't my style.  But I digress . . . .

Opening the tip tends to leave one with sufficient material to add more baffle, sometimes considerably more baffle.  That seems to work okay when putting a new opening on an old large chamber zero baffle piece.  There is more to it than that, however, because my old Link Slant Signature appears to have very little baffle, yet it can speak with authority when required.  But I have to admit, it can't scream like high baffle pieces.  It yells with authority instead of screaming.

The fake Jody Jazz after refacing.  I basically removed all of the extra baffle material at the tip.  This requires the removal of material about 7 mm into the chamber to keep from exaggerating the baffle as a result of the new tip opening.

The fake Jody Jazz piece opened to .95 inches had the tendency to scream.  Yes, it was louder, but I wasn't thrilled about the tone.  So I got rid of the baffle that had been created from enlarging the tip opening.  I removed it to the point where many players would say it didn't exist, like my old Slant.  Then I took it out to a practice session.  I admit I also took my Slant with me in case things didn't work out.  I told the alto player about my $30 knockoff and he said it sounded fine.  Afterwards, the guitar player said that I had played louder tonight (louder = good for guitar players).  

So the verdict is that, for fellow musicians, the difference between a +$800 vintage Link Slant Signature 6 and a $30 obviously fake Jody Jazz HR* is that the Jody Jazz knockoff is louder.  True, I had to reface the fake to a 7 and I spent way too much time doing that (probably an hour and a half).  On the other hand, it has now gone out of the house twice, and will again tonight.  It is my new love that probably won't last.  I'm guessing that the old Slant need only wait.  Strange how that works.

*  I'm talking about older style pieces that have undercut rails and no exaggerated wedge baffle.  Dukoff Power Chambers don't count because of the huge baffle.  Brilhart Tonolins don't count because of the flat sidewalls.  Those pieces are always going to be medium to small chambers regardless of how the chamber meets the shank bore.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Some Additional History on the Beginnings of Rico Reeds

When researching Malcolm Gregory, and how he became mistakenly associated with Gale mouthpieces, I came across the fact that Roy Maier and Frank De Michele (of Rico Products) had briefly been involved in the startup of Gale Products, Inc.  It turned out that Mr. Gregory had never been involved with Gale Products and lumping all Gale mouthpieces in with Gregory mouthpieces is based solely on one person's misunderstanding of the history.  Maier and De Michele were definitely involved as principles in Rico Products, Ltd., a woodwind reed manufacturing business.  

I did a bit of research on Maier and De Michele and found some mistaken history surrounding them as well.  That is to be expected.  We are talking about musical accessories, after all.  As musicians, we love to hear fantastic stories about musicians, their instruments, their mouthpieces, their ligatures, and even their reeds.  I kept looking in to the history of Rico Products, Ltd and its various changes over the years.  It turns out that there were a few twists and turns in that story as well.  Once again, the existing documentary evidence about Rico Products was quite different than the commonly told story.

Some of you may have read an article about Rico history on the internet.  When Rico Products sold to D'arddario, a brief history was published and that has become the present day "Rico Story."  Here it is in its entirety from the D'addario website.

Born in Italy, Joseph Rico (1876-1957) attended seminary school near Naples, where he showed special talent for music. As a teenager, he and his brother, Libereto, ran away from seminary school one night, embarked on a ship, and fled to America where they heard there was a world of opportunity for eager minds. Joseph was a harpist, pianist, and guitarist, and his brother was a mandolinist and violinist. As a result of their hard work, both musicians became quite well known in Chicago and New York. Joseph Rico started composing and conducting, and went on to Paris where he became a sought-after composer. His Valses Lentes are still played today.

In 1926, Joseph's nephew, Frank De Michele, a clarinetist with Walt Disney studios, wrote to him complaining about how hard it was to find good reeds in Los Angeles. He wrote: "Uncle Joe, you are so well established in the musical scene in Paris, I'm sure you could find all kinds of good reeds for me." Joseph easily found reeds to send him, however three weeks later, Frank wrote again: "My friends liked the reeds you sent so much; I have none left for myself. Could you please send me more?" After a series of similar letters, Joseph's reed supplier regrettably explained that he could no longer provide reeds due to a cane shortage. His nephew asked Joseph if he could at least send some cane so that he could try making his own reeds. Joseph had a vacation cottage in the Var region of southern France where he found excellent reed cane. In 1928, Joseph Rico sent the first shipment of 350 kilos of reed cane to America. 

To honor his uncle, Frank asked if he could use his name to launch his first reed line named "Rico." Soon thereafter, Frank De Michele found four partners, including musician and engineer Roy J. Maier, to create the first Rico reed factory.

When I started looking into the story, I needed to find out how Maier and De Michele began.  

Frank De Michele was born on October 14, 1897 in Chicago.  He died in Los Angeles on June 14, 1956. Historical research on him is made difficult by the fact that his last name was spelled a variety of ways, even on official documents.  It appears that his preferred spelling was "De Michele."  But on public records it might be de Michele, DeMichele, or Demichele.  It helps if his full given name (Frank Vincent) was used, but often it is only Frank or even just the initial F.  Every mention of his name had to be cross-checked against a timeline to make certain that it wasn't one of the other Frank De Micheles living in the U.S. at the time (there were several).  In this blog I'm going to use "De Michele." Or maybe just "Frank."

Mr. De Michele was a bit more than just a studio woodwind musician as related in the Rico Story.  By 1920, prior to leaving Chicago for L.A., he was already listed in various directories as a band leader.  He had been married in November 16, 1917 to Monna Cloe Augstadt and, as a music composer, he had registered a copyrighted composition called The Mamonna Waltz (Mamonna being, I assume, some kind of tribute to his wife Monna).  Although the score is listed in the Library of Congress, I have yet to locate a copy.  

He was also involved in the sales of woodwind reeds long before 1928, as the Rico Story would have us believe.  He may have contacted his uncle Rico in 1926, but he had already started marketing his own brand name clarinet reeds (ANDRÉ).  Here are a couple boxes of them.

Click to enlarge.

Made in the U.S.A.

In a later trademark filing for ANDRÉ with the U.S. Patent Office, the logo included the Rico Diamond, later used on the Rico M.C. Gregory brand of mouthpieces.  Mr. De Michele verified in the trademark application that he began personally using the trade name ANDRÉ for his reeds in 1919, prior to the existence of Rico Products and Rico reeds.  In fact, that was prior to him possibly working as a studio musician at Walt Disney Studios because he was still in Chicago.

Notice once again that the brand name ends with an acute É.  Very French looking for a made in the U.S.A. reed.

The claim in the Rico Story that

To honor his uncle, Frank asked if he could use his name 
to launch his first reed line named "Rico."

is not accurate.  Frank had already launched his first reed line more than a decade earlier and it was named ANDRÉ.  And the claim that 

In 1926, Joseph's nephew, Frank De Michele, a clarinetist with Walt Disney studios, 
wrote to him complaining about how hard it was to find good reeds in Los Angeles. 

is also very odd, given that Mr. De Michele later stated that he had been marketing the ANDRÉ brand of reeds since 1919.

Like many midwest musicians, Mr. De Michele came to California, where in 1926 he was working as an owner/manager of a music store (Monterey Park Music Co.) in the historic Garvey building in Monterey Park, CA. (destroyed in an earthquake in 1937).  

Although the Rico Story implies that he was a musician at Walt Disney Studios in 1926, that doesn't appear to be the case based on city directories and Music Trades magazine.  He may have, while managing the music store, moonlighted as a musician.  He may also have made or marketed ANDRÉ brand woodwind reeds at the music store.  I'm just not certain that it would be possible to be the owner/manager of a music store in Monterey Park at the same time as a studio musician at the old Disney Studios (then located in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles).

Frank did have an Uncle Rico, as stated in the Rico Story, however, Rico was his mother's family name.  We have already seen that Frank was a bit of a romantic and named his 1918 composition after his wife Monna (aka Norma).  So it is also possible that he named his company Rico after his mother, Assunta (aka Susan) Rico.  Clearly, Frank would not have had to ask his uncle if he could use the name Rico, as it was his mother's maiden name.  But there would have been a good reason to say that the company was named after his uncle Joseph Rico.  While understated in the Rico Story, Joseph Rico was far more famous than Frank or anybody else at Rico Products.  

Joseph Rico.
Uncle Joe had cut a few records prior to Frank asking him about woodwind reeds.  This 1920's "seventy-eight"* record, "I've Cried So Much," was one of his big hits in France.  Naming the company after Joseph Rico would be similar to having a famous musician as a product endorser (although Uncle Joe played the harp).

The Rico Story sort of implies that Frank began Rico Products by joining with Roy Maier and others.  Actually, he first started a partnership prior to Rico Products with somebody of whom I had never heard, Mr. Lloyd Garrison Broadus.  Mr. Broadus was also a musician from the Midwest who had moved to California.  In the 1910 U.S. Federal census, Mr. Broadus (then 14 years old) was listed as having left school and was employed as a full time musician.  Tracking down information on Mr. Broadus was difficult because his name (like De Michele) was also often misspelled in various documents.  But here is an item with his name on it that shows that he was involved with Frank De Michele very early on.

The "Swiss" reed meter.  Mr. Broadus was of recent Swiss dissent and, presumably, he developed the meter.

It is the back side of the meter that is interesting.  The company is claimed to be "importers," but of what and from where?  Was the meter made in Switzerland?  We have seen that the marketers of musical instruments and accessories often play fast and loose with Country Of Origin Labels (COOL designations)

I found this item because early entries in the Publisher's Guide to the Music Industries listed the "Swiss Reed Meter" (for decades) as an accessory available from Rico Products, Ltd.  How could it be listed for years and years, first as a product of the "L.G.BROADUS DeMICHELE" company and later as a Rico product, yet I had never seen or heard of one?  I needed to find out what a Swiss Reed Meter was.  I couldn't find another advertisement, a picture, or even a mention of it using Google.  It took several months of online searching before I found an old Ebay listing where one had sold online.  

I had heard of the subsequent Maccaferri reed tester, in fact, here is a picture of mine.  The Maccaferri "Reed-O-Meter" would make a great gag gift.  

The Macafferri bag is useful for carrying a tenor mouthpiece. 

I can't imagine that the Swiss Reed Meter was any more useful than the Maccaferri Reed-O-Meter.  That may be why the item remained in Rico's accessory line for decades.  Clearly made in the 1920's or 30's prior to the beginning of Rico Products, it remained listed as a Rico accessory into the mid-1960's.  The same was true of Rico's "Master by Gregory" mouthpieces made in the mid-1950's.  They remained listed as a Rico accessory into the mid-1970's, long after Rico had introduced its new "Reloplex" mouthpiece.  Apparently, if you're going to make a saxophone gadget, make a lot of them.

So we now know that prior to Rico Products, Frank De Michele had a business in addition to just ANDRÉ reeds.  I haven't yet located the Broadus/De Michelle company through the California Secretary of State, but Lloyd Broadus was definitely around at the start of Rico Products, Ltd.  In fact, on April 19, 1938, it was Mr. Broadus and Mr. De Michele who applied for the well known Rico trademark (RICO printed over a treble clef and staff lines.)  

Early Rico reeds showing the new trademark.

This trademark application states that Frank De Michele was President of Rico Products, Ltd., a California corporation (which I also have yet to obtain the corporate filings).  The application states that Broadus and De Michele had used the Rico trademark since 1936, and as we have seen in another blog, it had been using the trademark on its "M.C. Gregory" brand of mouthpieces in the 1937-38 Selmer catalog along with another Rico logo that had fooled some into mistakenly claiming that Rico was a French company (shown below).  

The Rico logo used in the Selmer catalog shown above says "Marque Deposee France."  Marque means trademark or brand.  Déposé means filed, registered or submitted.  France means the French Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle.  Basically, a registered trademark in France.  While not true, there was no penalty for making the misrepresentation in the United States.  And, as we have seen, some people believed the misrepresentation and made up an entire M.C. Gregory Saga based on Rico being a French company that distributed mouthpieces fabricated by a Mr. Gregory.

The Rico Story says Mr. De Michele first started making Rico brand reeds in 1928, yet the U.S. trademark application by De Michele and Broadus states that they only began using the Rico trade name in 1936.

The late 1930's were good years for De Michele.  Rico Products had both the new Gregory brand mouthpieces and Rico brand reeds in the Selmer catalogs.  Plus, De Michele was by then getting work as a studio musician.  I know that from the only musical credit that I could find for him.  Frank is given credit for playing the clarinet in the 1939 smash hit Pinocchio for Walt Disney Studios** (in a Disney Studio listing, not in the screen credits).  So he was eventually a studio musician for Disney, although more than a decade after claimed in the Rico Story.  

The Rico Story says that De Michele started making Rico reeds in 1928 and "soon thereafter" found four partners, one of them being Roy J. Maier, to start a Rico reed factory.  Sort of.  Lloyd Broadus was clearly already on board when Rico was founded.  But Roy Maier didn't come on board quickly.  He joined Rico in 1939, according to an award given to Mr. Maier in 1990.  That would be several years after Rico reeds went on the market.  It was also after Rico launched its new mouthpiece, the M.C. Gregory.  The fourth and fifth partners seem to have been silent partners.  I think that I know who one of the partners was, but until I locate the corporate filings for Rico Products I'm going to hold off on my theory.

Roy John Maier was born in Chelsea, Michigan on January 8, 1896 or 1897.***  He died on October 14, 1981.  On his 1917 WWI draft registration, he lists himself as an "entertainer" working at the Bismarck Gardens in Chicago.  Bismarck Gardens was a large summertime beer garden catering to Chicago's German immigrants.  With the outbreak of WWI, German heritage was unpopular such that the park's name was changed to Marigold Gardens (in fact it had already changed by the time Maier listed his place of employment on his draft registration).  With prohibition starting shortly thereafter, it was time for Mr. Maier to hit the road.

But before we leave Chicago, I would note that Mr. Maier was a professional working musician in Chicago and playing at a well known venue, at the same time as Mr. De Michele.  Frank was listed as a band (and orchestra) leader prior to his leaving Chicago.  It is not unlikely that Frank and Roy knew each other, although I can't figure out any way to determine who the members of Mr. De Michele's Chicago bands may have been.  At the time, professional musician's often belonged to local unions, but the Chicago listings that I have found only show those union members who were not in good standing.

Roy Maier married Agnes Petkis in 1922 and was on the road by the 1930 U.S. Census Report, leaving his wife and seven year-old son (Roy Jr.) in Chicago.  

He later moved with his family to Los Angeles in the mid-30's, where he was a musician of some note (no pun intended).  In the picture below, he appears in a promotional handout for the Paul Whiteman orchestra.  He is on the upper right with his name and "reeds" underneath.  How apropos.  

Click to enlarge.

On the bottom of the page, on the right, is alto saxophone player Chester Hazlett.  Mr. Hazlett already had his name on a mouthpiece by 1935.  

But look at the picture right under Paul Whiteman.  A new singer, one of the "Rhythm Boys," by the name of Bing Crosby.  Here is a recording with Bing Crosby and Roy Maier.  Open in a separate window to keep reading with Bing in the background.

Roy Maier had also already been in the "reed fabrication" business prior to joining Rico Products.  His first venture seemed to be with Anthony Ciccone before Maier left Chicago in the 1930's.  Tony Ciccone stayed behind in Chicago to run his own woodwind reed business called "Symmetricut."  (It turns out that "Tony Ciccone" is another name that is hard to research because there are several, including Madonna's homeless brother).  Years later, Rico Products purchased the Symmetricut brand name.  I don't think that brand name is still in use.

 Distributed by Chicago Musical Instrument Co., the same company that was the sole distributor of Elmer Beechler's mouthpieces when he first began.

Here is Roy Maier's first solo venture into the reed business years prior to joining Rico Products.

Roy Maier reeds distributed by J.H. Schuler Co. of Hanover, Pennsylvania.

These are not the old Roy "J." Maier reeds that you might have seen (picture below).  Nor are they the still common Roy J. Maier "Signature" reeds, which were not trademarked until 1942 (picture below).  These earlier reeds were exclusively marketed and distributed by the J.H. Schuler Company of Hanover, PA.  Who was J.H. Schuler?****  Well, get into your time machine.  One of the products marketed by J.H. Schuler was a vending machine placed in high school band rooms that dispensed woodwind reeds.  What a concept.  

Bottom right corner.  

The another thing that J.H. Schuler was known for back in the day was "bamboo" costume jewelry.  It is now very collectible.

What's the connection?  I don't know, but it is kind of strange.  In the late 1920's, Roy Maier needed to fabricate delicate precision woodwind reeds from cane.  His exclusive distributor at the time was famous for delicate precision costume jewelry fabricated from cane.  Hmmmm.

There was a second "Roy J. Maier" brand reed prior to Mr. Maier joining Rico Products, this one was affiliated with Selmer.  It appears that Selmer distributed all Roy J. Maier reeds prior to Maier joining Rico.  In the mid-30's, Selmer catalogs featured both Rico Products mouthpieces (Gregory), Rico reeds, and Roy J. Maier reeds.  But not until 1939 were Rico reeds and Maier reeds affiliated.   

Finally, after Roy Maier joined Rico Products, he trademarked the "Roy J. Maier Signature" reed in 1942.  Maybe his actual signature (which he trademarked) separated it from the earlier Selmer trademarked Roy J. Maier reeds?  

The trademarked Roy J. Maier signature now appears on the "Signature Reed."  Made in the U.S.A.  At the time, German Unterseeboots (U-boats) were patrolling the Atlantic.  The Var region of France, famous for cane, was occupied by the Nazis.  So the cane used for these reeds is likely from the U.S.A. 

The same trademarked Roy Maier signature also appears on a Rico Products "Resonite" resin mouthpiece (these Rico mouthpieces were also branded Mickey Gillette and M.C. Gregory). 

I have seen some articles that say that Roy J. Maier was an engineer who also had an interest in music (he has some non-musical patents to his name).  I think that this might be a looser interpretation of "engineer" than most people today would use.  I've also seen a reference to Arnold Brilhart as an "engineer" who came to work for Rico Products.  Roy Maier completed 2 years of high school.  Mr. Brilhart only completed 8 years of school.  So neither was a licensed engineer like we might imagine.  They both were impressive engineers in the "inventor/designer" definition.

Roy Maier invented and patented the Rico ReedGard that shows up in every old saxophone case.  But that's a story for another time.  Also, the land that he had acquired in the Sonoma valley to grow arundo donax (cane for making woodwind reeds) turned out to have a better use.  And you thought, based on the Rico Story, that all of Rico's cane came from the Var region of France.  Guess again.  Here's the Sonoma product that the Roy J. Maier trade name is now associated with.  Cheers.

  "A tribute to the Roaring 20's musician and mechanical genius."  Sounds like another story.

*   These records were not called "seventy-eights" at the time.  They were just records, as 78 rpm was basically all that there was, although the French used 77.92 rpm because, well, they are French.

**  Pinocchio is still impressive because of the animation and also because of a constant musical score during the entire movie.  Those of us of a certain age will remember Jiminy Cricket singing "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio as the ending to Sunday night's Wonderful World of Disney television show.

***  The birth date given on Mr. Maier's WWI and WWII draft registration cards differ by a year, again making research on him a little more difficult.  Even the date given in his birth records state "about" 1896.

****  J.H. Schuler Co. is still around.  It is a merchandising company that has been involved in a wide variety of products over the decades.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Making a Silicon O-Ring Neck Gasket

I've seen this idea around in a few places and thought I would try it.  I replace my own neck corks, but because I often rotate between several mouthpieces, I tend to wear them out fairly fast.  By fairly fast, I mean that they usually don't last a year.  Generally what happens is that the cork gets compressed by my mouthpiece that has the narrowest shank and then when I decide to play a mouthpiece with a larger shank opening it doesn't fit tight.  

An example of this is that I sometimes play an old Otto Link Super Tone Master.  That mouthpiece is one of my tighter shanks and needs to go on quite far in order to tune.  Then if I switch to something like an old large chamber ebonite, which tend to be shorter and not need to go on the neck as far, it can be really loose on the cork.  The neck cork stays resilient enough to go through this for several months, but then I'll notice something isn't right.  Maybe a drop of condensation will leak out or I get a wobbly mouthpiece, or even worse, wobbly low notes that indicates a tiny leak.  

The other way that neck corks seem to wear out is the contact cement letting loose.  Contact cement is not completely waterproof, in my experience.  It might say waterproof on the label, but constant exposure to warm condensation is different than a momentary contact with water.  I've found that the cement tends to let loose at the front of the cork and it's only a matter of time before a little piece will fall of.  By only a matter of time, I'm talking maybe a year of daily playing.  Still, there might be a method of sealing a mouthpiece that is closer to permanent.  And if not permanent, maybe a sealing system that is quicker and easier to fix than re-corking a neck.

The system I'm going to try uses silicon o-rings. These are available in many sizes, and choosing the right size might be the most difficult part of the project.  I used a caliper to measure the outside diameter of the cork on the neck of my Martin Handcraft.  Then, I eyeballed the thickness of the cork.  In other words, I ended up sort of guessing what size o-ring to buy.  I actually decided to buy two different sizes.  And I didn't just buy two o-rings (as you will see in the following pictures).

The cork on the neck of my 1939 Martin was replaced when I rebuilt it a couple years ago.  It is my backup horn and gets played less than once a week.  I also play it with fewer mouthpieces.  In fact, I tend to always use the original Martin Handcraft mouthpiece after refacing it to a Link 6.  Here is a picture of the neck cork, along with some of the tools and materials that I will use.

I put masking tape on the neck because I sanded the cork down a little.  The cork had compressed so that I could see where I normally tuned the Martin Handcraft mouthpiece.  Past that area, the cork was not compressed and I would have a difficult time pushing that mouthpiece, or any other mouthpiece, past the "broken in" area.  But the idea with this project was to create a neck gasket system that would work with a variety of mouthpieces.  

I decided to put my gasket in about 2 cm from the end.  I made a line and cut a groove in the cork about 1.5 mm wide (the o-rings are 1/16th inch wide).  I'll probably have to switch back and forth between measurements in inches and millimeters.

I pulled the strip of cork out with a dental pick and then used a tiny riffler file to try to clean out the residual contact cement (or "boogers" to use the technical terminology).  That went fairly fast, but without a tiny file the width of the groove, this part of the project could be fairly tedious.  Because the groove will hold the o-ring, you don't want to damage the cork.  Also, if there is any cork or glue left in the groove, that could throw your o-ring out of round.  In the end, it may not matter too much because the silicon o-ring is quite flexible.  But I spent some extra time getting in the groove.

Above is a picture of the o-ring in place.  You can see at the bottom of the picture that the o-ring stands just slightly proud of the cork.  This o-ring is the larger of the two sizes that I bought.  The smaller size, even though the same 16th inch thick, would be stretched on more, meaning that once on it was stretched on it would be less than 16th inch thick.  This one seemed to be the perfect size.

I put on some Dr. Slick cork lubricant and the fit seemed perfect.  I could feel the shank slide over the o-ring.  There was the tiniest amount of play in the mouthpiece as though the o-ring was acting as a fulcrum.  I've had a similar feeling with worn out cork where the mouthpiece feels a little loose, so I decided to put another o-ring on to eliminate the possibility of wobble.  I cut another groove, this time 13mm from the end of the cork, and put in another o-ring.

You can see that I have a lifetime supply of o-rings for a few dollars.  

I'm not certain that cork lubricant will be necessary in the future.  Wet silicon rubber seems to be just right for sliding the mouthpiece on and adjusting.  I don't know if a mouthpiece were left on too long whether silicon rubber would grip to the shank, but I doubt it.  If so and the o-ring were damaged, or if it should wear out, I obviously have plenty of spares for replacement.  And rolling another o-ring on takes two seconds and costs 3 cents.  In theory, this should be the end of neck cork replacement.  Time will tell.

The o-rings I used for this tenor are 1/2" ID, 5/8" OD, 1/16" width.  The smaller ones, which would probably work for an alto neck, are 7/16" ID, 9/16" OD, 1/16" width.