Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A few more Hohners that thought they could escape.

I thought I would let the topic rest for a while, but then I saw these instruments advertised on Ebay. Yes, they are Hohners. At the end of the post i have included three Hohner Student accordions which bear the Hohner badge. These illustrate how Hohner used existing designs to fulfill contracts for other companies without the added expense of designing a wholly new accordion.

First, we have another piano accordion that was built by Hohner but was hiding out as a "Lakeside." Compare it with the brown Lakeside shown in the previous post. It is different in that it is a small a student model, but the crosshatched grille pattern and time of manufacture are the same. Also compare its paint scheme to the "Alberto Lizzi" La Tosca below it, which is a little older but quite similar, as well as the paint on the "Verdi" piano accordion from the previous post. I am interested to know the distributor or retailer who ordered this name on their accordions. If you know, please contact me through the email at right.

Now onto another likely Hohner product, although perhaps it was built by Koch. The La Tosca badge is problematic, however. I have seen at least one that was stamped "Made in Italy," and examined a great many others that were of German origin, but plainly not built by the Hohner company. Interestingly, the bass panel on this one is clearly a Hohner part, and the paint and keyboard flanges look like Hohner, too. It's labeled "Alberto Lizzi La Tosca." I've got no idea who Lizzi was, or if he was a real person. Similar blue and red paint on a white background is found on a lot of Koch and Hohner accordions from this period. Similar to the Lakeside shown above, it is also a student model.

To make this case clearer, here are photos of the Hohner Student I, Student II, and Student III piano accordions that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. These have varying configurations of bass buttons, but they are similar in that they were all aimed at young players or new students to the accordion. 

As with Lakeside, Lombardi, Tone-Cest, or any of the others, if you are aware of which company ordered these accordions from Hohner, please contact me in a comment to the post or an email. I am interested to hear from you.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Busted! Another lineup of known Hohner aliases.

In addition to marketing musical instruments under its own name, the Hohner company built instruments for independent retailers. In 2011, I did a detailed post on the same subject, which may be found here. Such "contract instruments" were rebadged with the name of the client's house brand. To cite a common example, instruments bearing the name Concertone were sold exclusively by Montgomery Ward in the United States, but were manufactured by different companies from Europe and the United States. Exactly which company built which Concertone was always changing, but Hohner built a number of them. This is very interesting to me, and I found some other examples to share.

The following accordions are obviously Hohner products, but are marked with the names of other distributor or retailers. Two of these brands were new discoveries, but several others, while I was already familiar with them, were notable for other reasons.

Below is a Lakeside piano accordion. It is missing its grille, but the cabinet is decorated with the floral motif found on other Hohner piano accordions. This same motif is also found on many Hohner-built Carmen accordions. It remains unsold. Note that the floral designs extend onto the wings of the treble keyboard.

In the photograph below is another piano accordion. It is badged Loveri and has all the same identifying features as the Lakeside shown above. We also get to see what the Lakeside's long-gone grille must have looked like. Although the floral patterns do not extend onto the keyboard, any rookie can tell this perp is a Hohner. Book 'im!

In the long standing tradition of selling something that is not Italian, but giving it an Italian name to make it sound fancy, consider "Fradella." I think that sounds like the name of a spaniel, not a fancy accordion. This piano accordion was built by Hohner in Trossingen, Germany some time in the 1930s. Note the grille pattern, a dead giveaway.

Below is another, smaller, Fradella. It is not Italian, it was not built by anyone named Fradella, but it is a Hohner. At the time of this writing, it also remains unsold. The bass panel, grille, and paint tell us exactly where it came from. I happen to really like the two-tone celluloid, though. That's a nice touch.

Here's a shot of Fradella 2's grille. See? Hohner all over. This model is probably a few years more recent than the Lakeside or Loveri.

I thought I'd throw in the Concertone shown below because it made me smile. It was presumably owned by someone with the initials "E.E." but is clearly a Concertone built by Hohner circa 1939 or possibly right after the war.

Concertone is a nice segue. Below is a Concertone that was sold by Montgomery Ward but probably built in the Koch factory. That's hard to tell because there were no photos of the reed plates or bass panel which would have helped to distinguish it. But I speculate it's a Koch based on the shape of the keyboard, the grille, and method of bellows attachment. APS is a mystery to me, however. Koch, you'll remember, was eventually purchased and absorbed into Hohner.

Here's another Koch, this time bearing the Venezia badge. Now, Hohner built some accordions badged Venezia. And I have one accordion which is badged Venezia and actually contains Hohner and Koch reedplates, of identical material and dimensions, laying side by side on the reed blocks. This one is interesting to me because it appears to be a pre-takeover Koch Venezia. It also has a metal cover on the treble keyboard, and is similar to the Koch Ouverture model shown in this Gumshoe Arcana thread. The "frogspawn" buttons, grille, and method of bellows attachment predate those of the Koch Ouverture.

You can make out the Koch chamois trademark stamped on the reed plates. The tuning is F/Bb/Eb, marked on the reed blocks. Kudos to the Ebay seller who opened it up and snapped the reveal.

Below is a Lyric that was built by Hohner, as told in the grille pattern and general design. It is painted in a folksy and elegant scheme that was begun at Koch and continued at Hohner. No sale was made with the opening bid at $325 and the item was relisted. This Lyric is from the early 1930s.

Another shot of the Lyric, showing the characteristic Hohner bass panel design.

The Lyric in question also had a switch on the side, probably operating the internal bellows lock.

One more photo of the Lyric, showing its grille pattern, which is Hohner to a tee.

Similar to the Lyric shown above, is a Verdi. Later, Hohner had several models of piano accordion that were called the Verdi. Apparently Hohner used the name all by itself, too. This compact piano model is painted in the same color scheme. The bass buttons, however, look older than the Lyric's, so it would not surprise me if this accordion was actually built in the Koch plant. Regardless of such specifics, it is clearly from the time period either immediately preceding or immediately following the takeover. Like Fradella, Verdi is not Italian and has nothing to do with Italy. Don't be fooled.

Happy hunting. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ain't life busy?

Since January, I've had a very crowded schedule. I shouldn't complain because there's nothing worse than idleness! But it's been frustrating to resist entertaining some of my interests, like making music, or writing about it. In odd scraps of time I found available either late at night, between classes or while working, I've managed to write a short review each day for my other blog (365 Dry Martinis), pick up the guitar, or sing with my family. But with so little free time, I've ignored Gumshoe Arcana and most things having to do with accordions. And while I anticipate that my two jobs this summer will occupy at least 60 hours each week, I'm going to try to get back into the swing of Gumshoe Arcana, and play the box a bit more than I did this spring. Look forward to new posts, coming soon.

In the meantime, enjoy this nice photo of Edith Piaf that I found on my hard drive. I have no idea who took it, or when, or where I downloaded it. See what I mean? I've been very busy. But I like it. She is singing in that great sideways light while perched atop what looks like an old Paolo Soprani PA. I wonder which tune the photographer is hearing? In case you're wondering, my favorite Edith Piaf record is the 3 x LP En Public, more specifically the set recorded at the Olympia, 1961. But I digress. Enjoy the photo.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

365 Dry Martinis, a new blog.

I'm busier than I anticipated this Spring, but still managed to open a new blog. I like to talk about music on Dusty Slabs, but since I find myself listening to more and more jazz, I decided it was time for a daily (yes, daily) jazz blog. It consists of thumbnail reviews. I'm keeping each one under 10 sentences hoping that people might actually read what I post, and to encourage myself to post every day for a year. If you're interested then the link is below, or you can find it in the "non-accordion blogs" sidebar at left. And if you cannot identify the fellow in the photo holding the sax, you should head over right away where a doctor is waiting to see you.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Online collections of accordion photography

I like looking at photographs of accordions, especially vintage instruments. The internet makes this very easy to do. I want to share two websites that have lots of accordion photos. The first is an ipernity user group, and the second is Ray Laforest's website.

"The Accordion portrayed in vintage photographs." At a whopping 865 photos, it's sure to keep you occupied for hours. The pictures are interesting, like a social history of the accordion. Unfortunately, the captions do not provide useful information about the subjects and sources of the photographs are not provided. By the way, I was referred to this group by a poster in The Accordion Forum, a great new forum devoted to the PA and CBA. I highly recommend visiting there and jumping into a few discussions, especially if you can share your knowledge and talents.

The second site I'll share is the webpage of Ray Laforest. Now passed on, Ray was a box collector and repairman in Ontario, Canada with a passion for accordions. His collection was huge! And he made photos of the lot available to the public via his website. Thanks, Ray.

I also found a YouTube video from user Woodenflutes who visited Ray while having an accordion serviced. If you like the video, drop the original poster a line to say thank you.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Manuscript of East Anglian musician William Clarke

image courtesy of maryhumphreys.co.uk
On her website, Mary Humphreys published the manuscript of William Clarke, a 19th century East Anglian musician. Little is known about Clarke but judging from the music, which never drops below middle C, Mary surmises he may have played the flute. At any rate, the manuscript offers some very nice tunes from 19th century rural England. It was transcribed to standard musical notation and abc by Lyn and Peter Law, and their work shouldn't go without appreciation. The page containing the manuscript is here. The Laws own the copyright so please make appropriate arrangements if you plan to use the music.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bellows taping methods and videos

Retaping an accordion bellows is a simple job but there are some niggling details that you might overlook. If you hate making mistakes that are easily enough avoided, the following videos might interest you.

First, a speedy method presented by melodeon.net member diatonix:

He uses two pre-cut strips of tape as templates so all tapes are the same length -- one for the short side, and one for the long side. This is quicker and more accurate than measuring each tape individually before cutting. The adhesive is Bindflex 1161, a bookbinding product marketed in Sweden. It is sufficiently tacky to mate the surfaces, and has a relatively long open time. At the end, a small piece of card is used to square up wonky edges, so the finished product is neat and trim.

~                         ~                         ~

The next video is from Lester Bailey. Lester plays, tunes, repairs, and refurbishes melodeons from his workshop in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. You can find his website with contact info in the link, and his details are also in the right-hand sidebar to this page under "Sales & Service Europe+World."

Lester works in an easier way. I emphasize the end result is the same: all tapes cut to uniform length, the job done neatly and professionally. Instead of using a template to cut tapes, he has two rulers on his work surface. Note his advice: if you're using ribbed tape, make sure the ribbing faces the correct direction before gluing.

I use Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue. The 'fast grab' helps the tape stick to the bellows while you fold. You can buy it at most craft stores in the US and it costs about as much as a burrito. It's water soluble and good to have a damp cloth nearby for cleanup.


The devil is in the details, so work quickly and carefully with a mind toward what you're trying to achieve and you should have no problems retaping your bellows.

If you'd like to purchase new bellows tape in the UK, try ordering from Charlie Marshall of CGM Musical. In the United States, try House of Musical Traditions (although CGM will also ship worldwide). I ordered from HMT and they didn't have my color in stock, so I switched the order to black and it arrived two days later. Good luck.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Introducing my new blog, Dusty Slabs.

not my photo.
I listen to a lot of music. My interests are pretty diverse: I enjoy traditional music from pretty much anywhere, experimental music of any ilk, all sorts of rock and roll, jazz, the blues... I could be here all day making a list. While I considered reviewing specific albums on Gumshoe, I just couldn't fit it in with what the theme has become. So I started a new blog.

Please stop by to gawk, grok, read reviews, or lodge a formal complaint with management. You never know, maybe you'll find something new, something you've never heard of, something that will change your life. My life has been changed through music-related activities several times.