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Feature Page: Straight Baritone

The major thing to know about the straight baritone is that it is NOT a production instrument.

In 1931, the Buescher company custom-made a straight baritone for vaudeville showman Benny Meroff. This horn was featured in the Vitaphone short called It's A Panic (copies of this short may still be available from

So, what happened to the horn?

Well, there's a group called "The Vitaphone Project" that's trying to restore these old band shorts. One of the members happens to be saxman Vince Giordano (to me, and most of the US, he's probably most famous for his appearances on "A Prairie Home Companion").

One of the researchers of the Vitaphone Project was searching for Benny Meroff's widow and summarily found her. He asked where the horn was. The unexpected answer: in an upstairs bedroom.

Mr. Giordano subsequently bought and restored the horn (see

Major thanks to SAXTEK for sending me this pic of Mr. Giordano with his horn. Click on the pic for a MUCH larger image.

Other Straight Baritones

Not that there are a lot of them.

A couple years back, a gentleman contacted me saying that he had just seen an Amati straight baritone in "red lacquer". I knew that there must be an interesting story behind this because Amati never offered a horn in "red lacquer" nor did they offer a straight baritone, as far as I knew.

Anyhow, that gentleman put me in contact with the person that custom-designed and built the Amati Straight Baritone, Peter Nixon. Here are some comments from the e-mail he sent me:

Pete, This time a wild one for you! Bari, sn 1283xxx. Built by Amati, around 1970, this was a poor player (typical Amati) that sat unloved until somebody dared me to hotrod it [click HERE for what an original Amati bari looks like]. It can be played sitting or standing, and actually sounds quite reasonable. It has a bit of a "bark" to it.

Yes, I did it myself, a very dangerous thing as I have no previous experience, very limited musical knowledge, but do have an advanced sense of the ridiculous (I also have a turbocharged lawnmower!).

I figured that sound travels best in a straight line, which is why I bought [a] straight alto. (The sound is lovely, it just points the wrong way!)

I had been off work for several months with a back injury and could only sit, so this was the result of extreme boredom.

The "paint" is an automotive airbrushing cellulose lacquer in 2 coats, red over [gold], and is very hard and thin -- it also hides my amateur sheet metal work.

I agonized about the position of the valves, and settled on copying the Keilwerth. In hindsight that was a mistake; [Keilwerth] did it to utilize the standard bell. There is no aural reason that I can find for offsetting the valves.

I would like to do another with all the valves lined up, it would look much less like a hybrid.

The hardest job was filling the engraving, which of course, was upside down (the octave mech was a headbanger, too).

This horn is now in the collection of Jay C. Easton -- who also has some sound clips of this lovely horn on his website.

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