- Heimer & Parker
- King Lemaire
- The "Santy Runyon SML Stencil"
- The "Chinese SML"
- Non-SML Marigaux
The SML Stencils
I believe that SML could be considered the Conn of the French market for stencils: there are bunches of them. Here's a sampling:
- The King Marigaux (so important it has its own page!)
- Some of the Woodwind Company horns (NOT The Woodwind & Brasswind company horns)
- Some Alexandre models ("Alexandre" was also a stencil from Keilwerth, Amati and others)
- Some Pichard horns (the Pichard company seems to have been known for reeds and mouthpieces)
- The Jen-Co Harmonia model (Jen-Co appears to have been based in the US)
- Some Reynolds saxophones (the model name is "Contempora" - don't confuse it with the Martin designs of the same name!)
- There was a persistent rumor about there being a custom stencil made for Santy Runyon.
For the full directory of SML stencils I have pictures of, go HERE.
The major things to note about SML stencils are a) they have the same serial number scheme as other SML's and b) they have the same feature set as other SML's around the same serial number and c) stencils can be made from STANDARD or regular models.
Next, we have the Heimer and Parker horns.
The Heimer and Parker AS/TS500's were probably made with the SML Gold Medal "Mk. II" TOOLING (that is, the mold that you create the saxophone with) and keywork, however, it is a much lower quality horn, primarily due to lower quality (and thickness) of brass and poor quality control. One statement I've heard was that the keywork is literally "jammed together", like the keywork is longer than is required by the posts. It's a good demonstration that the best design in the world can't overcome bad materials and workmanship.
It, of course, could just be that Heimer/Parker just made a copy of the SML design.
I've read elsewhere, regarding other Heimer instruments, that they are severely low quality and you're better off renting a Bundy than you are buying one of these. (Or put another way, a Heimer is slightly better than being poked in the eye with a sharp stick. SLIGHTLY.)
Interestingly, most of the people that have sold Heimer and Parker instruments in the past aren't selling them anymore, but they ARE selling MONIQUE-branded instruments (this includes DOMINIC'S MUSIC).
I've sent about a half-dozen e-mails to these music stores and haven't received a single response, so I can't tell you if Monique owns/owned Heimer (which is a possibilty, as Monique horns are "designed by French craftsmen" and have similar quality issues) or if there is any contact information for Heimer, but I'd think it likely that, like Monique, Heimer/Parker is a name that was used by a nameless/faceless Chinese or Taiwanese instrument company.
In any event, not all Heimer/Parker horns used the SML tooling -- some are Selmer copies, some are Kohlert copies, etc. -- and not all of them are labelled "Heimer" or "Parker" -- some are completely unlabelled. All of them do have a one-piece low B/Bb keyguard and they do have non-SML serial numbers (primarily beginning with a zero) and, of course, play terribly.
There has been some buzz that some Heimers may have actually been made by SML as an example or promotional horn for Heimer (here's a picture directory of the horn that caused this ruckus) or were manufactured with some combination of SML parts and Heimer parts. I can accept this, if Heimer bought SML's remaining stock along with their tooling. However, I don't recommend that you toil on eBay to find one of these because you think you'll find one of these "prototypes": I haven't heard from a single person that says that he has an excellent playing Heimer.
However, if you have a Gold Medal that you're missing some parts from, don't buyone of these horns, as the keys and neck are not interchangable.
Last I saw, new Heimer saxophones are in the neighborhood of $400 US and are currently Selmer copies. New horns are occasionally found at places like half.com and occasionally on eBay. All indications are that Heimer stopped production of the SML design around 1999 or 2000, which is about the time Monique came on the scene.
If you know anything about the company that makes or made Monique, Parker or Heimer, please contact me.
The Lemaire was a horn imported by King and somewhat customized for the student market.
I've recently been seeing a lot of posts about these horns, both for sale and how they're "decent" horns (not a one saying they're pro quality, btb). It seems to me that there were at least two revisions of this horn and the ones with engraving on the keyguards seem to be higher quality than the ones without.
King did prefer much heavier construction than just about anyone, with the possible exception of Martin, so if King influenced the manufacturer of these horns, I'm sure it did have a somewhat darker sound than some of the other student-horn offerings.
Please note that these horns are NOT manufactured by SML, are stamped "Made in Czechoslovakia" and do not follow SML serial number charts.
In February 2003, I was researching the Amati and Kohlert companies for my Keilwerth page (a long story; go to the page and check it out). I finally found the pictures I was looking for: the AMATI CLASSIC SUPER. This horn is most definitely the horn the Lemaire is stenciled from - a low quality intermediate model.
Way back in 1999/2000 on the old eesites "saxjazz" forum, a lady named Greta who had a horn labeled "Santy Runyon" and Paul Coats later said, in an article (see the link), that the horn was one of the rare 150-or-so horns stenciled for Santy Runyon by SML.
Here are the quotes that sparked the controversy:
Hi! I just purchased a mysterious horn that has turned out to be made by the Marigaux Co. of France! I was directed by Paul Coats to this great discussion group. An UNUSUAL alto is what I've come across...at first I thought it might be some knock-off brand. On the bell is printed "SANTY RUNYON", "made in France". Has gold lacquer, silver keys. SN# 25xx . NO other company name. Anywhere. Case: also blank, though I believe it may be the original (fake alligator skin look, beat-up)
It played very freely, although it had leaks, had great action, (and sounded like a typewriter clicking, ha!) and had unusual key placement compared to my Selmer SA80 (series I)The spatula keys were radicaly different, and the octave key (thumb key above rather than to the side of thumb rest). I was directed to Paul throught the newsgroup, and he found out from Mr. Runyon himself that this was indeed an SML saxophone!
The top of the body and brace under the neck are exactly like the picture. But...the big B and Bb keys on the bell are on the opposite side of the bell! I've never seen anything like it.
I'd love to know if anyone else has one like this or knew that it existed, LOL. I thought you'd be interested in hearing about it. I am about to have it padded, etc. and will take the advice I've found on here. I have no idea yet what MP and reeds I'll use on it. It seems bright with a Selmer C* and Vandoren reeds..I would think it needs a different setup than my other horn.
I'd love to see any comments on this unique thing! I can't wait to get it redone, to decide if I will really keep it or keep searching for a Mark VI...hhmm. (Greta, Aug. 20, 1999)
Regarding the Marigaux manufactured Santy Runyon saxophone... further conversation with Santy reveals these were made for him and sold in the late 50's--early 60's. There were only 150 made. No other records or serial numbers are available. These records, and much of his memorabilia were lost in a fire years ago.
Santy further stated that he had SML make some changes to the neck in order to give a more modern, projecting. It must be remembered that Santy's background was as a theater player, and "if the guy in the back last row of the balcony can't hear you, you aren't doing your job". He also commented these were very good saxes. (Paul Coats, Aug. 22, 1999).
I got a further e-mail from Paul:
This info is straight from my longtime friend, and sax mouthpiece mfg, Santy Runyon. Santy had some Santy Runyon altos made in the '50's by SML. They were marked Santy Runyon, and only about 150 or so were made. The records were destroyed in a house fire. He was on the road a lot then, and his memorabilia was stored in his sister's home, which burned. I have been in contact with a lady in Beaumont, TX, where Santy lived for a while in the 50's [and had a music store], who has one of these SML made Santy Runyon altos. The neck was slightly modified, at Santy's request, to give these altos more projection (which I understand SML's had no trouble doing, anyway).
"Santy was, as you know, a lead alto/theater ww player. (Check his history on runyonproducts.com, About the Founder at the bottom of the main page.) Santy had tried to have Selmer make him some Runyon labeled saxes, but they would not. He wanted only something that was of top notch quality. I knew this fellow, and if he had them made by SML, then they were great. This man was a perfectionist, constantly trying to improve the saxophone, making products that ease the way for the player.
Now, approximately two years ago, I was contacted by two different folks, a couple months apart, with horns that were labeled "Santy Runyon" and followed the serial number scheme, as mentioned in the above quotations.
Mind you, I was expecting a horn with all the characteristics of a Rev. A, based on the supposed serial number range, and just assumed that Mr. Coats was off by a few years.
The horns that were sent to me were a couple tenors that looked unlike any SML I've seen. I tenatively identified the horns as Pierrets or Beaugniers based on the facts that a) both companies produced a LOT of stencils, b) they looked similar to, but not exactly like, pictures of other Beaugniers and Pierrets I've seen and c) the serial number ranges for these companies matched to the 2xxx to 3xxx range nicely.
However, I was still holding out some hope that there would be a SML-made Runyon found in the future. I had written to Mr. Runyon on a couple of occasions, but he never responded regarding the SML question before his death (he did ask me to contact him if I found any Conn 28M Connstellation horns around -- that's another horn he was consulted on for the design).
However, these Runyon horns were also purchased around Beaumont, TX, so it wasn't looking good for the theory that Santy Runyon had custom SML horns made for him.
Patience paid off, slightly.
In 2004, I found a Beaugnier-made stencil labeled "Gretsch". It looked enough like the pictures of the above Runyon horns for me to start telling folks with these horns, "Yep: they're Beaugniers."
Waiting a little longer ....
In 2005, I got an e-mail from the afore-mentioned Greta.
I am the the woman Paul Coats had spoken with several years ago about the Runyon stencil I ran across in Beaumont...I saw your website page about the SML stencils and here are some pictures I took of my horn.
You are welcome to put any of the pictures on your site that you wish. Thanks for providing such a resource to us saxophone nuts!
I have a picture there of the serial #, 2532, I am curious when the horn was made? It had one owner before me, an older man who bought it new in high school, in Beaumont. I half expected to see another of Santy's horns here in the Beaumont music community sometime, but I never did hear of any others.
I was going to have this alto overhauled (pads and mechanical, not lacquer), but I treasured it a lot and didn't want to play it everyday and risk wear and tear of dragging it back forth around college. It has a very nice sound, rich and open, quick tone response, and good volume. As Santy intended, it does indeed project!
It has almost all of it's lacquer still, no large dents or dings, very pretty horn with an attractive bell engraving.
In Santy's old stomping grounds of Beaumont-Port Arthur and southwestern Louisiana, Hurricane Rita really dealt a huge blow. We had severe damage from Rita putting us in a tough spot, and unfortunately I will now have to part with some beloved horns.
I will be sure to put something at the SOTW forum about it, it's great to see so many others there who also have discovered the unique sound of SML horns.
If you need any other pictures, just let me know! Glad to be service to your site.
You've guessed it: the photos were not of an SML, but were similar to those earlier tenors.
Finally, in December 2005, we got a FINAL ANSWER on the make of these Santy Runyon horns: a gentleman posted a Pierret horn on eBay labeled "Oxford". Instead of this looking "similar to" these Runyon horns, it looks "exactly like" them.
Big thanks and props to the people who made this FAQ-toid possible: Greta, Paul, Fred and SOTWF poster outtolunch.
(The original discussion on this horn was at http://www.saxontheweb.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2353.)
Back in 2003, a Taiwanese/Chinese company began selling SML-labeled horns. The horns were definitely not made with SML tooling of any kind and looked very similar to other Chinese junk horns, such as the Swallow.
The conclusion of the story comes from Roland Miane, the sales manager of the current SML-Marigaux company:
SML Strasser-Marigaux is an European musical instruments distributor member of the German group JA-Musik. Under the SML holding, we [have] two French instrument factories: Marigaux (Oboes) in Normandy and Antoine-Courtois (Brass) in Amboise. SML still being in Paris at the famous adress 144 Bld de La Villette. [At the] SML [location] we have the offices, the stock, the show room and the repair shop for oboe, sax, flutes and brasswind instruments.
The T400 is not an SML[-made] saxophone!!!! It's a Chinese "instrument" engraved without any authorization from our side. We brought an action against the company [making these horns]. We will never engrave "SML" on an import instrument.
Now, there are a couple of Marigaux's that aren't SML's:
- The Marigaux Company of France: I don't have any further information on these horns, but they're definitely not SML-manufactured.
- The Cointrau-Marigaux Company of France: Same name, different person than the Marigaux that helped found SML (verified through the New Langwill Index).
In other words, just because it says "Marigaux" on the bell doesn't make it an SML.
Finally, I have seen a few horns that could possibly be SML stencils. These horns are included HERE and may be included on this list after I have properly researched them.