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The Conn Artist ("Naked Lady")

There was some experimentation with different keyguards for the tenor and different microtuner-neck and over-the-top neck octave key designs for the alto, but the design of the 6/10/12M remained essentially the same from 1935 to 1959.

I have at least one example of the 6M model VIII, featured in the Gallery. This is supposed to be the best version of the 6M, as are horns produced with an "x" before or after the serial number. The former is a horn with a moderately modified neck design and is generally accepted as the best model of the 6M. The latter is generally considered to be an eXperimental design (additional keywork, or vents, bore, etc.). There are also horns that feature the standard "over the top" octave key design -- referred to as a "New York Style" neck.

ALL the same pitches that were available during the age of the New Wonder were available through the Artist years, excepting the Sarrusophone, C soprano and straight soprano, it seems (the F instruments and C melody were available up until the start of WWII in 1941). However, horns other than the alto, tenor and baritone were essentially "factory original" New Wonder horns with different engraving and possibly keywork modifications -- and were special order, only. I have, at least, seen the bass in some 1960's catalogs and advertisements.

    Please note that the "Naked Lady" model can be broken down into:
  • Rolled tone hole models (1935 to 1947 -- generally regarded as the best horns)
  • Straight tone hole models (1948 to 1959)
  • Redesigned model with wire keyguards (1960 to 1971)
  • Same as above, but with sheet metal keyguards and different bell-to-body brace (1963 to 1971)

See below for more details.

    "Naked Lady" Time Line
  • 1935: The 6M design was finalized toward the end of the Transitional period and the 12M design was finalized even earlier -- though both horns did have minor keywork changes -- but the tenor wasn't finalized until about s/n 263xxx, when its bell keys were switched to the RH side of the horn. This change announced the coming of Conn's most famous series of horns: the M series or "Naked Lady" model (so named for the engraving of a nude female portrait in a pentagon on the bell). According to later Conn catalogs (after 1959), these horns are officially called the "Artist" or "Standard" model, but "Naked Lady" is the most commonly used name people use.
  • 1935/6 (around s/n 270xxx): Coinciding with the introduction of the 26M, the underslung octave key on the 6M alto is discontinued. It is brought back the next year. The "over-the-top" octave key ("New York Style Neck") appears to then remain a custom option throughout the life of the 6M.
  • 1941/2 (around s/n 300xxx): Conn discontinues the 4M curved soprano and the 14M bass. The 4M and 14M are probably still available until Conn was bought by MacMillian in 1969, based on advertisements, but only as special order items -- and still based on the older New Wonder tooling.
  • 1942 to 1945: Conn retools for the World War II war effort. Musical instrument manufacture slows to a crawl: appx. 6,000 during this entire period, down from almost 4,000 per year 1
  • Late 1946 to Early 1947: Union strike at Conn that lasts for 110 days. Appx. 3,800 horns are manufactured during this time1
  • 1948: Conn stopped using rolled tone holes. There is ancedotal evidence that a shop worker accidentially broke the mold for the 10M, and the replacement was refabricated without rolled tone holes, and this design was propagated to the other Conn models2
  • 1954: Microtuner necks vanish from the 6M2
  • 1955 (approximately): Conn introduced the 16M tenor and 14M alto Director models (with the "Shooting Star" engraving) and ushered in two new plating choices that were probably available on all the Conn line: lacquer body with nickel-plated keys (finish 25) and silver body with nickel-plated keys (finish 56)2. It is probable that all other finish choices were considered "custom order" after this date. Please do NOT confuse these horns with the 50M student model!

    Speaking of student models, which were introduced in the late 1950's or early 1960's (no later than 1961), Conn's student instruments generally have a four or five-digit number followed by a letter, like 1338V. These serial numbers bear no relation to Conn's pro line.

  • 1959/60: Conn acquired the Best Manufacturing Company of Nogales, Arizona and moved most student/intermediate saxophone production there3. The "Naked Lady" engraving is discontinued, and while "Artist" models (6/10/11/12M) are still produced in Elkhart, they have different engraving. (Please note that some 12M's still have the "Naked Lady" engraving.)
  • 1959/60: 10M's feature a redesigned double-socket neck with an underslung octave key.
  • 1963: Conn introduces sheet-metal keyguards and a different bell-to-body brace on all models, although horns with wire keyguards and the "original" bell-to-body brace are still available until at least 1969 (possibly 1971), as Conn seems to be "clearing inventory" and producing models with the "new" design when they run low on the "old" design. (Please note that Conn horns with sheet-metal keyguards are GENERALLY considered to be relatively low-quality horns, with the exception of the 92/94/108/110M, as those horns are Keilwerth-made. This may not be the case with 6/10M's of this vintage, but watch out. Also note that the 12M was probably never available with SMK.)
  • 1968: Conn introduces the 11M low A baritone. This is essentially a 12M with an extension, different engraving and Finish 25.
  • 1969: Sale of the Conn company to the Crowell-Collier MacMillan Company4 production starts to be completely transitioned to Nogales.
  • 1971: The last saxophone is produced in Elkhart and the Conn-made "pro" horns are discontinued5. The model numbers, however, are NOT retired.

Models, Finishes and Engravings

    Models:
  • 20M Straight Eb Sopranino (they called it an "Eb Soprano") -- "New Wonder" Style
  • 4M Bb Soprano, Curved -- "New Wonder" Style
  • 6M Eb Alto
  • 10M Bb Tenor
  • 11M Eb Baritone, low A
  • 12M Eb Baritone, low Bb
  • 14M Bb Bass -- "New Wonder" Style
    Plating choices:
  • Finish 10: Lacquer (bare brass is discontinued as an option; discontinued around 1955)
  • Finish 25: Lacquer body with nickel-plated keywork (after 1955 or so)
  • Finish 61: Nickel plate (rare)
  • Finish 31: Silver plate (until 1955 or so)
  • Finish 51: Silver plate, gold-wash bells (until 1955 or so)
  • Finish 56: Silver plate with nickel-plated keywork (after 1955 or so)
  • Finish 00: Gold plate (special order)

While the "Lady-in-a-Pentagon" engraving is the standard for most examples, it was not the only available engraving. For instance, gold plated examples featured custom engraving and some lacquer horns just featured, "Conn, Ltd.". See also the above timeline .

Footnotes & References

  1. Data from The Margaret Downie-Banks homepage (http://www.usd.edu/~mbanks/CONN15.html) and Dr. Rick's Village Flute & Sax Shop's serial number chart (http://www.drrick.com/conn.html).
  2. Thanks to John G. Ripley for researching the exact serial number runs, contributing an original 1960 catalog with the new finish designations, and for moral support.
  3. Thanks to Steve Goodson, who has graciously let me copy, paste and otherwise shred his article for this website.
  4. Please see The Margaret Downie-Banks homepage (http://www.usd.edu/~mbanks/CONN20.html)
  5. Check out this horn, recently found on eBay. See also Steve Goodson's article and The Margaret Downie-Banks homepage.

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