The major thing to know
about the straight baritone is that it is NOT a production
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
I'll let Paul Cohen take it
... 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
Prairie Home Companion"). Anyhow, 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: in an upstairs bedroom. Mr.
Giordano subsequently bought and restored the horn (see
Other Straight Baritones
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
Vito/Leblanc never offered a horn in "red lacquer" nor did they
offer a straight baritone, as far as I knew. But, hey,
they offered one of the last C melody horns on the planet and
they had some very interesting models, so I was interested.
Anyhow, that gentleman put me in contact with the person that
custom-designed and built the Vito 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. 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 silver, 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.