is a standard oft-repeated rumor about Conn horns: "The
more naked the lady on the bell, the better the horn."
(See, for instance, Dr. Paul Cohen's Vintage Saxophones
Revisited column in the Nov./Dec. 1991 issue of the Saxophone
Journal). Surprisingly, this rumor does have some basis
this "rumor" was started one of four ways:
1. From about 1917 to 1929, Conn offered two exquisite
plating variations of its New Wonder
model: the "Artist's Special"
finish (sometimes called "finish 00") and the "Virtuoso
Deluxe" finish (sometimes called "finish 000").
These horns were heavily gold plated and had elaborate engraving
on the bell, and sometimes over the entire body AND keywork
of the horn. These models were also approximately 50% to 75%
more expensive than their more plainly engraved brass, nickel
or silver brethren.
While it's true that only a few of these horns have nude portraits
on their bells, there are enough examples with museum-quality
nudes to support this "rumor".
It has been thoroughly debunked on Sax-on-the-Web and in other
places that these elaborate models were from better "stock"
than other Conn models, but they were obviously subjected
to a much higher standard of quality control during final
assembly, especially in the case of the Virtuoso Deluxe models
which needed different keywork (pearl keytouches).
THEORY 2. From about 1929 to 1935, Conn started transitioning
the New Wonder into the Artist model 4/6/10/12/14M.
During this time, most gold plated instruments had a bit of
a variation on the standard "transitional" art deco
engraving that featured a portrait of a full
stylized nude, whereas the brass, nickel and silver plated
models only had a less elaborate "New
Wonder-style" engraving or a different art-deco variation.
Also, gold-plated altos generally had an underslung octave
key and most had left-hand bell keys. While these features
were available on brass, nickel and silver horns, the combination
of the engraving and gold plating (which cost more than twice
as much as a brass horn) could certainly start a rumor.
THEORY 3. From 1935 to 1943, Conn offered the Connqueror
26M and 30M models: a "super pro" variation
on the standard 6M Artist alto and 10M Artist tenor (respectively)
that had a variety of adjustment screws to regulate key and
pad height. Additionally, these horns had silver keytouches
on the chromatic Bb, C and altissimo E vent, chromatic F#,
low C and Eb, all altissimo keys, and the G# cluster. Combine
this with the fact that these horns had a variation of the
standard 6/10M "naked lady" engraving that was considerably
more detailed than on the 6/10M. (
and for 1935,
the underslung octave key was only offered on the 26M alto,
not the 6M.)
The Connqueror also appears to have been offered with a custom
gold plated finish that had custom
engraving -- of a full nude, if desired?
THEORY 4. From about 1980 to 1985, Daniel J. Henkin
offered the Conn 94, 108 and 110M. These
fairly rare horns occasionally featured extensive
engraving or the "naked
lady in a pentagon" (which had been missing from
Conn models for almost 20 years at this point).
While the custom engraved horns aren't mechanically different
from standard DJH horns, all DJH horns are different from
other Conns: these horns were actually manufactured by Keilwerth.
They are also, unarguably, considerably better than the late
1960 and 1970 model Conns that were made in Nogales, AZ. So,
the rumor could have started by someone who either didn't
like Conns and liked Keilwerth or by someone comparing a 1970's
horn to a 1980's horn.
means to you: if you find a horn that has elaborate engraving,
chances are very good that it will be an excellent player.
Please beware, though: Conn produced some of these engraved
beauties in HIGH PITCH.