Clavietta in the UK

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  • #7080
    Daren BanarsëDaren Banarsë
    Keymaster

    I found myself at the British Library today with some spare time, so I thought I’d see if I could find any Clavietta adverts. The British Library doesn’t keep American Newspapers, so I had a look to see if it had been marketed in the UK at some point.

    It seems the Clavietta was advertised throughout 1960, at least between February 11th and December 17th. Here’s a few clippings:

    Stage and Television, February 11th 1960
    Stage and Television Clavietta February 11th 1960

    Melody Maker, March 12th 1960
    Melody Maker Clavietta March 12th 1960

    Melody Maker, December 17th 1960
    Melody Maker Clavietta December 17th 1960

    Alan, was the Clavietta the original?

    #7081
    AvatarMelodica-Me
    Participant

    I love these old adds. I remember that Alan, found an advertisement of the Clavietta with a built in pickup in a past post. Did you happen to see any advertising on that version?
    Melodica-Me

    #7082
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    Nice ads!

    Do you mean the original melodica, Daren? We know the Clavietta appeared in 1958, and Hohner’s first Melodica also appeared in 1958, the button model green HM-900. I have searched extensively for advertisements and announcements, and the earliest I’ve found for the HM-900 is early December, 1958, The Clavietta seems to have been available earlier in the year. But the Clavietta was a true keyboard harmonica (as the Japanese understood this, having a piano style keyboard). My inclination is to regard the HM-900 as a transitional instrument, from which it would seem to follow that the original Melodica in the brand-name sense is the HM-900 but that the first melodica (“melodica” in the generic sense, or keyboard harmonica) was the 1958 Clavietta. The Clavietta also was more clearly introduced as a serious musical instrument, while Hohner trumpeted the first Melodicas as easy to play, requiring no musical background, and especially suited to children. Where to draw the line between what’s a melodica and what isn’t is debatable and somewhat subjective, but I think a reasonable case can be made for identifying the melodica (generic sense) as the piano style keyboard instrument that is now so familiar to us.

    The 34 key Clavietta shown in the first ad is, I’m thinking we’ll all agree, the original Borel Clavietta. I can think of no reason for thinking the Clavietta isn’t a melodica (generic sense).

    #7083
    Daren BanarsëDaren Banarsë
    Keymaster

    It’s great to hear that the first keyboard harmonica/generic melodica was in fact the Clavietta. It’s had a truly auspicious birth into the musical world 🙂

    Interesting that it sold for only £10 in 1960, which would be the equivalent of spending about £160 today in the UK, or around $230 (US). Not a lot of money for such a quality, well made instrument.

    #7084
    Daren BanarsëDaren Banarsë
    Keymaster

    No MM, I didn’t see anything involving a pickup. Maybe they weren’t for sale in the UK.

    I wonder how long it was actually on sale for? They must have sold a lot of instruments to have so many pop up on eBay 50 years later. Yet just one year of advertising in the UK. Alan, do you know how long they advertised for, or even produced the Clavietta in the US?

    I noticed at the British Library that there was also a handful of gig reviews in Melody Maker that referred to a melodica in the band, until about 1967 I think.

    #7085
    AvatarMelodica-Me
    Participant

    I don’t know how many different models were actually made or when their release dates were. I own the following Claviettas. None have a date or actual model, just a patent pending number. Except the black version below which has none.

    Gold anodized round metal cover with black grommet 34 keys NOTE: this is the nicest sounding Clavietta I own.
    Painted gold round metal cover with red grommet 34 keys
    Black metal (6) sided cover with black grommet 34 keys NOTE: This has the noisiest keys of all versions I have.
    Red round metal cover green end caps 25 keys NOTe: this version has a different key spring. Instead of a compression spring over a screw, it has a crimped piece of metal that pinches the back of the key, no adjustment possible.

    There is one as I mentioned as seen in the advertisment that Alan posted of a Clavietta with a pick up that looks similar to the black metal covered one listed above.

    One thing I have noticed is that in some of these Claviettas the reeds face in a different direction than from each other. In other words spine tip of the reeds face towards the front of the keys and some face the back of the keys. They do not appear to have been removed then re-installed in a different position.

    If anyone is aware of any other versions, please let us know.
    Thanks
    Melodica-Me

    #7090
    Daren BanarsëDaren Banarsë
    Keymaster

    I also have several models, and a few in storage! I was obsessed with this instrument for a long time. interesting MM, in some accordions, the last very highest sounding reeds are reversed last like that…

    #7091
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    The “electrified” Clavietta is shown in a 1966 brochure. The image I have is from an expired auction item so isn’t too good.

    The earliest appearance of a U.S. Hohner Melodica advertisement I have found is from December 8, 1958. This same ad appeared throughout that month in newspapers around the U.S. and in at least some Canadian cities.

    #7092
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    I have been able to find no early (1958-65 or so) Clavietta ads in U.S. or Canadian newspapers. It appears later occasionally in music store ads along with other instruments and in classified ads. But the Clavietta is occasionally mentioned in news items — 1959 is the earliest I’ve found — and in TV show listings. There seems to be no evidence that there was ever a serious advertising campaign in the U.S. such as Hohner conducted through the 1960s for its Melodicas. But some were being sold in U.S. music stores.

    #7120
    Daren BanarsëDaren Banarsë
    Keymaster

    Oh, ok, I presumed it was widely advertised in the US! It seems their advertising strategy was geared more towards endorsement by famous musicians, with photographs and TV show appearances, e.g. Nat King Cole (photo) and Ray Connie’s advert/performance, with Midnight Lace.

    #7124
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    The 1958 item I posted is not an ad; it’s a news item, a Hohner release I’m sure. Here’s another from December, 1958

    and a Hohner Melodica ad from November, 1959

    and 1960

    #7125
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    I don’t know whether TV appearances and such by celebrities were part of a Clavietta endorsement strategy in the U.S. It’s possible.

    I don’t think I’ve seen one advertisement in U.S. publications that was devoted to the Clavietta. It appeared occasionally in music store ads along with Hohner Melodicas or other musical instruments.

    Hohner targeted music educators with early 1960s advertisements, especially in the Music Education Journal, and with supporting materials and visits to school districts and conferences. I haven’t seen anything like that for the Clavietta.

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