We live in an age where endorsements are a big part of advertising. For all kinds of products. When you pick up an issue of the International Trombone Association Journal, you see many endorsements of trombones and trombone-related products. A look through the April 2020 issue of the ITA Journal finds advertisements that feature endorsements by many well-known trombonists: Denson Paul Pollard (Courtois trombones), Steve Turre (YAMAHA trombones), Peter Ellefson, Joseph Alessi, and Jay Friedman (ChopSaver), John Fedchock, and Megumi Kanda (Greenhoe trombones. Go back to the January 2020 issue and you find Nathan Siler (Courtois trombones), and me (YAMAHA trombones) added to the Journal endorsement mix.
The products advertised in the ITA Journal and the people that endorsed them have changed over time. The ITA Journal was an annual publication from 1973 (Volume 1) to 1981. In 1982, the Journal began to be published quarterly. During those early years of the ITA when the Journal was published only once a year, the ITA Newsletter, which was published two to four times a year, was also published. It was in the May 1976 issue (Vol. 3, No. 2) of the ITA Newsletter that advertisements first appeared in an ITA publication. In its pages you found endorsements by Ashley Alexander (Holton Superbone), George Roberts (Olds trombones), and Phil Wilson (Conn trombones).
Now, everyone knows that using ChopSaver won’t make you play like Joe Alessi any more than playing a YAMAHA trombone will make you sound like me or playing a Holton Superbone will make you sound like Ashley Alexander (I sure wish it did; Alexander was a truly remarkable player on the Superbone and euphonium). But celebrity endorsements have been with us for a long time and if that endorsement is credible—if the person actually uses the product that’s being advertised—that’s all the better for the manufacturer.
A few years ago, I acquired an original copy of a trombone catalog issued by the Frank Holton Company around 1920. The catalog is full of celebrity trombone endorsements. Holton and C. G. Conn ruled the world of trombone endorsements in the early twentieth century; that was an indication of their place as the leading American trombone makers of the time. Frank Holton was an accomplished trombonist himself; he was the trombone soloist in John Philip Sousa’s Band in 1892 and 1893. Then a young kid named Arthur Pryor joined the band and Holton, deeply impressed with the young player’s talent, told Sousa that Pryor should be the band’s soloist. Holton subsequently left the band (under good terms with Sousa) and Pryor went on to be one of the greatest trombone soloists of all time.
Here are a few pages from the Holton c.1920 trombone catalog with a little commentary about some of its famous players.
An endorsement from members of John Philip Sousa’s band carried weight. Holton’s c. 1920 catalog shows he scored a major coup: six members of Sousa’s trombone section with Holton trombones.
One page later, the Sousa band’s trombone players are named (dates of service with Sousa are taken from Paul Bierley’s fine book, The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006):
Ralph H. Corey. He succeeded Leo Zimmerman as the band’s principal trombonist. Corey played with Sousa between 1906 and 1920.
Louis Schmidt. He played with Sousa between 1916 and 1917, and later in radio broadcasts the band gave in 1929 and 1931.
Ernest E. Gentile. He played with Sousa between 1916 and 1917.
Marcus Charles “Marc” Lyon. He played with Sousa from 1892 through 1917.
Athol John “A. J.” Garing. Garing played euphonium with Sousa from 1909 through 1917, but also sometimes played trombone with the band.
Edward A. Williams. He played bass trombone with Sousa from 1891 through 1917.
As we look at the dates when each of these six players were members of Sousa’s band, it’s clear that the only time that they all played together was between 1916 and 1917. So, while Holton’s catalog dates from around 1920, he was all too happy to hold on to the photo from a few years earlier that shows the Sousa band trombone section playing his trombones.
In the center of this page of endorsements (above) is a photo of Richard Kuss. He played bass trombone in the Chicago Symphony from 1912 to 1918. It’s interesting to note that several later trombonists of the Chicago Symphony, including Jay Friedman, Frank Crisafulli, and Edward Kleinhammer, all played and endorsed Holton trombones for a time in the 1960s and 1970s.
Jay Friedman Holton trombone advertisement, 1974
Edward Kleinhammer, Holton bass trombone advertisement, 1962
Now, back to Holton’s c.1920 trombone catalog. . .
Carl Hampe played principal trombone with the Boston Symphony from 1886-1891, 1892-1914, and 1920-1925. In 1916, Holton also published Hampe’s Hampe Method for the Slide Trombone With an Appendix for the Trombone with E Valve. The cover of the Method features Hampe with his Holton trombone; it’s the same photo of him that’s in the Holton trombone catalog.
As an aside, my copy of Hampe’s Method was given to me by my teacher, Edward Kleinhammer. Have a look at this page from the book, below, with Mr. Kleinhammer’s hand-written aphorism at the bottom of the page. And look at the date: June 26, 1947. By that time, he had been a member of the Chicago Symphony for seven years. He was a supremely accomplished player. But in his Hampe Method, a book he told me he used every day for many years, he wrote a reminder of the value of the disciplined life, of how slow and steady wins the race:
By the Yard • Life is hard
By the Inch • Life’s a cinch
Carl Hampe was not the only principal trombonist from the Boston Symphony to be featured in Holton’s c.1920 trombone catalog. Fortunato Sordillo (below) played principal trombone in the BSO from 1918 to 1920. He was fired during an ill-fated strike and Carl Hampe came back to the orchestra to fill the principal trombone position for five more years. Sordillo also played euphonium and trombone with Sousa’s band in 1912 and 1913.
It’s notable that on the page with Sordillo is another person who would play principal trombone with the Boston Symphony: Joannès Rochut. Yes, THAT Rochut, the one whose name is on the book of Melodious Etudes for Trombone Selected from the Vocalises of Marco Bordogni that, if you’re a trombone player, is probably sitting on your music stand right now. [By the way, if you haven’t read my article about the first etude in Rochut’s Bordogni Vocalise book, you might find it interesting. Click HERE to read it.] Rochut played principal trombone with the BSO from 1925 to 1930, but in this photo, he is shown in his uniform of the band of the Garde républicaine. How Rochut came to play a Holton trombone when he was living and working in France is not known to me, but it’s interesting that when he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he brought with him—and played in the orchestra—two trombones by the French maker Lefevre, and when he left Boston to return to France in 1930, he left his Lefevre trombones in Boston and took with him Bach trombone serial number 6. I will be writing more about Rochut and his time in Boston here on thelasttrombone.com very soon.
And here’s something else. Sordillo published a book in 1920 titled Art of Jazzing for the Trombone (Boston: Oliver Ditson Company). This was a treatise about the slide glissando, and how to employ it—trombone glisses at the time were known as “smears” or “jazzes,” and the technique was called “jazzing”—in ragtime and early jazz music. Here are three interesting things about Sordillo and his book. First, shortly after the book was published, Sordillo was fired from the Boston Symphony. Second, the photo of Sordillo on the cover of his method book shows him wearing his Sousa band uniform. Finally, the trombone on the cover of the method is put together backwards. Alas.
One final thought on this. Holton’s trombone catalog is undated but I’ve been saying it was published around 1920. Why? Look at the endorsement by Hampe. It says he was “For 28 years first trombone player of the Boston Symphony.” Then look at Sordillo’s endorsement. It says he was “Formerly First Trombone” of the BSO. Sordillo was fired in 1920. Hampe played principal trombone in the BSO for 28 years (1886-1891 and 1892-1914) before replacing Sordillo and playing a further five years from 1920-1925. From connecting these dots, it seems that Holton’s catalog was probably published in mid-1920, after Sordillo was fired (March 1920) and before Hampe began his final stint as principal trombonist with the Boston Symphony (fall 1920).