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    Posted 5 months ago

    (1 item)

    I recently purchased this silver metal Guy Humphrey clarinet at a thrift store. It has mother of pearl keys. It has the serial number 2528 hand stamped on the body. The bell says Guy Humphrey Paris. See pictures If anyone could give me the history on this I would be very appreciative. Thank you! ????

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    1. keramikos, 5 months ago
      Hi, KrisCriscito. Cool. :-)


      Stencil brands are interesting for many reasons, but the two primary engaging mysteries are who were/are the people whose names are on the instruments and who made the instruments. The answer to the first question is generally at least as much of a mystery as the second regarding French clarinets made around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Once famous names that were easily recognizable by any good French citizen are now faded into obscurity, particularly in the USA.

      Guy Humphrey is one of those stencil brands we hear a lot of positive reports about, and the clarinet brand is probably better remembered now than the clarinetist. I now have seen a hard document that tells us a good bit about Guy Humphrey and why the brand was reputable and why and how these French imports became popular in the USA. Guy Humphrey was a French virtuoso clarinetist who played in popular French orchestras as well as toured the USA performing with popular USA bands and orchestras.


      My apologies for publishing something that might be copywritten, but this is for purely educational purposes.


      With one post card of information, we can generally reconstruct the career of Guy Humphrey and draw several insights. Rumor has it in published internet sources that the Guy Humphrey brand was imported to the USA by the US government. This is plausible considering that Guy Humphrey frequently performed with US military bands when he toured. His brand might have been popularized with the US military musicians to the extent that the government imported some of these.

      In looking over some of the Humphrey clarinets and some of the Henry Gunckel clarinets, I've seen details that point to one maker that at one time produced both brands. I wonder if Mr. Humphrey the virtuoso whose name is on exported French clarinets and who maintained a Paris address might have known Mr. Gunckel, the French trade commissioner who also maintained a Paris address at the same time?


      A little more while we are on the topic.... A few web sites that track brands (hornucopia is one of these) lists the source of the Guy Humphrey brand as the US government. That was one of the strangest relations I could imagine, but it might have been the case when the brand first appeared. The best evidence I have so far would have the brand originating in La Couture around the turn of the century, which makes sense because that was when Guy Humphrey was touring and performing and his name was chosen to promote the brand. Whether he endorsed the brand, marketed the brand, got a royalty or a licensing fee for his name is something I don't know. What I do know is that the brand was being made quite early in the brand life by at least one maker in La Couture. The example I have in hard rubber has a flat spring at C# and a shared post for LH5 levers, meaning it is early 20th C. It also has "LP" marks which place it earlier than the adoption of the A=440Hz standard. I'll post a few photos later.

      After a short time the production of the brand, like so many other French "stencil" brands, appears to migrate to other makers. I have collected a couple of ads for the brand, one from the late thirties and one from around 1950, and during that period, the US distributor was no longer the US government (if it ever was), but a New York firm, Gretsch and Brenner, Inc.


      We are lucky Humphrey was sending the post card to an American in New York. My guess is he had French postcards to send out in France. We should get his handwriting analyzed. He has a pretty elegant stroke there. There is an obvious entrepreneurial self promoting side of his personality. It's clear he plans to market reeds to the USA, and that could have been before he became a clarinet/woodwind brand. It is entirely plausible that he hooked up with a maker through Gunckel and then promoted his own brand while on tour in the US. Perhaps he even tweaked them or directed the quality control on the early ones. The one I have is quite good, particularly good in intonation, near perfect. The keys feel great, nothing tripping up my fingers anywhere. The fit of the key work is first class.


      Here are a couple of metal Guy Humphrey clarinets similar (but not identical) to yours:


      Gorgeous Guy Humphrey Paris silver-plated clarinet. Lovingly and painstakingly restored to full working condition.

      Services performed: full body and key polishing complete pad replacement with white leather pads cork replacement adjustments to guarantee playability

      This clarinet is now ready to play and wow anybody in your next jazz session. This clarinet was likely sold as an intermediate model back in the 1940s, when this was likely made.

      The clarinet has a really nice, jazzy sound that you can only really get from a metal clarinet.

      Comes with a period-correct Raymond Paris mouthpiece.



      What we have here is a rare vintage Silver Guy Humphrey clarinet made in paris.

      The clarinet has been repadded and produces a nice tone.

      It comes with the original case and a mouthpiece.

    2. KrisCriscito, 5 months ago
      Thank you for the information! Much appreciated.
      : )
    3. keramikos, 5 months ago
      You're welcome. :-)

      I knew nothing about Guy Humphrey going into this, but that apparently was not an unusual situation. All props to clarinetpages dot info user Silversorcerer who did the hard work on this.

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