Monday, January 10, 2011

An Open Letter To Hohner

The German made Old Standby
I started playing harmonica when I was around 12 years old, inspired by the Blues Brothers. One of my favorite harp (harmonica) models was the Hohner Old Standby. It was a classic model that dated back over a century to 1892.  That's two years older than the world's most popular harp, the Hohner Marine Band, introduced in 1894.  In the early 1900s, the Old Standby was renamed "New Best Quality", but that didn't catch on and the "Old Standby" name returned by 1920.  The Old Standby was made in Germany, and was a quality instrument.  This model was well loved by generations of harp players. While many blues artists played the Marine Band, many Country artists, such as Charlie McCoy, preferred the Old Standby.  That's not to say you couldn't wail the blues on the Old Standby. Sonny Boy Williamson II and Junior Parker both had the Old Standby as their preferred harps.

But in the 1990s, Hohner began manufacturing the Old Standby in China, replacing its wood comb with a plastic one, giving it generic cover plates, and decreasing the overall quality of the instrument to something slightly above a toy.  What a terrible way to celebrate the Old Standby's centennial.  To really rub salt in the wounds, Hohner introduced a new model, the Big River Harp, which was the low-price entry in its new MS line. It was everything the German made Old Standby had been, albeit slightly larger with a plastic comb. Shamefully, Hohner has disrespected the classic Old Standby and its fans.

This is wrong and it needs to change.  Hohner, please listen to your customers. The time has come to correct this mistake and upgrade the quality of the Old Standby.  Return it to a quality German made instrument again, but sell it at a low price similar to the Big River MS.  Give it just intonation like the Marine Band and Special 20.  These days many players prefer plastic combs over wood, so keep the Old Standby with a plastic comb (with recessed reed plates).  To make it unique, give it phosphor bronze reeds, like the Suzuki Bluesmaster and Promaster, and the Bushman Delta Frost.  Phosphor bronze reeds are quickly gaining popularity with harp players, and the German made Old Standby would be the perfect model for Hohner to enter into the phosphor bronze market. If the MS series can have a low priced German made model in the Big River, why can't the Marine Band series have a low priced, German made alternative to the Special 20?  It should be The Old Standby.

Will you listen to your consumers, Hohner, or will you simply ignore us, as you have done regarding the Old Standby for nearly 20 years?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Silent Our Gang Comedies

This week, TCM aired a marathon of Our Gang Comedies.  As a kid, I was a very big fan of the Rascals. I remember watching and videotaping them on TV every day. I remember when I was about 12 years old, I got the book Our Gang: The Life And Times of the Little Rascals by Richard Bann and Leonard Maltin.  Looking through it when I first got it, on a Christmas morning, I was surprised by the discovery the films I was watching on TV were only half of the series output, that the Rascals were making silent films since the 1920s.

As I got older, my interest in the Rascals waned, but I remained fascinated by the early silent films produced in the 1920s.  I bought three of these silent gems on Super 8 film, and I also bought a series of 4 VHS tapes that had two or three silents per tape (with great musical scores played on a Wurlitzer organ).

On the TCM marathon this week, they aired about 30 of the silent Our Gang films, and watching them (and video taping them) reignited my enjoyment for this classic film series. While I still may not be as big a fan as I once was of the talkies, if a film company were to restore the entire series of 88 silent films, and release them on DVD, I would buy it in a second.

Our Gang: (l-r, top) Johnny Downs, Mickey Daniels, Allen "Farina" Hoskins,
(l-r, bottom) Joe Cobb, Mary Kornman, and Jackie Condon

Monday, January 3, 2011

Petition WB for Shemp Howard Vitaphone and Stooges MGM Collections

In a previous column, I suggested petitioning Sony to release another volume of The Three Stooges Collection DVD series. Now, I'd like to ask all Stooges fans to begin petitioning Warner Brothers. Shemp Howard made around 30 shorts at Vitaphone (Warner Brothers) in the 1930s. I have read reports Warner Brothers were considering releasing a Shemp Howard Vitaphone Collection on DVD, but plans seemed to have cooled off. We need to contact them to let them know we want this DVD set to be released thru their Warner Archives division. The Shemp Howard shorts are (although this may not be a complete list):

In the Dough (1932)
Close Relations (1933)
Here Comes Flossie (1933)
Salt Water Daffy (1933)
A Peach of a Pair (1934)
Art Trouble (1934)
Corn on the Cop (1934)
Dare Devil O'Dare (1934)
Dizzy and Daffy (1934)
How'd Ya Like That? (1934)
I Scream (1934)
Mushrooms (1934)
My Mummy's Arms (1934)
Pugs and Kisses (1934)
Pure Feud (1934)
Smoked Hams (1934)
Very Close Veins (1934)
His First Flame (1935)
The Officer's Mess (1935)
On the Wagon (1935)
Serves You Right (1935)
So You Won't T-t-t-talk (1935)
Why Pay Rent? (1935)
Absorbing Junior (1936)
The Blonde Bomber (1936)
The Choke's on You (1936)
For the Love of Pete (1936)
Here's Howe (1936)
Punch and Beauty (1936)
While the Cat's Away (1936)
Kick Me Again (1937)
Taking the Count (1937)

In addition, please petition Warner Brothers to release a Three Stooges MGM Collection DVD that would include their MGM shorts NERTSERY RHYMES, HELLO POP, BEER AND PRETZLES, THE BIG IDEA, and PLANE NUTS, as well as the Curly solo short ROAST BEEF AND MOVIES, the Moe and Curly short JAILBIRDS OF PARADISE.

Contact Warner Archive to request they release The Shemp Howard Vitaphone Collection and The Three Stooges MGM Collection.


Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522
Phone: 818-954-6000