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?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree man we shouldnt settle for medicority. Matthias Hohner is rolling over in his grave. I have a hot metal and a hohner blue midnight and the hot metal is a cheap toy. They should make a heavy german old stand y and sell it for 15 bucks. That would win a ton of players. Imagine the music they would be inspired to make. Rock n roll will never die. Shaggy J.