Benge's First Pocket Trumpets
These are the first two pocket trumpets made by Benge in 1968 (This date conflicts with the serial number list available on the Internet, but we are confident that it is accurate). The first was made for Irving Bush, who worked with Benge on a consulting basis, on new model design. The second (currently in Boyde Hood's collection) was made for Robert DiVall, Irv's section mate in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the time. They were both known to take these trumpets with them on vacations in order to get a little practice in.
A few years later, Boyde became very close friends with Irv and spent many happy hours talking about trumpets and experiences that they had in the business. Later, Benge made two more pocket trumpets for Tommy Stevens and Mario Guarneri. Tommy recounted to his good friend Mike Zonshine that all four Los Angeles Philharmonic enjoyed and made use of these pocket trumpets: "Side story: During the years, 1966-72, the orchestra made several recordings for London/Decca. When we did Stravinsky's Petrouchka, Zubin insisted that Bob use a cornet for the Ballerina's Dance and Waltz. Bob instead used the pocket trumpet, which he convinced Zubin was a cornet and Bob got away with it. Bob and Irv also used those instruments for the orchestra's recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture. During those days, Bob and Irv always played the cornet parts, and Mario and I did the trumpet ones, and, in fact, again if memory serves, when conductors insisted on cornets, they always used the "pockets," and I don't recall ever seeing them playing cornets when cornets were called for-and no conductor, even those conductors who generally knew what they were doing, were ever the wiser!"
In October of 1970, three more pocket trumpets were made for made for Los Angeles Salvation Army band members Randy Stillwell, Karey Fistrup and Keith Snell. Keith still owns his along with one of the others that was made before Benge closed the Burbank shop.
I learned an even more obscure fact in a conversation with Bob Reeves. While Bob was working at Benge in 1966, trumpeter George Guidi asked Lou Duda to make him a Benge pocket trumpet. Lou didn't want to risk ruining a good Benge bell and had a spare Olds bell hanging above his bench. He bent this bell and fitted it to a Benge valve section, making his first pocket trumpet, this one predating the two featured here by about two years. If anybody knows the whereabouts of this trumpet, I would love to hear from you.
These two trumpets are virtually identical, aside from the first slide trigger/hook and finish. They are 9 1/2" long with bell rim diameters of 3 7/8" and bores measuring .460". In both cases the finish is original: Irv's is gold plated, Bob's is lacquered and has suffered a little more wear and damage. With consecutive serial numbers, they were obviously made at the same time and show some minor engineering problems. Both have extended tuning slide assemblies, indicating that the original calculation for length was a bit short. I know from experience that it is very difficult to measure curved tubing length with precision. Also, the curves in the bell and mouthpipe are more crudely done than we are accustomed to in Benge instruments. I've gotten pretty good at bending bells and other tubing, but it has taken many years to become proficient.
Benge foreman, Lou Duda, was known to complain about how much more work was involved in making these than standard trumpets, taking twice the time and then sold for the same price. He was able to refine the bending step and later and Benge pocket trumpets made in the 1970s are very well done. I should also comment that imperfect curves in brass instruments don't seem to be detrimental to the acoustics in that instrument. All later Benge pocket trumpets have full size bell rims (4 3/4"). Nick DeCarlis, current owner of Irv's pocket trumpet, states in his PocketCornets.com, they are the gold standard for modern pocket trumpets.
The last two photos represent the later production Benge pocket trumpets, the most noticeable difference is the larger bell rim diameter. This is the same as on the full length versions at 4 3/4". This was made in 1974 and is a very rare Claude Gordon model. It is all the same parts as the full length CG, made into a pocket trumpet. I was disappointed with the playing qualities of this trumpet until I remembered that I have a selection of CG mouthpieces, including a rare number 1. This is quite a nice trumpet when using that mouthpiece.