Herb Alpert on "The Big Valley"?

CTswimmer

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Holiday greetings to all on the A&M Corner! I saw a horn player on an episode of The Big Valley yesterday and wanted to ask if anyone has any further information. The episode is "The Way to Kill a Killer", from 1965. There is a portion of the video where you can see the trumpet player's left hand, who is clearly playing a Benge. The way he's holding the horn is exactly how Herb used to hold it, with his small finger below the third valve slide. I'm thinking that this could be him, but am not sure. Can anyone verify this? I'm also thinking it could be a Baja Marimba Band member as well, possibly Lee Katzman, who also played a Benge. The Youtube video is at: - the place in the video where the band is playing is at 5:57. Thanks in advance to anyone who can shed some light on this - best regards.
 

CTswimmer

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
I also forgot to mention that you can see the absence of the two thumb screws used for the tuning of the third slide, which are also missing from his horn in the album cover for "South of the Border".
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Good eye on identifying a Benge.

The Benge in the clip is not consistent with the instrument that Herb is frequently seen holding on the '60s A&M LP covers. The Benges that Herb is seen with exhibit a 1st valve slide saddle. The Benge shown in the clip exhibits two pull knobs on the 1st valve slide, which indicates no saddle is present.

From about 1953 to1970 Benges were made in Burbank (in Elden Benge's garage!) and were actually quite common as a "West coast" horn. As for the hand position: that position is actually common. (For me, I find it too hard to jam three fingers between the bell and the 3rd valve slide — so I use only two with my middle finger controlling the 3rd valve throw.)
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
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I cannot imagine Herb Alpert in 1965 agreeing to be a cameo horn-holder on a third-network western series on TV. Had it been earlier in the decade, then I'd say maybe, but really, this wasn't Herbs style. He was done with acting by this point.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Sorry guys, I can’t seem to let this one go as it’s quite fascinating to me as a trumpet player.

…About the missing 3rd valve slide stop nuts:

Horns where you see these missing indicate the slide is compromised to some degree (by way of a bent or gummed-up slide).

The 3rd valve slide is used to bring low D and C# into tune (both notes are sharp by design on all trumpets, cornets, and flugelhorns), so it would seem unusual for a professional recording artist to use a horn with a compromised 3rd valve slide. (Based on my observations, the horn players that routinely had a slide in such a state were either marching band folks or street musicians…each, for different reason, of course.)

That said, in response to an inoperable 3rd valve slide one can "lip" those two notes down as needed — but that’s a variable hit-miss-and-adjust affair — neatly demonstrated by Herb in the London ’69 clip. (Herb was playing the lower harmony part on Bittersweet Samba: when he hits the low C# he didn’t kick out the slide; however, to keep the note from being sharp he lips the pitch down (you can hear him do this as well as watch his face muscles — the first few notes are slightly sharp as he adjusts his embouchure to find the pitch he wants before locking in.)

The 3rd and 1st valve slides should glide smooth-as-silk without any friction whatsoever (akin to a trombone slide) and absent the slide stop, anytime the horn is tilted downward the 3rd valve slide under gravity alone and devoid of the 3rd valve air lock would easily drop clean off the horn! (Just ask any 12-yo Jr. high trombone player sitting up in the bleachers…)

Because of all this, the condition of Herb’s Benge — as observed in the widespread LP covers — has always intrigued me.

I figured that Herb including a somewhat battered horn (with an obvious dent and missing the 3rd valve stop) on LB, SOTB (and WNML, which was leftover from the SOTB cover shoot) was purely pictorial: perhaps it was his way of suggesting the music on the LP was not formal and pretentious… Being a professional musician, he surely had numerous horns (even prior to hitting the big time), yet he selected the battle scar model for some of the photo ops. Whatever the case, Herb at that time clearly preferred to not have that obvious dent removed (a very simple procedure that takes about 5 minutes!) or have the 3rd-valve slide maintained to optimal performance criteria.

Who knows if he all the more recorded with that very horn?

Perusing the applicable’ 60s LP cover photos, the following is obvious:
  • 9th (rear cover performance photos): The 3rd valve slide has a water key (special order from Benge) strongly suggesting this is a different Benge.
  • BOTB (giraffe photo): The 3rd valve slide has the lock nuts in their normal position — again suggesting a different horn.
Also, from the London ’69 clip: The 3rd valve slide is missing its lock nuts.

Tannie, from all photos and footage I’ve seen show that his horn — also a Benge — always has the lock nuts in place.
 
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Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
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(Based on my observations, the horn players that routinely had a slide in such a state were either marching band folks or street musicians…each, for different reason, of course.)
We always used "beater" horns in marching band. For those of us in woodwinds who usually owned the better instruments (Selmer, etc.), the school had an array of older instruments we would use during marching band. Not the best condition, but functionally in usable condition. The Sousaphones were especially beaten up, from what I recall. Probably at least 20 years old by that point (likely dating back to when the school was built).

As for woodwinds, I'm a bit too critical, especially in instances where someone is a horn player but "faking it" for photos or TV or worse, a non-musician holding one and pretending to play it. Just an eye-roll moment for me. The instrument geeks (as you probably know) are all aware of the details--for the sax, many of us can tell if a Selmer is the much-coveted Mark VI, or a Mark VII or Super Action 80. And those of us cursed with perfect pitch know which key combinations produce which notes.

Saxes also suffer from the "sharp low D" when playing in the middle octave, since the nearest octave key is not equally dividing the horn in half. So the players who are aware will lip it down. Or for hacks like Kenny G, they'll play unaware and just blow through it. I once fought with an old Selmer soprano--intonation was all over the place. Even my instructor couldn't figure it out, until one day we both looked more closely. Stamped on the body in small print was the number "436." Lightbulb moment! The horn was designed for a concert pitch of A-436 vs. the standard A-440, so the horn was just very slightly longer than a 440 horn! So pushing in the mouthpiece to compensate really did nothing, as a "longer" horn meant the keys were also spaced out slivers of an inch further apart also.
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
This is very good educational info here it's helping me understand more about my instruments may I say to JOv2 and Rudy your different experiences with different types of instruments Brass vs Woodwind helps me understand more about my experiences Very well written both of you
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
he horn was designed for a concert pitch of A-436 vs. the standard A-440,
Oh, man! Reminds me of those Eb/D trumpets when you think you're playing in Eb but you've got the D extension in so you're actually ½-step lower that you think you are...
 

Doug Castleman

Well-Known Member
Benge trumpets sure are a good value. I bought a brand new one, my first, in 1979 in Fresno, CA...on a going out of business sale for $299! After decades, it was pretty beat-up and I sold it for ten times the price! (of course, that includes inflation) and bought a brand new and really nice Adams trumpet with that money. I really only expected about $500 dollars for it, it was that beat up.
 
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