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Czech factory bass (B&J Salvadore De Durro)

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Stev187, Jan 11, 2011.


  1. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Location:
    Flint, MI (USA)
    Hello everyone! I just joined the forum, so I hope my post is in the right place. I reviewed existing threads to see if it might be more appropriate somewhere else; moderators please feel free to move it if I messed up. I wanted to post some details about my early 20th c. Czech factory bass with two goals in mind:
    1. Provide details for others to compare their instruments and for general research
    2. See if forum members could provide me with additional info about my bass
    The bass isn't for sale; I've owned it for nearly 20 years and I will probably keep it forever. It's a fully carved, roundback bass with violin corners that underwent a complete restoration in 1998-2000. Here's a decent photo (details below the photo if you are still interested after seeing it):

    [​IMG]

    Probable Origin

    • This bass was imported by Buegeleisen & Jacobson (B&J New York) in the late teens or early twenties of the 20th century. B&J was a music "jobber" with a mail order catalog for all kinds of instruments, including violin family instruments, guitars, banjos, ukes, etc.
    • Salvadore De Durro is a made-up name, not a real maker. It was the import brand of B&J, which sold all kinds of factory violin family instruments and strings under this label.
    • The bass was probably built in the Schönbach/Luby area on the border of modern-day Germany and the Czech Republic.
    • It was originally thought to date from 1911, but this cannot be correct. Because a label inside the bass says "Made in Czechoslovakia," it must post date the end of WWI, making its earliest date of manufacture 1918.
    • The mid-grade quality of the wood and the round back place it in the nicer-than-average category of "shop" or "factory" bass made for the American export market

    Current Owner

    • I purchased this instrument during grad school from Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI in 1992
    • The bass was in playable yet deplorable shape when I bought it; several amateur refinishing/repair attempts had been made. The top was deeply sunken in the upper bout, and the bass bar was broken. Open cracks were filled with globs of boat epoxy; dark, botched varnish attempts were dripped all over the top. The thing was ugly, so I got it for a song
    • I played the bass in an old-time string band for several years while I saved up for a full restoration.
    • A complete top-off restoration was performed by White Bros. String Shop in 1998-2000. Ribs were shortened, fill wood was added, the top was re-arched, all rib and top cracks were properly repaired, and a new reddish brown varnish was applied. The restoration was high quality, yet not top quality, and I have been very pleased with the work
    • It's been a very stable bass since the restoration; stays in tune very well and does not behave much differently from season to season
    • The action is fairly high (I play mostly string band music, though I do love and aspire to jazz pizzicato playing). I am considering bridge adjusters and a fingerboard planing job by a local luthier if I continue to think about jazz playing
    • I love this bass. It has a rich, dark tone and is plenty loud. It's not a "fine" or "spectacular" instrument by a famous maker, but it's the perfect bass for me and how I play. I can't imagine that I would become a good enough player to warrant anything better.

    So, that's it. Again, my hope is that some of the info I have gleaned about this bass over the years may help someone trying to identify their instrument. I would also love to hear from anyone on the forum that may have additional information about my bass, B&J, or general shape/design/style of the instrument. Perhaps you've seen others like it, perhaps you have some additional insight about its origin, etc. A few additional photos of the bass and a couple of images regarding B&J appear below.

    Thanks in advance,

    Steve

    P.S. Thanks also to the moderators of this forum--I've been a member of a few of these, I know the kind of work that goes into making discussion boards helpful, friendly communities.

    Additional Photos

    The label inside the bass.
    [​IMG]

    A 1915-1916 B&J Catalog
    [​IMG]

    A 1907 B&J ad from the Music Trade Review
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    Purfling on the back
    [​IMG]

    Re-arching the top
    [​IMG]

    Moderate flame on the back and sides
    [​IMG]

    Top crack repair
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Jsn

    Jsn

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Wow. What a stylish way to make an entrance on this forum! Welcome.

    Your bass is beautiful. All the time/effort/money you've put into it makes it more beautiful still. I can see why you consider it a keeper.
     
  3. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
  4. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    Joined:
    May 12, 2004
    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
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  6. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2001
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    "I played the bass in an old-time string band for several years while I saved up for a full restoration."

    I can't think of a slower way to save money! Beautiful bass and story. I would post this over on Ken Smith's bass site. Ken is a repository of info on old basses. He showed me a number of catalogs regarding German shop-basses. He's got a mind for cross checking and digging deeper than most to find info about basses.

    To my eye the bass looks a little like a nicer Morelli (also just a name they used to sell basses). http://www.flickr.com/photos/40196546@N07/3700393025/in/photostream/

    Welcome. It's so nice to see someone show up in the forum with info, pics and decorum. Cheers.
     
  7. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Location:
    Flint, MI (USA)
    Thank you all for the warm welcome.

    @Jsn: Thanks! I actually got into this bass quite reasonably. I had an American Standard that I traded in for it; I think I got about $500 credit for the plywood bass trade-in and had to come up with an additional $100, as the bass only cost me $600 given the fact that it needed thousands of dollars in repair and restoration.

    @Louis: Thanks for the links!

    @Matt: Yes, there are some before pictures, but not many (they are at the bottom of this post). And they ain't pretty. I wish I had taken some quality photos of the bass before I had the restoration done. What you see below is a casual picture of it in the living room (I was actually taking a picture of the Scottish Terrier, who needed a haircut oh-so-bad). There are also a trio of photos after the initial stripping of the abomination that was the boat epoxy/varnish mess that coated the whole thing. Then there's a photo from the University newspaper from a gig--found that in my mom's stuff last year. It's a horrible photo of me, as my upper lip appears to be missing. Yeuch!

    @Jason: ROTFLMAO!!! I needed a good laugh today. Yes, playing old-timey bass is no way to rake in cash or save up for much of anything. Notice that I said "while saving up" and not "in order to save up." The weekly stringband gig (which I had for about 8 years) only paid tips and dinner. Ironically, though, the owner of the restaurant was also the owner of the aforementioned White Bros. String Shop and the fellow who did the restoration! If you're ever in the Lansing, MI area, his restaurant is worth a visit: The Traveler's Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum. The newspaper "before" photo below that features me without my upper lip was taken during a gig there. Suffice it to say that I finished grad school, got a teaching gig, and paid for the restoration with day-job money. Great tip about Ken Smith--do you mean the site for his company?

    Thanks, all!

    --Steve

    P.S. There is some ancient video (circa 1994) of me with this bass pre-restoration. You get a pretty good look at it, but I never play it... I was also the tinwhistle player in the band. I posted this video because our wonderful banjo player (featured in the video) died. Appalachian music needs banjo more than bass, so I left the bass and learned the banjo.

    Before Photos (UGLY--you have been warned)

    [​IMG]
    Only shot I have of the thing that shows what it looked like when I bought it. You can see the shiny boat epoxy all over the thing. Yeeeuch! That Scottie dog really needs a haircut, too!

    [​IMG]
    Varnish removal

    [​IMG]
    The carved back was in fairly decent shape

    [​IMG]
    Ugh! I can't look.

    [​IMG]
    Me looking really goofy with The Frenzy Bros. at The Traveler's Club in 1993

    [​IMG]
    Closer look at that bass bar crack from the newspaper photo. Ouch! The boat epoxy/varnish was nearly 1/4 thick in places. I can't believe I played it that way for nearly 6 years!
     
  8. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2001
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    WHAT? You got tips TOO?!
     
  9. bribass

    bribass

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2006
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist; Arnold Schnitzer/ Wil DeSola New Standard RN DB
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago
    Ken Smith has posted some info regarding German basses that have the French cello pattern that yours has on the top. There is a thread about it on his forum. I think your bass story would be a good addition over there, too.
     
  11. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2001
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yeah, I didn't notice how pronounced that feature actually was on the bass without looking at the newspaper clipping. That little detail matters. Maybe Toad will chime in wit a photo of his with the same outline...
     
  12. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2007
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Welcome here. Thank you very much for your eloquent and detailed recounting of such an interesting story. These are truly wonderful photos and bits of documentation.

    Ken Smith will enjoy this, I'll bet. Chances are also good that he will be able to add a few interesting bits of information, too.

    Bless you for your thoroughness and candor! A real breath of fresh air...
     
  13. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Location:
    Flint, MI (USA)
    Thanks again, everyone. I've signed up for Ken's forum and I am just waiting to be approved so I can post it. Looks like a great resource.

    If you can, tell me more about the "French cello pattern" you notice. What is it? I searched Ken's forum and didn't find anything.

    Thanks again!

    Steve
     
  14. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Location:
    Flint, MI (USA)
    TB Peeps:

    I just wanted to report back that I got all kinds of information and help from Ken Smith regarding this bass over on his forum. You can check out that thread here. I also wanted to re-post my final entry in that thread here in case someone finds another bass with the Salvadore De Durro label. I found lots of interesting information in the pages of the Music Trade Review (1903-1925). Some of it is pretty funny, too. Here's the post with quotes and images:

    [​IMG]

    from a 1903 edition of the Music Trade Review.

    In the event some future reader of this thread discovers a "Salvadore De Durro" label, here is a long list of direct quotes from the trade publication Music Trade Review that I discovered recently. Samuel Buegeleisen was a regular contributor/subject of this publication, which contains a great deal of information about the marketing hype surrounding "Salvadore de Durro, the famous manufacturer of Liepzig, Germany." I'm no expert, but it's my guess that much of this is marketing hyperbole if not outright fiction. It is interesting, though, and gives a little window to the music marketing practices of the time. Early on, B&J had a contest for crafting a marketing message; another passage outlines how a real person in NYC named his son in honor of the "violin maker," who is also called the "Stradivarius of the twentieth century." Below the quotes are some interesting images, including one of the NYC building that housed B&J for many years (still standing and now the home of Amalgamated Lithographers of America). Enjoy if you're interested and ignore if you ain't.

    Note: the MTR scans are available from The International Arcade Museum, and were scanned/digitized with support from NAMM.

    Quotes that mention "Salvadore de Durro" from the Music Trade Review 1903-1925

    Advertisements & Notable Images Concerning "Durro" Violins, Music Trade Review 1903-1925.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    This is the portrait of Benhahan Durro Strasburger, mentioned in the 1904 quote above.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  15. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Nice bass!

    Thanks to Jake for calling my attention to this thread late. I have one of these labels inside my bass, which has always been a bit of a mystery of origin as well.

    Mine isn't shaped like yours, it looks a lot like a bunch of Juzak, Wilfer, Hoefner etcs that I've seen over the years. I had been told by two unrelated sets of luthiers that it was a product of the 1890s based on the varnish, etc.

    But, it has a "Made in Czechoslovakia" label in it which makes it no older than 1918. That label (which I can't find a picture of) has a small emblem on it that I've come to know is a Karl Hofner logo. The rub of it is that I've read a few different Hofner histories and none of them showed production in Czech, but always listed Germany. Likely revisionist history on their part and I know that there were factories on both sides of that border making basses with somewhat interchangable labels, but it's still a mystery to some degree. I wrote to them with photos and questions, but didn't get a response.

    Here's the thread on my bass with photos of the bass and labels.

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=299836&highlight=

    But, she's a good working bass. Apparently had a fairly hard life before coming under my care and sometimes a little unstable, but she's what I do my work with and its rare that I play someone else's bass and let my loyalty wonder.
     
  16. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Location:
    Flint, MI (USA)
    Great bass, Troy. The label you and I have seems to have been used for some time. The label in our basses is identical to the one reprinted in the 1903 "Music Trade Review" (scroll up in the thread to see that one). I've seen online photos of violins with that label that post-date WWII. Those labels were attached on the US side, I am sure. Apart from that, we don't know much.

    We do know a few things, though. Before and after WWI, Buegeleisen clearly had partners in the Bohemia area from whom he sourced his violin family instruments. The fantastic claims about "Salvadore de Durro" mention he was in Leipzig, which is 130 miles north. So who knows? Some interesting information and photographs about violin making in the Schönbach/Luby area here:

    http://www.violin-skala.cz/en/history-of-luby.html
    http://www.corilon.com/shop/en/info/bohemia.html

    Both Framus and Hofner apparently originated in this region in the late 19th c. My "Made in Czech" label is damaged and tiny, so tiny that I didn't spot it until very recently. I've often wondered if the labels are not original and were placed there by someone who wanted the to make my instrument appear to be something other than it is. That doesn't make too much sense, though... if you were going to do a fake like that, don't you think you'd want to make the instrument look like something more special than a Czech shop bass? For that reason, I am guessing my labels are original.

    In the final analysis, not much of this matters, right? How does the instrument play and sound is the real standard, right?

    Cheers,
    Steve
     
  17. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Right!

    But, it's still fun to wonder. Someone once said "we don't own our instruments, we're merely stewards of them". I don't know how many people have "stewarded" Ilsa before me or what type of music in what type of places (maybe recordings) she was used on. Nor do I know what her life after me some day will be. I think it's a respectful way to regard our little wooden partners. So, I'm interested in her roots, just as I am my own.
     
  18. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Location:
    Flint, MI (USA)
    Agreed! I wonder all the time. Part of me thinks (and I could be wrong about that) that the hardware might be a good way to get closer on the dates. Upon further inspection, I notice that my tuning machines are not exactly like the ones I posted, and they are different from yours. I've attached a quick snap.

    I ordered a reprint of the 1915-1916 B&J catalog, which came yesterday. Bummer of bummers is that only they guitars, mandos, and banjos are in the reprint. It would be interesting to see what images B&J had in the catalog for basses (if any). Since they were jobbers, they probably took what was available from their contacts in Schönbach/Luby. But if their available basses were anything like the violins, they had some models to select from in different price ranges. It's just a guess, but I think the violin corners, round back, and slightly flamed maple might make mine in their upper category, but I could be wrong about that.

    I also agree with you about being "stewards" of these instruments. They certainly live longer than we do. And while I might not "own" my bass, I certainly brought it back to life. It was in sorry shape when I found it.

    Anybody else seen a bass with this label?

    Steve
     

    Attached Files:

  19. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Disclosures:
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I've seen one other bass besides Troy's darling Ilsa and a few violins and cellos. They came across my bench at the store so I don't have pix... :(
     
  20. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Location:
    Flint, MI (USA)
    Great shot of you guys and the bass on your site, Jake. How cool!
     
  21. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Disclosures:
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Thanks Steve! Troy's a really good man and Ilsa's a special bass. ;)
     

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