If you’ve read my blog for a while, you may know that I have been fascinated with the saxophone backlash that accompanied our instrument’s exploding popularity in the early 20th century. For example, sax players found themselves: with limited practice space options as their neighbours complained to the police, the courts, and anyone else who would listen; the punch line of jokes; the subject of scathing editorials; or on the outs with many repressive regimes.
However, not all saxophone players were caught up in this web of saxophone bashing and saxophobia. Occasionally one slipped through the cracks as it were, and got away.
Today’s trip down saxophone memory lane, is the story of one such player. This lucky musician is the one who got away from the police as they raided a Baltimore nightclub trying to silence the saxophone player. It comes to us from the July 7, 1934 edition of The Lewiston Daily Sun.
I can’t help but chuckle at this story. In 1934 the saxophone was obviously playing acoustically. Sure, a saxophone could have been loud, but I suspect that the other two pieces of the trio—presumably drums and ?—would have been just as loud. Just how badly was this sax player playing, to cause such a fuss?
Don’t forget that in 1934 the electric guitar was not that far away. The 1930s and 40s were the decades when the instrument was invented and became a staple in professional bands and orchestras.1 Although I have not researched it, I would suspect that the neighbours of these nightclubs would have been calling the police more as the musical genres changed, and the electric guitar became the cornerstone of rock ‘n roll. But I digress…
Getting back to the one who got away, this fellow managed to get the court in Baltimore to levy a fine for future saxophone performances after midnight. According to the Inflation Calculator of the US Dept. of Labor, the $26.45 of 1934, would be $459.83 in 2013. I don’t know what the going rate for a sax player in Baltimore is, but around here a player would have to work about four gigs to pay off that fine.
1 Source: Wikipedia page on the Electric Guitar