I happened to be looking on Craig’s List in January 2009, when I spotted a Gallotone tenor saxophone for sale in North Vancouver. I hadn’t heard of the brand, so I took a look at the ad. The ad was about 5 days old at the time, but I was intrigued enough to send an email to the seller. I was surprised to hear back that the horn was still available. I chatted with the seller on the phone, and made arrangements to get the horn over the weekend. So that Sunday I drove to North Vancouver, and picked up my “new to me” Gallotone tenor saxophone.
The sax is stamped “Made In Italy”, so obviously it is a stencil horn. The fellow I bought it from, owned it for 25 years. It was old then already, when he bought it from a professional musician in South Africa.
I love mysteries surrounding old horns, and this one, well, it’s a good one. Gallotone is a South African record label. The only references to musical instruments that I have managed to find were to guitars, and that’s only because apparently John Lennon’s first guitar was a Gallotone. Go figure… However what this has to do with saxophones, well, that is anybody’s guess.
The sax seems to be a hybrid horn, in that it contains parts that look like they came from both Orsi and Rampone & Cazzani. Here are the photos that I took of the Gallotone tenor:
I had someone from Rampone & Cazzani look at these Gallotone photos, and this is what he had to say:
…some of the parts could come from our factory but again, strange…
for sure most of the parts come from ORSI factory.
maybe this is a stencil made inside ORSI factory with a different name or maybe we are in front of a sax made by a smaller company using / assembling pieces coming both from R&C and ORSI…
It’s hard to say if the case is original, since it has the appearance of 1920s or 30s style case, and the horn does appear to no doubt be newer. The case however, does have a Bakelite handle, but I’m not sure when Bakelite was invented, or when it became widely used. By the way, did you notice the octave lever? It looks very much like that of my 1927 Conn.
The previous owner had quit playing years ago, but had recently taken it up again. He took his beloved old Gallotone to a big music store in downtown Vancouver that has a repair department, and they quoted him $1200 for an overhaul. They advised him that it really wasn’t worth it, and he reluctantly concurred.
He ended up replacing his old friend with a Yamaha Custom Z, but because of space constraints, needed to let this old-timer go to a good home. When I called, he couldn’t have been happier. I apparently was just the kind of home he had wanted. He thought his sax would look great on a wall, adding ambiance somewhere. Well, it does just that in my stairwell. Everyone who comes into the house sees this horn as they come upstairs.
However, retirement living is not always just rest and relaxation. Sometimes it’s also fun to get out and do things. Here the Gallotone is testing out the Pontiac Grand Prix is for drivers motto.
Since writing a couple of blog posts about this mysterious old horn, I did receive a comment from a woman in South Africa who has a Gallotone alto. It is however, much newer than the horn I own. Then, shortly after getting that comment on my blog, I did see an ad for what looked like relatively new Gallotone alto for sale in South Africa. I don’t know if it is the same one that the woman wrote me about or not, but here are some photos of it.
It’s unfortunate that there weren’t more photos of the silver plated alto Gallotone, but at least there was a closeup of the engraving. It does appear to be the same as on my old-timer. The other 2 photos show just barely enough detail to indicate that it does indeed look very similar to my old Gallotone.
It appears that whoever is getting their horns stencilled with the Gallotone name, may be still using the same manufacturer. Check out the tiny bis Bb button on my horn and compare it to the silver alto. Also, the left pinkie cluster looks very much the same on my tenor sax as it does on the silver alto (despite the blurriness and angle of the photo).
If anyone has information about either the vintage, or newer Gallotone saxophones, please get in touch with me. Thanks!