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The History of the 8D

As told by Kendall Betts

"My teacher, Ward Fearn, once told me that there were 6 "pilot" model 8D's sent to Albert A. Knecht Music in Phila. in 1938 for appraisal by the Phila. Orchestra players and Curtis students. Knecht was a clarinetist and played with C.G. Conn in Sousa's band before opening his store. These were all purchased and played by a group of Curtis students during that time, much to the chagrin of Mr. Horner, who sold Kruspes. Ward said price was a major factor, a Kruspe was $350, a Conn, $300. $50 in those days (great depression) meant a lot.

The group was: Ward, James Chambers, Joe Eger, Mark Fischer, Herb Pierson, and Joseph White. Ward played his until 1962 when he got a new one. He sold the old one to me in 1971 and I used as my main instrument until 1980 when I got my first Lawson. The serial # is 320440. Jimmy used his until his involvement with Reynolds and a bit later. He sold it to John Cerminaro, who I think still has it. Joe Eger's ended up in the hands of a girl named Candy Bliss who later moved to Oregon, quit playing and sold the horn, I don't know to whom. Mark Fischer's was bought by Glenn Janson after his death and Glenn later sold it to Myron Bloom. Herb played his until his retirement from the Philly Orch. in 1974. He sold it to Dick Mackey. I don't know what happened to Joe White's.

I picked up another 8D, #320442 about 9 years ago from Mark Belcik, wind conductor at Valdosta State U in GA. He had bought the horn (used) in a music store in Tulsa when he was in HS. Played it for a few years and switched to Holton when at Michigan with Lou Stout. That horn had been stored for about 20 years before he sold it to me. It's a mate to Ward's and both have been restored by Walter Lawson. I'm just sitting on them in case I ever need to play a Conn again and I figure they are as good of investments as anything else.

Jim Klapp, sales manager at Conn in the '60s, told me on a visit to the Elkhart plant in '69 that the 8D was based on Arthur Berv's Kruspe with certain modifications, mainly the taper of a Schmidt leadpipe. That might explain why the Conn had slightly better intonation than the Kruspe, and was not prone to "wolfs." He also said that the bell taper was changed slightly in the early '60s due to new mandriles and a new bell spinner on the job. They went to a thinner bell as well, then. Big mistake IMO. My old ones have a larger (in the tail, ala Kruspe) heavier bell, and sound better.

That's about all I know on the subject. I really don't know the 1st 8D serial # but 320*** would date in late 1937 so it does fit Ward's timeline."

Mr. Betts was formerly the principal Horn for the Minnesota Orchestra, and is the founding director of the Kendall Betts Horn Camp.


Original 1938 brochure images provided courtesy of the Richard J. Martz Collection. May not be used or reproduced without permission.



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