Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Sax Education of Mormons, 1926

The Sax Education of Mormons, 1926

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 12, 2010

“Sir, would you give five dollars to bury a saxophone player?”

“Here’s thirty dollars. Bury six of ’em.”

Juvenile Instructor joke page, November 1926

I confess, this title is just a bait-and-switch for a “The Whole Year Through” post. A company selling saxophones and other band instruments advertised their wares in every issue of the Juvenile Instructor of 1926, sometimes with what seem to me as hilarious claims. Note that Daynes Music, another local company, not wanting to be left out of the market, ran their own ad on the inside front cover, with color, but only in September.

The ads must have taken effect — here’s a photo taken by 15-year-old Mildred Cox of Woodruff, Utah, and submitted early in 1927 to the Juvenile Instructor section reserved for children’s contributions:











both June and July






The rival ad: September









  1. Teach a boy to blow a horn and he will never blow a safe

    Now that’s speaking to parental concerns!

    And November’s ad: the Sax as a Church instrument? who’d a thunk it…

    Comment by Coffinberry — July 12, 2010 @ 9:39 am

  2. Looks like the store changed locations between January and February.

    Also, I smiled at the September ad that “nothing is stronger to forestall outside temptations that music.” I first thought of Elder Packer’s famous advice. Then I thought about how difficult it was for my mother to convince me to practice and I realized it was just advertising schtick. On the other hand, if I had been practicing a Conn saxaphone instead of a boring old piano….

    Comment by Clark — July 12, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  3. Cute photograph! Several of the adds suggest that because of the type of paper on which the ad is printed to fill out the form in pencil instead of pen & ink. I am assuming you scanned these from originals. What was the paper like?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — July 12, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  4. I’m trying to figure out what music they expected these kids to play on those instruments — with rag and jazz both disparaged as the devil’s music, what else was going on in that era? Marches, maybe?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 12, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  5. Bruce, the paper is a little bit slick and shiny (not as high quality as the church magazines use today, though), rather than the matte paper used previously in the JI. I’m sure pencil would have worked better than ink, which likely would have smeared into illegibility.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 12, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  6. These were fun. For some reason, I react to outlandish ads about musical instruments in the same way I do to ads about religiously-themed items. Not sure why. Still, these folks just needed to make a living . . .

    Comment by David Y. — July 12, 2010 @ 10:19 am

  7. It’s interesting that Daynes put their money on the wrong horse. Conn is still a major player in the band instrument market, but Buescher was bought out within a decade and the name is, as far as I can tell, gone–except among those looking for vintage instruments.

    And I like the options: blowing a horn or blowing up safes! Ah, if it were only that easy!

    Comment by Mark B. — July 12, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  8. Were Big Bands popular in that year? I seem to recall seeing old movies of Big Band leaders who played woodwind instruments, but I forget the years.

    Or was that to come later? Was there a popular entertainer in the 1920’s who played the sax? It sounds to me like they were trying to capitalize on something.

    I know the saxophone and the clarinet were popular in the latter years of the Big Band era, up through the late 40’s and early 50’s. Benny Goodman was a famous clarinetist, and he plax the sax too.

    I seem to recall seeing old footage of saxophonists getting their solo riffs in a big band too. I think that was Bud Freeman, who played for Goodman, and later Tommy Dorsey.

    My father who grew up in the 30’s and 40’s played both clarinet and sax as a teen.

    Saxophones were also popular into the early Rock and Roll years. Several web sites note that the sax was the lead or driver for 50’s rock and roll.


    So yeah, I bet the saxophone was just starting to be ‘cool’ in 1926, and music companies were trying to capitalize on it.

    Comment by Bookslinger — July 12, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

  9. Don’t forget that our very own Howard W. Hunter played the the devil’s own music on a saxaphone with his band, Hunter’s Croonaders. Photographic proof here.

    Comment by Clark — July 12, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  10. Bookslinger,
    Big bands may have been popular, but the MIA, Deseret News, and other church organs were totally anti-jazz at the time. (I studied saxophone at BYU with Ray Smith for a year; he says that during his undergrad, probably in the 70s, he was constantly told that you couldn’t be a good Mormon and play jazz–he came back to BYU to teach jazz partly to prove that assertion wrong.) FWIW, in 1926, rock wasn’t even a gleam in a kid’s eye–it would have still been a comfortable world of jazz. Although I’d bet most kids in Utah playing saxes were playing in marching bands.

    Like Mark B., I think it’s interesting that Consolidated Music Company seems to sell exclusively Conns. Did stores at that time tend to stock only one brand? Conns are still around, but aren’t much fun to play–they’re inexpensive learning horns, but that’s about it.

    Comment by Sam B. — July 12, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  11. I don’t know, maybe the claims are justified. Just look what playing the saxophone did for this guy.

    Daynes Music missed the mark by not including a free pair of Wayfarer sunglasses, standard accessory for all saxophone players.

    Comment by kevinf — July 12, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  12. Hmm, I just sent a comment that seems to have gone into moderation. Perhaps because I included a link to a picture?

    Comment by kevinf — July 12, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  13. Sorry for the delay in posting, kevin — it was indeed trapped by the filter.

    If I can find it tonight I’ll post an article from about this time decrying the degeneracy of jazz.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 12, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  14. Keep in mind too, that Hunter felt the necessity of abandoning a career as a musician to maintain his commitment to the church, so it obviously wasn’t seen as an upstanding profession in his time. In fact, it doesn’t seem to have gained legitimacy until it stopped being popular, which is really unfortunate.

    Comment by Carl Youngblood — July 13, 2010 @ 3:33 am

  15. That’s probably an overstatement, Carl — HWHunter left that career because it didn’t provide the financial stability he wanted for his family and because the constant travel made it hard for him to serve in the church. That’s not at all the same as saying that music wasn’t a “legitimate” or “upstanding” profession, which to me implies something unsavory. A lot of honorable work has the same inconvenient factors, whether that’s the financial instability of a free-lance church history researcher like me or the travel inconvenience of, say, a U.S. marshal.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 13, 2010 @ 6:42 am

  16. Sam, is it correct to associate Big Bands so closely or exclusively with jazz? I’m not sure that the Big Bands were always or exclusively jazz-playing.

    Yes, I know jazz unjustifiably got a bad reputation. But the Big Bands were known for dance and other genres of entertainment music.

    Comment by Bookslinger — July 13, 2010 @ 9:07 am

  17. Jazz existed both before and after the big band era.

    I suspect that jazz’s poor reputation is due to the atmosphere it was typically played in–similar to the proscriptions on bowling alleys and billard halls. Too much tobacco, alcohol, late nights, and gentiles.

    But that’s just my supposition. I’m waiting anxiously for the expert to post the REAL reason, as alluded to in #13.

    Comment by Clark — July 13, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  18. Aargh. I forgot to look for that article last night. Will try again. In the meantime, Michael Hicks has a couple of pages (p. 194-95 if the link doesn’t take you to the specific spot) quoting Mormon condemnations of jazz, as when the 1928 MIA handbook asked that “rhythms not be ‘augmented beyond the written score.'”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 13, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  19. I fell in love with the saxophone when I was in Jr. High and High School. I begged my mom and dad to let me take lessons. But, my mother and her siblings all played the piano; my dad and his siblings all played piano or violin. Dad told me that the sax was a “boy’s” instrument and not one for girls. My one brother did play a trombone, but unhappily I didn’t do anything but dream of playing a sax. I stayed with piano and eventually got my university degree in piano performance and taught successfully at home and at Utah State University adjunct for many years. But, I am still mesmerized every time I hear a good sax player.

    I’ve also been a sucker for good jazz music. When my son got his MBA from Tulane in New Orleans, he took us around to a lot of jazz clubs, which was a great treat for me.

    Comment by Maurine — July 13, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  20. That is so cool, Maurine! I would never have guessed that about you.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 13, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

  21. Ha Ha. Thank for that link (#18). It’s hilarious, and eye-poppingly conservative at the same time. I don’t want to threadjack, so I’ll save my thoughts for the future post. (“The evil is in the improvisation…” Bah! What about improv based on the hymns? What if the improv is reverent variations on theme, played on the organ in the temple waiting room? In retrospect, it was clearly an untenable position.)

    Comment by Clark — July 13, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  22. I didn’t ever play the sax, but my many friends that did took months of lessons and band practice to play things that sounded like music. If their parents had decided after a five or ten day trial, I am sure they all would have been returned!

    The local instrument supply store allowed for rentals or purchases. You could rent to own the instrument for a set number of payments, you could buy it outright for a 20ish percent discount, or anytime between month 9 & 15, you could pay it off with a 15% discount.

    Since our orchestras started in 4th grade and band in 5th grade, lots of parents bought the violin/viola/cello over the summer for the discount, and rented the band instrument. It has been a long time since I thought about playing cello, drums, cymbals, occasional bass, and barely passable piano. :-)


    Comment by Julia — August 30, 2012 @ 9:57 am

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