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Much-loved instruments: The Heckelphone

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It's hard to imagine a world without heckelphones. And yet, the history books tell us that people who had the misfortune to live prior to the 20th century had never even heard of this phenomenon.

Living as we do in a world where it's hard to turn a corner in any busy metropolis in the world without tripping over a sidewalk heckelphone player, the mind boggles at those centuries of darkness - a heckelphoneless universe.

Conventional wisdom tells us that it was Richard Strauss who was first inspired to bring the heckelphone into the limelight, and that may be so. But, as any schoolboy knows, the world of classical music was just the start for this king of instruments.

The year was 1945. The world was recovering from a global war and optimism was in the air. The musicians' union was still stifling the recording industry at the time or we would have no doubt been blessed with some early recordings of the first jazz-heckelphone virtuoso, Spinhead Gillespie.

Fortunately for us, one anonymous but intrepid cameraman was able to smuggle his device into The Raven Club on East 83rd St one night in April of 1946 and record for posterity the sights and sounds of the first professional heckelphone section in the Spinhead Gillespie Big Band. When the three heckelphone artistes got up in unison and twirled in synchronous movement around their instruments while the bells rested on their pins, the crowd went wild. What a sound! What genius!

Of course, today, after years of hard-bop heckelphone, prog-rock heckelphone and heavy metal heckelphone we're just spoiled. We should remember to be thankful every day that we've lived through the Golden Age.

And, the future looks even brighter thanls to the current crop of heckelphone players who will no doubt continue to take the world by storm.


  1. guythegreg's Avatar
    ... is that enough characters yet?