It’s been an on-going regret for years that although I have one, I am just SO useless at playing the saxophone. That does not stop me loving saxes as engineering pieces as well as listening to little else but sax-featured music on Spotify or even via those ancient-tech Compact Discs.
During World War Two, plastics technologies advanced in leaps and bounds. Aeroplanes, for instance, needed protective covers for installed Radar devices that had to be “transparent” to the waves passing through them and still could stand up to the ever-increasing airspeeds they faced.
Perspex cockpit canopies were growing ever larger as “bubbles” replaced the smaller faired-into-fuselage designs.
At the end of WW2 the techniques for sizeable plastic mouldings were well established but suddenly the military were longer ordering much of anything.
A year after the war saw Hector Sommaruga (honest!) start work on an alto sax that would use the new plastic moulding methods now available.
It hit the streets in 1950 and was called the Grafton after Hector’s studio in Grafton Street – off Tottenham Court Road. The price? 55 Quid! Cheap!
And it looked like this….
In a world of brass, the cream plastic sax looked pretty neat as well as being half the price of a “real” one.
Charlie Parker played one for a wee while as did Ornette Coleman.
But the keys didn’t feel like sax keys should and the springs were crap and the bodies would just break or things would fall off.
Mouldings couldn’t go bigger than the alto body-size either, so a tenor or – perish the thought! – a baritone were right out.
It was also a bastard for repair-men to handle and most just refused after their first attempt.
Thus ended the short life of the Grafton and you’d be hard-pressed to find a decent working example today.
But my pal Willie has the one shown above which he bought for sweeties from a hard-pressed fellow he worked with – who didn’t know the value of his treasure. There are not many left as unscathed as this. The irony is – Willie doesn’t play either!