Q: How did the L.A. Benge Claude Gordon model come about?


According to John Mohan, in the late 60's, Benge trumpets dominated the equipment in the Hollywood studios. This included Al Porcino who one day returned his Benge large bore to the Benge shop for a repair that required the removal of the bell. Upon removing the bell and after doing whatever repair was required, the workman attempted to run a 0.468" ball through the bell tube and discovered it wouldn't go through. So, he ran it through anyway, "fixing" the obvious manufacturing error. Well, when Al got his horn back, it wasn't the same. He hated it! He said, "What did you do to my horn? It's ruined!"

A little research was done and it was discovered that the mandrel used to make the bells for the early 0.468" horns actually ended smaller than 0.468 inch. That mandrel had disappeared back then--Bob Reeves, who worked at Benge at the time, has no idea what became of it. So, these early large bores were sought after and several of Claude's students had them or worked with players that had them. At this time, one of Claude's students, Thomas Holden, told Claude of this and Claude began helping his students to get horns similar to the early large bores models like Porcino's by custom ordering the large bore horn with the slightly smaller 0.464 inch bell section.

John Mohan plays one of these early horns. He describes it as follows:

I bought this Benge large bore on eBay from another of Claude's students, a guy named Lowell Stevenson. He studied with Claude in the early '70's. Back then, Claude and his students were ordering and playing Model 6X Benges that were built with a slightly smaller bell that had a bore of .464 where it attaches to the first valve casing. I'm fairly certain it was either 2x+ or 3x+ bell that was put on this horn. The horn was made in May of 1971 and ordered through Claude for Lowell. I have the original sales receipt and "C. Gordon" appears in the box marked "deliver to:"

Playing-wise, the horn feels very similar to the slightly later CG Benge, but with a slightly darker, fuller sound. It isn't quite as easy to play the upper register with it as with a CG Benge (or a CG Selmer), but the slightly higher level of effort I must put into it is a worthwhile trade off for its sound and tone. Physically, the only difference between it and a CG Benge is that its leadpipe is a little bigger and perhaps the bell metal is a little thicker on the wafer-thin CG Benge.

At this same time, Claude was working with Benge to develop his own signature model. Basically, the CG Benge was a Benge 6X Large Bore with the following modifications:

Later when Zig Kanstul took over as manager for Benge he noticed that workers were spending many hours custom buffing down the metal on the CG Benge bells (over-buffing and losing a lot of them), so he made the intelligent decision to make the CG bells from a thinner gauge of brass--more consistent, quicker and cheaper.

Thus, the Benge Claude Gordon model.

Speaking of Kanstul, John Mohan points out, he has recently introduced a new "Chicago" model horn, the CHI1070. This horn is a .470" version of the old Benge 6X. And .470" was really the bore size Claude wanted on his CG Benge, but for cost savings considerations Benge insisted on .468." This was one of the factors that led Claude to eventually go to Bach/Selmer for his later CG Selmer .470" horn.

Now we have Kanstul making a 0.470 inch large bore Benge that Claude would have preferred. And we have Benge also producing the CHI1001 MLP bore horn with a .464" bore. So theoretically one could order a custom made horn from Kanstul with .470" bore and a .464" bell section, and have a horn very close to those original Benge trumpets so highly sought after by the Hollywood studio pros of the 60s.