August 20, 2010

Mussehl & Westphal Novelty Musical Instruments

Mussehl & Westphal was a wacky company established in 1921 which sold novelty musical instruments. Here you see a tin advertising ashtray that is marked "The Musical Saw, It's easy to play... The Glass-O-Phone The Jazz-O-Nette, Musical Pitchfork , Flute-O-phone, Mussehl & Westphal est. 1921".

Of course you are all probably familiar with the 'Singing Saw' but you may be wondering what the hell the other instruments are. I was too. I assumed when they said 'Musical Pitchfork' they meant a tuning fork but they actually meant 'pitchfork' in the farming sense of the word. Check out this ad in which all of the instruments mentioned above (except for the Flute-O-Phone which remains a mystery) are shown. I wonder if anyone actually still has a 'Jazz o Nette'. Actually, i wonder if they ever sold one. Look at it...It's a crazy damn thing. Apparently it was played like a trombone and the ad claims that as a Jazz-O-Nette player you will 'be popular every where you go'. I'm not so sure about that. Click on the image to enlarge and read the rest. The copy is fantastic.

Although not owned by the original family, the Mussehl & Westphal Company still exists. They sell musical saws and i just love mine. Unfortunately, they don't sell the Musical Pitch Fork anymore. I might have to build me one of those suckers. Bet you if i had a Musical Pitchfork 'Woodcutter' would let me work on his farm for sure (even though i'm a heathen).

By the way, it just isn't true that "if you can whistle or hum a tune" that you can play a saw. It really isn't that easy. Okay, it's not brain surgery either but you do have to have a really good ear and the biceps of a lumberjack. And, most importantly, incredibly understanding neighbors. Bless you Marion & Ruud.


Kittie Howard said...

We have a friend who thinks he can play the kazu. Er, good thing he serves beer when he entertains.

Fun ads, Shelley. I remember seeing a band with these instruments on a tv show once. They sounded really good!

Shelley Rickey said...

Oh man, if there is one instrument which gets on my nerves... It's the Kazoo. Serving beer while you're kazoo-ing is a very good idea. : )

Yah, cool stuff. There are more Mussehl & Westphal items yet to come. They were very prolific. I'm trying to find out a bit more about the company. Very little to be found about the history and the development of all their unusual wares.

I'd love to see a Jazz o Nette in action.
Happy Weekend to you!

Michelle said...

There is a lot of information about the Mussehl & Westphal company on as well as a whole collection of their ads.

Shelley Rickey said...

Hi Michelle,
Yes, there is great information there on the saw ladies site. I'll have to give that another look. Thanks for the tip!

ichadwick said...

Interesting combo. Love to hear a jam with those novelty instruments.
I came across your page when I was looking for unusual duet instruments to play with ukuleles (for my own web site on ukes. I'm inspired!

I'll have to pursue a Jazz-o-nette or musical pitchfork and see if I can get (or make) one. At the very least, a musical saw might be fun. Not sure about packing a case of glasses around to open-mic nights, though.

Shelley Rickey said...

Hi Ichadwick,
Thanks for your note. Looking forward to snooping around your site!
I wasn't able to find a Jazz-O-Phone any where. I'd love to hear one. The M&W company only sells saws these days. If you find one, send me a note.

odfreygodfrey said...

My dad died a couple of months ago. He was my first music teacher and always my musical inspiration. He left all of his musical instruments to me - and among them was a musical saw! I've always wanted one. And it turns out that I can play it, too. I perform as Mrs. Santa Claus at a local mall and I can't wait for Christmas to see the kid's reaction to Mrs' Santa Playing the musical saw!

Shelley Rickey said...

Hi OdfreGodfrey,
So sorry to hear of your fathers passing. But, it's very nice to hear that you are enjoying and playing his musical instruments. Is it a Mussehl-Westphal saw? I'd love to see a photograph of it. I'm sure the kids will adore Mrs. Santa playing a singing saw. Silent Night would be beautiful on a saw! Thanks so much for stopping by. Friendly greetings, s.