Monday, March 23, 2009

A Rico By Any Other Name....

A Rico by Any Other Name…..

By Mike Zucek-North Central Regional Sales Manager

If you’ve been playing a clarinet or saxophone for any length of time, you’re likely already familiar with the current line-up of Rico reed products. There’s the famous Rico “Orange Box”, as well as Rico Royal, Rico Plasticover, La Voz, Mitchell Lurie, Frederick L. Hemke, Select Jazz, Grand Concert and our newest top line reed, (making many players re-think what they should be playing), Rico Reserve. But there are some names from Rico’s past that are not commonly recognized as Rico reeds. Let me explain….

The term “private label” is often applied to products manufactured by one company under another company’s name, or a name that is loaned or licensed to another company. Although Rico no longer produces “private label” reeds, it did so at one time (in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s) for a small group of band instrument manufacturers. (If you’re into collecting reed boxes, you’ll find this interesting!)

The most common Rico “PL” reeds were the “Diamond Cut” brand for the old C.G.Conn Company and the “Roy J. Maier” brand for the H & A Selmer Company. You’ll find Diamond Cuts in a black and silver box with a diamond graphic in the middle of the lid and the legend “made by La Voz” in the lid’s corner (La Voz , of course, being Rico!) “Roy J. Maier” reeds were branded in honor of one of Rico’s principal owners, and the mechanical genius behind Rico’s manufacturing machines. You’ll find these reeds in a textured silver box with the maroon colored “Roy J. Maier “signature in the center of the lid.

Another “PL” reed, called “Symmetricut” was produced for the Chicago Musical Instrument Co. (or CMI) during the 70’s. These were packaged in an all green box with white borders and the Symmetricut name in white on the lid. You may come across earlier Symmetricut reeds in yellow and dark maroon boxes as well. These, however, will be marked “Ciccone Symmetricut” and were made by Tony Ciccone before Rico purchased his company. Later Symmetricut reeds, from the late 80’s and early 90’s were actually marketed by Rico as a “house” brand and were in an all green box with the reeds in separate “Novapak” reed holders.

Although not actually private label reeds, you may still come across the rare “Andre” brand (primarily for Tenor Sax). These were made by Rico for limited distribution (and sometimes for export) for a short time in the seventies. They mostly came in an all yellow box with “Andre” in maroon on top. Another reed, primarily exported to Japan was the “Nova” brand, which was packaged in a gold foil box with ‘Nova” in block letters on top.

Other than being manufactured by Rico, what else do these brands have in common? You guessed it; they’re all actually Rico reeds; the same ones you can still get in the ubiquitous orange box!

If you’re interested in building a collection of colorful reed boxes, I suggest you ask around whenever you’re in a music store, as you never know what the dealer has hidden away in the back storeroom! (Or right out front in the “bargain bin”). They may be #4 alto clarinet reeds, but what’s that matter if you can add that colorful package to your collection!

In my blog posting for next month, I’ll delve into some of the historic packaging for Rico branded reeds. Do you know why the box that preceded the “orange box” had a simulated wood appearance? Tune in next month…

1 comment:

  1. I have a couple of "wooden" Rico reed boxes and if you could give me a time period as to when these were last produced I'd be very appreciative,