Penzel Mueller, and George Lewis and Woody Herman

Dear Mr. Friedland:
My daughter has a pre-WW2 Penzel Muller DynaTone.
It is in great condition now, but I was told by our local music shop to start looking for replacement parts or a parts clarinet “just in case”.
He says it will be difficult to repair if something should ever go wrong with the instrument without the appropriate parts.

I have been unable to find another DynaTone or Dynatone parts online.
I was wondering if you know of a good resource for these things or if you are familiar with another manufacturer that may be comparible and could be used for parts if need be.
We think the clarinet is from the 30’s but cannot pinpoint a year. I have not found any serial numbers to verify an exact date of manufacture.

Any suggestions or advise you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
It has a fantastic tone and sound quality and she would hate to shelve the instrument out of fear of being unable to maintain it…
Thanks very much.

S G

Dear SG:

Thank you for your note on your Penzel Mueller Clarinet. I have known of PM for as long as I’ve been a player, but never played one or investigated the name. So, for your interest, this instrument company was founded in New York City in 1899 by two German Immigrants with the same names and I believe was manufactured until 1950. It was not a German Company though the workers hired by Penzel Mueller were of German descent. While in Boston studying in the 50s and 60s, the clarinet was considered to be a medium priced instrument with the same playing characteristics. However, since I never played one, I can’t attest to those qualities. Here is a quotation from a fellow who had a music store in New Orleans in the 60s: George Lewis, mentioned , was a famous early Jazz Clarinetist who did play Penzel Mueller. The article seems to imply that many Jazz Clarinetists used them, including Woody Herman, who played a Boehm System Penzel Mueller.

“In the spring of 1961 when I had my record and music shop at 731 St. Peter St, New Orleans, I bought an Albert system (improved) Bflat L.P (Low Pitch) clarinet made by Penzel-Müller & Co. New York. I don’t remember exactly what I paid for it, or where I bought it, but it was probably some amount between $ 10 and $ 15, and it was possibly a store such as the used furniture stores on Magazine Street.
Not long after that George Lewis came in my store one night and I showed him the clarinet. He said he had wanted to own an improved Albert system Penzel-Müller for some time and asked to buy it.(Several New Orleans clarinettists in the past had used them, and I believe today Albert Burbank and Louis Cottrell have Penzel-Müllers)
So I sold him the clarinet for whatever price I had paid for it. He took it to Werleins music store to have new pads and adjustments made. I think he used it quite often during the following years and in fact used it on his last job, when he played with Kid Thomas’ Band at Preservation Hall on Fri. Dec. 13, 1968. The last numbers he played were “My Blue Heaven” and of course Thomas’ final “Theme” song – “I’ll See You In My Dreams”.
Shirley (Lewis) & Carolyn (Buck) said that George always called this Penzel-Müller his “Bill Russell Clarinet”, but I had almost forgotten about it.”
“Penzel-Müller clarinets had a world-wide reputation. Their preference by the most eminent soloists marked them as first class instruments of first class makers. “They combine in the highest degree the essential qualities of free and pure tone, perfection in scale and mechanism, ease of manipulation and execution”, as a Penzel-Müller ad of the 1920s put it.
The Penzel-Müller company was established in New York in 1899 as a partnership between the German immigrants Gustav Ludwig “Louis” Penzel (1855 – 1920) and Edward Georg Müller (1869 – 1956) and existed till 1950. The fact that Penzel & Müller were German-trained craftsmen and that they imported parts for their clarinets (finally marked with the American eagle) from their native place in Vogtland/Saxony a Penzel-Müller Albert clarinet looks slightly different to the common Albert clarinets made by most of other instrument makers: the design is more “German” than “French”.
Beside the classical trained soloists and above mentioned jazz clarinetists George Lewis, Albert Burbank and Louis Cottrell Penzel-Müller clarinets were played by other jazz greats like Sidney Arodin, Willie Humphrey and Woody Herman (the latter used a Penzel-Müller in the Boehm system which was common in big bands).

Finally, to answer your specific concerns, most clarinets can be repaired, including replacement of pads, springs ,cork and even keys by any competent repair person, so you should have no concerns about the longevity of your instrument.

Good luck and keep playing.

Sherman Friedland

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