I read Andy T's article on tuners removing player actions.
"Remove that player action and throw it in the trash"
This was a familiar phrase used by music store dealers and a lot of
tuners. Especially tuners and music store dealers who catered to the
pseudo-elite. (We will get to that later)
Andy, I am a former tuner and player technician, and I never advocated
removal of any player.
Agreeably, some tuners might do this dastardly deed of player removal and
destruction. It was very popular during the 1940's and 1950's They were
costly to repair or rebuild, and few had interest or the money to keep
the players going. In the 1920's and 1930's it was popular to strip a
reed organ or melodeon and make it into a desk. People are strange.
Fewer yet had knowledge of how to rebuild players. Those who understood
players and could do a decent job, where shunned as "being too expensive"
or "robbers" The average player owner felt that if a player could not
be rebuilt for $50.00 they would not bother with it.
There were a lot of amateur "rebuilders" who did more damage than good! A
good player technician was difficult to find.
To do a decent rebuilding in the 1950's we used to charge $175.00 to
rebuild a straight player and $375.00 for reproducers.
At that time one could buy most any second hand piano, even Steinway
Upright Duo-Arts for under a hundred dollars! Very few wanted these large
pianos and felt they were obsolete.Society preferred the diminutive
poorly built spinet pianos, and were very anxious to rid themselves of
the large monstrosities, which by now had little value to the average
piano owner. By now we were becoming a throw away society. Build it
cheap, use it for awhile throw it away and buy new. Like it or not we
were forced into that situation.
"Style" was the key word. It did not matter to the average piano owner
what was inside the piano as long as it looked "nice" in the living room.
The majority of player owners had no idea of the complex maze of parts
involved within a player action. Any effort to explain was beyond the
comprehension of the average player owner.
One woman told me that she had the player removed but had saved it. She
went to the attic and brought me the part. She did, ( a take-up spool)
that is all that was saved! The rest was gone.
One of the most hurtful groups of player-bashing are the Pseudo-elite of
the music world. These haughty tight-laced musicians know *everything*
about music. (These are known as "musical snobs") They turn up their nose
at anything but the most stuffy string quartet. They want everyone to
know they are superior, and take delight in making player owners feel
inferior. That kind, usually will adjust your piano to subdued when no
one is looking, and refer to a player or reproducing piano as "One of
those dreadful things" We do not need that type around our beloved
In the 1950's and 1960's I received many calls from music stores to
remove players with no payment other than being able to take the parts
free for removal. In many cases, I pleaded with the music store owner
to consider rebuilding these wonderful players ( especially reproducing
pianos), but my words fell upon deaf ears. They would have nothing to do
The music stores wanted the player units removed from reproducing grands
because they did not like the "funny" legs on the piano, and of course
those with drawers had to be removed because they were "in the way" for
Consequently, I had a stock of many wonderful player parts, and saw to it
that most of them found a good home among player enthusiasts, thus
recycling them back into service. I was happy to "donate" parts for
transplants. One person in particular, found a Knabe Grand that had been
completely stripped of it's Ampico Player unit, and the piano was at the
curb waiting for trash pick up. To make a long story short, the piano
was rescued, I donated the Ampico parts, and the piano was restored to
it's former glory. It is the pride and joy of it's owner, and we have
been friends for over forty years.
One more reason for player removal and destruction, was the fact that the
tuners were lazy and it was too much of an effort for them to move parts
of the player out of the way each time they tuned the piano. In some
Duo-Art grands, I can sympathize. It could take several hours to remove
player parts to gain access to a part in the piano action that would take
five minutes to repair. One could expect to take another hour or so to
get it all back together and aligned so that everything worked. Usually
something would be out of alignment and it would take another hour to get
everything perfectly square so that the player would work properly. No
one wanted these complications, and customers would balk at paying extra
for extra time. We live in a rushed world. Few want to spend time on
intricate details, and fewer want to part with cash to pay for it.
Hindsight is better than foresight, hopefully the future will be kinder
and respect the gentle and joyful era of our past.