King Silver Flair/Benge

Discussion in 'Vintage Trumpets / Cornets' started by DaveH, Nov 11, 2004.

  1. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    I have a King Silver Flair - it's actually the second one I have owned, but both pre UMI; the first dating from about 1965, and my present one is from 1969. It is in beautiful condition.

    At one time, I owned an LA Benge - it had a fairly high serial number, probably making it near the last ones with the Los Angeles inscription on the bell. And, in all fairness, I think it needed a valve alignment at the least.

    I have never played a Chicago Benge or Burbank Benge, however...

    To get to the point...

    I think these older, vintage Flairs are real players. I didn't realize how good it was when I had my first one; perhaps I have improved in some ways as a player since then, and use a different mouthpiece as well. However, this Flair I have now seems to me to be a "monster." It has a big, fat, bright tone, and it can literally "light itself on fire" when my embouchure is really working right.

    I am wondering how some of you who have played a lot of horns feel about a King/Benge comparison. I'd take this Flair over that Benge I mentioned above anytime. What do you think about any ways these two horns might compare?
  2. tom turner

    tom turner Mezzo Forte User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Georgia, USA
    Hi DaveH,

    The original "Silver Flair" of the late '60s and very early '70s was indeed a wonderful horn. They were SUPER HOT on the market then and LOTS of people upgraded to the hot, new Silver Flairs!

    I actually got to play a nice, original Silver Flair recently that a friend of mine owns who used to gig with Marty Robbins. It still played exactly as I remembered 'em.

    I was in the service as an Army bandsman in the very early '70s . . . looking for the best blowin' horn I could get . . . and the Flair was on my short list . . . as was the Benge.

    You are right too about an original '69 Silver Flair besting a high serial number LA Benge . . . not even close. However, things change when you compare the same year production of the two horns.

    Just as the Sliver Flair faced several changes and it quickly plummeted off the radar screen, thanks to UMI, Benge suffered a similar fate. Eldon Benge never made but a couple of hand made horns a week. After he died in 1960 Eldon's son kept things going pretty much the same way until King bought 'em out.

    In the early 70's King began putting pressure on the Benge plant manager Zig Kanstul to make more and more horns . . . and Benge production shot way up. Then UMI bought King and things headed for the toilet for both King and Benge.

    If you get a chance to compare your '69 Silver Flair with a comparable condition Burbank Benge from the same year I think you'll find the Benge responds faster and blows freer. This is not to take anything away from the wonderful early Flare . . . but the small-production (then about 4 per week) Benge horns were really hand crafted still at that time!!!

    What did I end up buying way back then as my "ultimate" trumpet in 1973? A brand-new 1972 LA Benge, #9727 . . . one of the earlier LA Benges.

    Around 1980 I foolishly sold it to a guy who I played with who wanted exactly the same sound that I had. He'd gotten the local top music store to become a Benge dealer and the dealer got in SIX UMI-Benge 3X trumpets. He was shocked how they didn't at all play or sound like mine. I went to the store to check 'em out. Every one played like total s___! If you didn't see that they LOOKED like Benges, you'd never believe it playing 'em blindfolded!

    The fellow wanting a Benge soooo bad then paid me the GOING PRICE for a brand new Strad in that shop for my Benge . . . and I foolishly accepted. I then replaced my Benge with a factory-handpicked Back 72* . . . and regretted it forever.

    Both the late 60's-early '70's King and Benge trumpets were true winners . . . and they dominated as horns of choice in commercial music of that day, along with Callichico. Their plummet from success shows just what happens when big corporations get ahold of small companies that have a reputation for quality.

    Enjoy your REAL Silver Flair!


    Tom Turner
  3. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    Tom, you wrote "Around 1980 I foolishly sold it to a guy who I played with who wanted exactly the same sound that I had. "

    GASP! SHOCK! You mean he actually thought that if he had your horn he'd sound like YOU? And you didn't tell him about all these wonderful trumpet forums where he could have found TRUTH!? :roll: :lol:

    Nice posts, btw.
  4. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003

    Thanks very much for your comments in reply.

    I appreciate your insight and experience...

    Maybe someday I might have an opportunity to play one of the Benges from the sixties. It is an experience I would like to have. At present, I am happy with my Flair and a French Besson Classic - which is a Kanstul made product, and seems to be a very fine horn, especially since it was quite reasonably priced, as new professional horns go. I think it rivals some horns costing somewhat more. I like it better than either the Benge I mentioned above, or a Bach Strad 180-37 that I had at one time also. I like it with the standard weight valve caps and rounded main tuning slide combination. Seems to me to play and sound quite nice.

    I wouldn't mind owning a good Benge, but I think my wife is very happy with my present pair of horns... :lol: and if she's happy, that is important to me as well. :)

  5. Tim80

    Tim80 New Friend

    Nov 24, 2003
    Plant City, Florida
    I have a Benge 3X+ and I just recently sold a near mint '72 King Silver Flair. The King had a more open blow than the Benge. The Silver Flair could peel the paint off the walls. I believe it played with more brilliance and projection than the Benge. The 3X+ on the other hand has that wonderful Benge tone within the staff and plays sweetly. It also played with a brilliant tone above the staff. Both are great horns. the Benge has sentimental value and I thought it a little more versatile so I kept it.

  6. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Curiosity prompts me to you remember the approximate serial number of the Flair?

    I'm trying to date mine just a little more accurately...
  7. Robert Rowe

    Robert Rowe Mezzo Piano User

    Dec 24, 2004
    I have never owned a Silver Flair, but I tried a bunch ... one as recently as last week (at Dillon Music, NJ). I was always curious, as I have a couple King Super 20 Symphonys ("H James specials"), and I always thought the Flairs were brought out as slightly less expensive Super 20 Symphonys, and also as "Connstellation Killers".

    They're pretty nice.

    Robert Rowe
  8. 68 Flair

    68 Flair New Friend

    Aug 12, 2005
    Flair s/n

    Hi Guys just registerd..............I have a 68 Silver Flair. Awesome horn!!
    Mr Turner, a great summary of the horn in its day. My 68 has the following s/n 40707x
  9. 68 Flair

    68 Flair New Friend

    Aug 12, 2005
    King Serial Numbers

    Date Serial Number
    1893-1915 1-50,000
    1915-1925 50,000-78,000
    1925-1930 78,001-126,000
    1930-1935 126,001-161,000
    1935-1940 161,001-220,000
    1940-1945 220,001-275,000
    1945-1950 275,001-305,000
    1950-1955 305,001-340,000
    1955-1960 340,001-370,000
    1960-1965 370,001-406,500
    1965-1970 406,501-457,600
    1970-1975 457,601-511,750
    1975-1980 511,751-
  10. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Re: Flair s/n

    I am wondering if it is a 1968 model with that particular serial number?

    It would seem that number would make it an early 1965 model, based on the number lists available...

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