For as many horn players as you might see roaming the streets of New Orleans, the circulation of instruments remains somewhat of a mystery for most. When investigating the matter, there seems to be one name that pops out of musicians’ mouths quite often: “Go check out Maurice man, he’s in town!”
Maurice, the man with the horns. An Indiana farm boy turned brass scrounging expert who has come to New Orleans to deliver his precious finds for forty years now. Setting up shop on Decatur for every Jazz Fest season, he’s the guy cats wait for, hoping to get their hands on a new piece, get theirs fixed up, or have a little chat about the shiny tools’ ins and outs.
His lifetime relationship with brass instruments began in Europe. “I was busking in Paris as a seventeen year-old kid,” Maurice says, “and everybody wanted to buy my saxophones, because they were American-made, Conn ladyface,” referring to the early C.G. Conn instruments, an important piece in the history of instrument manufacturing in the U.S. – which Maurice finds great pleasure in narrating. “I started going to music stores and pawn shops, because I liked the instruments and I started to sell some of them.”
What Maurice found in Europe was a real demand for his horns, and quickly sold more than his ladyfaces. “After two world wars, they didn’t have any used horns, and they liked the American-made instruments. Good quality, used, cheap prices […] I would have guys in Europe waiting for me, waiting outside the store because they would recognize me.”Some years later, Maurice was loading 40-feet trucks with all kinds of brassy marvels to be hauled over to Europe… twice a year!
A traveler at heart, he wandered about the U.S., tirelessly seeking the instruments in need of salvaging, fixing and finding of a new home. Along the way, he learned the craft of repairing brass, the quirks of the market, found time to raise cattle on his Indiana farm, had an antique shop, and even went on a stint with a manufacturer in China.
Equipped with van and trailer jam-packed with a mix of saxophones, French horns, clarinets, drums, marching band uniforms and other goodies, Maurice will skip town once again when the season wears away, to embrace the road once again. It won’t be long before he reappears magically with a renewed collection of windy gizmos.
Maurice’s magical horns can be found at Secondline Arts and Antiques on Decatur Street.