King Duo Gravis history?

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pompatus
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King Duo Gravis history?

Post by pompatus »

I’d had a draft of an email to George McCracken started and in progress, inquiring about the history and development of the King Duo Gravis. Having owned a couple, and enjoyed both immensely, I’ve found myself quite curious about the specifics of how the model was “fleshed out”. With Alan Raph’s recent passing, I knew one potential resource was gone, but now with George McCracken having left us I’m afraid I may have missed my chance.

Apart from the King promotional materials and a document titled “The Duo Gravis Trio” I happened upon while trying to research history and information of the model, I’m wondering what other printed materials or anecdotes may be documented somewhere.

I’ll attach what little I have, but would appreciate anyone’s insight or knowledge.

Thank you, all.
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Kingfan
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by Kingfan »

Chuck Ward, another designer at King, is now running his own shop. He might have some background on George and the DG. https://www.chuckwardbrass.com/
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chromebone
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by chromebone »

I recently brought a DG to Chuck Ward for some work, (actually, the one I just sold to you). He didn’t have much insight into the design process, although he did mention George was never that happy with the thumb paddle setup. As far as I’ve been told by a couple of people who knew Alan Ralph, Alan was playing a King Symphony and wanted/needed to move up to a double trigger bass with a full bass bore and contacted McCracken. Raph had made his reputation with and liked the King sound, so the DG is basically a sized up Symphony. McCracken seemed to like French horn style bends, and the DG (and the 4BF and 5BF) certainly reflects that. As far as the ergonomics, it seemed to work for Alan; apparently he was quite adept at the thumb trigger setup that most of us find unusable. Alan, like a lot of bass trombonists of his era, must likely only used the second valve when absolutely necessary and mostly relied on the F valve.
Last edited by chromebone on Tue Apr 23, 2024 6:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
boneagain
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by boneagain »

Can you give a bit more about what kind of "fleshing out" you would like?
For instance, while the wrap is very "horn" looking, George said he had three objectives:
1) ensure that condensate would drain to the valve during rests;
2) collect condensate in a "least blurble" location while playing
(with that need being lessened by #1);
3) minimize early reflections in the acoustic column within the wrap.

As noted by chromebone, Alan Raph wanted a double rotor that "...played as easily as a King Symphony bass..." so George worked hard to match the TWO valve DG impedance to the Symphony.

Another instance: the rotor is a VERY specific size!
George tried larger rotors (part of the effort to match the Symphony in a 2 valve setup.) Alan did not care for the "fup" in the aircolumn with a large rotor.

George gave me quite a few stories on the horn. Alan gave me quite a few more. I distilled them for readability in the pdf linked above. I can reply better to more specific questions.
pompatus
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by pompatus »

boneagain wrote: Tue Apr 23, 2024 4:17 am Can you give a bit more about what kind of "fleshing out" you would like?

George gave me quite a few stories on the horn. Alan gave me quite a few more. I distilled them for readability in the pdf linked above. I can reply better to more specific questions.
I was really looking for ALL the information. I know that’s not entirely specific. Mostly, just kind of looking to assemble a bit of a repository for all things Duo Gravis.

My understanding, is that the King trombones tend to have a tighter bell throat than most, with a more dramatic flare per model, making them closer to ideal as jazz/band instruments. If that’s an incorrect assumption I would welcome clarification, but definitely explains why the Duo Gravis tends to be a big band-only horn.

Really, though, design elements, inspiration, design process, even interesting stories about its development would be welcomed.

I’ll try to reach out to Chuck Ward to see what he may have to add, and can post any result of that conversation here.
Last edited by pompatus on Wed Apr 24, 2024 8:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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dbwhitaker
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by dbwhitaker »

The patent document posted in this thread includes this:

The second linkage assembly is adapted to be actuated by the first finger of the player‘s hand...

The drawing matches this description. Was this trigger configuration ever produced and sold? I've never seen a horn with linkage like this. (It doesn't seem like a great arrangement to me.)
Duo.Gravis.patent.illustration.png
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elmsandr
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by elmsandr »

Looks a lot like a haynor grip!

Never a production arrangement to my knowledge, but very popular with a few people.

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2bobone
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by 2bobone »

" -----but definitely explains why the Duo Gravis tends to be a big band-only horn."

I recorded an all-Wagner album [Dorati], performed the Prokofiev "Alexander Nevsky" [Rostropovich - still on You Tube] and the Richard Strauss "La Bourgeois Gentilhomme" [Hogwood] all on my trusty King Duo Gravis SS. It is the best all-around bass trombone I ever encountered. I also used it in Big Bands. A spectacular horn ! :good:
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DougHulme
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by DougHulme »

I dont want to get into controversy here and there is currently a thread going elsewhere here that asked the question 'is the Duo Gravis unique' (to which the answer has so far been 100% a yes) but I agree with 2bobone, its much more versatile than limited to a Jazz or bigband. Alan devloped the horn for all of his own use and he played many many gigs in what amounts to Symphony Orchestral settings when recording with the large LA orchestral film tracks, he thought it was a horn for all seasons. For my part I have used Duo Gravis's extensively in Britsh Brass bands as well as straight brass ensembles and orchestras. Its a unique horn and in no way limited, as previously alluded to. I have other horns too but the DG holds a special place of affection in the arsenal... Doug
pompatus
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Re: King Duo Gravis history?

Post by pompatus »

To be fair, and to respond to the comments about the Duo Gravis being a versatile instrument, I agree. 2bobone specifically mentioned his Silversonic Duo Gravis being able to keep up and keeping the sound together in classical settings, but that was a different era in orchestral playing. In today’s world of larger bass trombones, however, the Duo Gravis has been relegated to a more defined niche, and is often considered an ideal jazz or band-specific instrument, where it may not characteristically fit in as well as a modern boutique bass trombone in an orchestral setting.

Any instrument, in the capable hands of an experienced musician, can fit any style. My intention was not toward the controversial, and I should have known better than to word my post in that way.

The intent of this topic was to attempt to gather information about the King Duo Gravis bass trombone, regarding specifications, design intent, intricacies of the instrument, anecdotal quotes and opinions of people involved with the development, as well as prominent users of the instrument, in both brass AND sterling-belled variants.

Consequently, I did email Chuck Ward, and received a response that the development and release of the Duo Gravis was complete by the time he joined King in 1973, and he was unable to provide specifics as he was not involved in the process.
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