Blaze Fingers Episode 9: A 24-Karat Gold-Plated Selmer Mark VI

Tuesday, January 10, 1961, 2 PM: Oakwood Trails Jazz Club, Chicago, Illinois.

Fats Bixby: Kid, let me take a look at your horn.

Maurice Jr carefully passed his alto saxophone over to Fats.

Fats Bixby: Where did you get this horn, kid?

Maurice Jr: I bought it from Castellano’s Pawn Shop on Racine Avenue.

Fats: One piece of advise Maurice: don’t EVER buy musical instruments from a pawn shop. That’s like buying a car from from a mattress salesman. Always buy your musical instruments from people who are EXPERTS on musical instruments.

Maurice Jr nodded his understanding: Yes, Uncle Fats.

Fats: I understand that some of the kids in the neighborhood call you Blaze Fingers. That’s a pretty cool stage name. Do you want to use that as your professional name?

Maurice Jr.: Yes, Uncle Fats.

Fats: Okay, from here on out, I’ll always address you as Blaze Fingers.

Blaze Fingers felt a burst of pride as he thought about using Blaze Fingers as his permanent stage name.

Fats: A name is very important. It instills confidence in you, and it tells the world a story about what you are really made of. My real name isn’t Fats Bixby, it’s Warren Robinson Bixby III. That was a mouthful, so I shortened my stage name to something very easy to remember: Fats.

Fats looked down intensely at the saxophone in his hands.

Fats: This is a King alto saxophone: a student model. You, Blaze Fingers, are going to be a world-class saxophonist, and this ISN’T a world-class saxophone. Meet me at my home tomorrow at 9 AM sharp. We are going to go to Kagan and Gaines Music in downtown to get you a REAL saxophone.

Blaze Fingers: Yes Sir!!

Blaze looked out of the car’s window as Fats drove them towards downtown Chicago. It was a very beautiful but cool Wednesday in Chicago, and the streets were bustling with activity. The drive to Kagan and Gaines was relatively short, and before Blaze knew it, they had arrived at their destination. Kagan and Gaines was on Wabash Avenue, a very bust street at the heart of downtown Chicago. Blaze had heard so many stories about Kagan and Gaines from his father. His father told him that Kagan and Gaines was a popular location for musicians to buy instruments and music supplies since it opened in 1930. Fats and Blaze entered the store through its magnificent silver-crested portico.

Joe Cali: Hi, I’m Joe Cali! Welcome to Kagan and Gaines! How can I help you?

Fats Bixby: I am mentoring this young man in his quest to become a great saxophonist. We are looking to purchase a new alto saxophone for him today.

Joe Cali: Well, I think that we can certainly help you. Do you have any particular brand in mind? We have Conn, King, Selmer, Martin, and many other brands.

Fats thought back to all of the great saxophonists that he had played with. He remembered how great Ben Webster sounded on his Selmer Balanced Action.

Fats: I think that we definitely want to get him a Selmer saxophone. Which one of your Selmer horns would you consider your best?

Joe Cali: We have several Selmer Mark VI horns. They are fantastic saxophones, and we are having a very hard time keeping them in stock.

Joe Cali guided Fats and Blaze over to a display case containing four saxophone: two Selmer Mark VI alto saxophones, and two Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophones. All four of the saxophones were lacquered.

Fats: These horns look very nice, but I have something with a little bit more punch and excitement in mind that says “this is a special player”. For example, the King saxophones with the silver bell are a little bit more attractive than these relatively plain-looking Selmer horns. Do you have a Selmer saxophone with a little bit more pizzazz???

Joe Cali thought silently for a moment.

Joe Cali: We did just get in a new Selmer horn. It’s still boxed up in the back room. It just arrived yesterday. It is EXTREMELY rare and EXTREMELY expensive.

Fats: I don’t care about the price. We need to get him the RIGHT horn.

Blaze could not believe what he was witnessing. He had grown up poor, and he had become accustomed to poverty. He could not believe that this man, who was a stranger only a short time ago, was now on the brink of buying him a very expensive saxophone.

Joe Cali: Please excuse me for a second. I’ll go to the back room and bring out the horn.

Both Fats and Blaze were filled with giddy excitement in anticipation of seeing this “special” horn. What could it possibly be made of, and how would it look!!!!????

Joe Cali emerged from the back room grinning from ear-to-ear.

Joe Cali: I think that you gentlemen are going to SERIOUSLY like this!

Joe Cali slowly, teasingly opened the saxophone case. When it opened, the heavens parted, and a sparkling glittering gold-encrusted saxophone masterpiece emerged. Both Fats Bixby and Blaze Fingers gasped at its sheer beauty.

Joe Cali: Gentlemen, this is a Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone plated in pure 24 karat gold, serial number 90411.

Fats Bixby: We’ll take it. Can you add engraving to the front reading “Blaze Fingers”?

Joe Cali: Yes, we can!

Fats Bixby looked down at Blaze: Blaze, I know that you don’t understand why I’m doing this for you. When I was a young struggling piano player, a wealthy patroness from a prominent New England family took me under her wing. She sponsored me: she paid for my private piano lessons, she bought me a world-class piano, and she gave me an allowance so that I could spend my time working on my craft, instead of having to hustle for money to make a living. She NEVER asked for anything in return, and she never explained to me WHY she was so generous to me. In a couple of decades, I want you to remember this time, and I want you to help some young kids who are struggling. Do you understand!?

Blaze Fingers: Yes, Uncle Fats, I understand. Thank you!

Fats Bixby: It is my honor and privilege to buy you this horn. Now we can focus on the problems at hand: we’ve got to get your dad out of prison, and we’ve got to get you the point of absolute mastery over that horn so that you can start making a living.

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Thank you for reading this exciting episode of Blaze Fingers. The next episode of Blaze Fingers will arrive on Friday, February 26, 2021. We’ll see you then!!!!

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