Claude Lakey

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In 1933, at age 23, Claude Lakey had his first professional performance with the Joe Rivet Band. An accomplished musician, Claude played the saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, and violin. After his time alongside Joe Rivet, Claude continued his career with the Orrin Tucker band and Ben Young's band.

It was during this time that he met Tex Beneke, another young saxophone player. In 1936, Claude and Tex joined what would become the Glenn Miller Band. Glenn Miller had been crafting his arrangements and assembling his band since the early 1930s, and this first incarnation of the iconic institution featured a bold, saxophone heavy sound that defined the era. Unfortunately, Glenn Miller's first band failed to make a name for itself in the first go-round, and by mid-1938 it was time the members moved on to other ensembles. Through the Glenn Miller Band, Claude met trumpeter Harry James, who had gained credibility by playing with the "King of Swing", Benny Goodman. Harry was setting out to start his own band, and he asked Claude to join him.

Swing music was responsible for creating pop standards sung by crooners such as Frank Sinatra. We also see a revival of pure jazz during this time, artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday bridged the pop standards with the blues roots of jazz. Towards the end of the decade, Claude enrolled at North Texas State University to pursue higher music education. It was there that he met Dr. Eugene Hall, known for starting the famous "One O'Clock Lab Band", of which Claude Lakey became the first conductor in 1949.

With the economy in its best form since the 1920s, people were able to spend money on music again. This contributed to prosperous sales of records and record players, an increased demand for listening to music in your home, and it introduced television programs centered around musicians on variety shows. All of this attention lead to the first crop of "Teen Idols", the leader of this pack being Elvis Presley.

The shift in the industry led Claude and his wife to move to the San Fernando Valley in the early 1950s where they opened the C&D Music Company, a music instrument store which sold everything from guitars to records to woodwind accessories. Claude invested in their new community by starting and directing the San Fernando Valley Youth Bands, which over the decades would develop the talents of many great musicians. In 1955, the same year he began the youth bands, Claude started working on the concept for the Original Claude Lakey Mouthpiece.

As a player himself, Claude knew what he wanted out of the ideal mouthpiece, he just needed to create it. At the beginning of this process, he purchased blanks from a variety of manufacturers, tested different facings, chamber sizes, but wasn't completely satisfied with the sound. So he created his own moulds. During this period, Claude made dozens of prototypes. Testing out different sizing, and tinkering with a piece while honing his skills and learning what a difference in sound each refinement created. The music industry was abuzz with new genres of music taking over the scene.

Rock n' Roll bands and pop music had taken over airwaves, and as these distant derivatives of jazz became prevalent, and the rise of hippie and counterculture youth created the demand for it, saxophones began to be used in a different context. Rock bands featured saxophone blaring above the noise of amplified instruments, powerful solos bridging the new era of music with its swinging predecessor. Claude recognized the way the industry was changing, and in crafting his Original mouthpiece, knew that working musicians needed complete diversity in genre to suit any gig they might play.

Marking his confidence and commitment to the crafting of his ideal piece, Claude sold C&D Music Company to make more time for his new venture. He opened his first mouthpiece shop in the corner of the C&D music store. As professional musicians wandered through C&D for gear, Claude would ask them to try out his mouthpiece. As more and more musicians fell in love with his Original Mouthpiece, word spread quickly through the music community.

Music developed from the "gateway" rock of the 60s to an expanse of dozens of "rock" genres. The most popular of the day were southern rock, folk rock, jazz rock, and soft rock. Also gaining popularity was "Funk", an arm of "Soul" music. Rhythm and Blues music started gaining traction as well. All of this experimenting lead to crossing genres and instruments making their way to a variety of different ensembles.

In the early 1980s we see a resurgence of jazz music again, this time in the form of smooth jazz. While synthetic instruments were still favored in the mainstream media, several genres pushed back against the lack of live musicians. Rock music took back its classic instrumentation in the 80s, and Contemporary R&B became the industry response to the soul music of the 1970s.

Adding disco-like beats and borrowing elements from hip-hop and blues to make a more danceable tune, artists like Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Earth, Wind & Fire were stars in this growing genre. With the growth of popularity through word of mouth, the growing facets of the industry, and increased demand for players, Claude quickly outgrew his corner shop. And in the early 1980s Claude decided to move the business to his hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas.

The 1990s saw music become even more segmented than it had before. Mainstream music split into dozens of genres, each with their own following and popularity. The market exploded with new takes on rock music such as grunge and punk rock. The changing soundscape made room for whatever talent it could find. Vocalists garnered a lot of the attention, as Mariah Carey became one of the most iconic names of the decade. Even with all of these changes, Claude continued to successfully manufacture at his Texas facility. But, early in 1990, Claude knew something was wrong. He was sick, and at 80 he knew if he didn't teach a predecessor the ropes, the business could deteriorate with him gone.

He called Nick, to whom he had sold C&D Music all those years ago, and asked him if he would learn the trade and take over the business. Nick flew out to Texas and began working side-by-side with Claude. During this time, it was confirmed that Claude had cancer. He was confident in his decision to pass on the legacy of making high quality, handcrafted mouthpieces to Nick, a man Claude trusted with his business and namesake. Soon after, Claude lost his battle with cancer. He is remembered fondly for his pioneering spirit, attention to quality, and great contribution to the music community.

Continuing to use the same specifications, tools, and techniques with which Claude built the company. Nick grew the company in its new home of Seattle, Washington. Coming out of the first decade under Nick's ownership, he decided it was time to expand the brand and create another mouthpiece line. Partnering with local artists such as Jeff Kashiwa, he designed our Apollo Mouthpiece, expanding the Claude Lakey brand into a new medium: Brass. Continuing in the spirit of innovation the company was built upon, the Apollo line solidified Lakey's place as one of the most recognizable brands in the industry. The rapid growth of the internet at the beginning of the decade turned the music industry upside down. With unprecedented access to music, artists were now able to listen instantly, and distribute their own music freely.

Jazz music continued its growth from the smooth jazz era of the 1980s. Musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, and Wynton Marsalis stand out as innovators of this period. There was also a vocal jazz resurgence seen during this time. Singers such as Diana Krall and Norah Jones had chart topping hits with a blend of traditional jazz and modern rock sounds.

Continuing to adhere to our high standard of quality, while expanding still, reaching a wide range of musicians, the Claude Lakey of today has come a long way from the corner shop in C&D music. With our products now available in stores in over twenty countries, we continue to keep the musician in mind as we develop new, innovative products to suit the needs of a wide variety of players. In 2013, Claude Lakey released its Compass Ligature, partnering with BOA technology, creators of the innovative reel and lace closure system. Using their patented click-reel technology to secure reeds with even, uniform pressure, the Compass revolutionizes the relationship between your mouthpiece and reed.

Inspired by the innovation Claude first had, of taking something standard and crafting it into something exceptional— we are inspired to continue his tradition of making the best piece possible. As we continue to grow through this current decade, we plan to see more products created with the same determination to challenge the status quo and forge a new path to help you achieve your best sound.