After several years with Harpguitars.net and collecting/archiving hundreds of rare images of harp guitar players, this still has to be just about the most amazing photograph ever. You’ll remember it from the special Knutsen Archives feature, Bert Amend & the One-Armed Musicians, which debuted in February 2004 (pre-Harpguitars.net). We owe the discovery of the remarkable photos and even more remarkable story to Kerry Char, who spent years tracking down the owner and convincing him to share this treasure.
That would be the grandson, Robin Amend, who keeps the music center and spirit alive even now, and to whom anyone enjoying this obscure bit of American history owes a debt of gratitude.
I just updated the article with a nice profile from the Crescendo magazine of November 1911. It shows Bert and his orchestra likely just before the Knutsens were included in the act.
In my same “To Do” folder, I saw another image I had never added to the Amend story – Bert’s original “Artificial Hand Playing Attachment.” I have no idea what all the felt wheels are for.
I then realized that I had never located the patent that grandson Robin referred to. This was patented in 1906 as a device to play accompaniment chords on the piano – sharps, flats, it didn’t matter. Quite ingenious, though I haven’t quite yet figured out the mechanics (feel free to take a wack at it someone, and dumb it down for me).
Finally, I added at the bottom of my updated article the transcription of Robin’s own 2000 magazine piece on his grandfather’s amazing story…
…which I would file under: Harp guitars, Handicapped Musicians, Americana, Unusual Vaudeville Acts, Perseverance and Triumph Over Adversity and Inspiration To Us All!