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Rudy Wiedoeft

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Rudy Wiedoeft


Rudolph "Rudy" Cornelius Wiedoeft (3 January 1893, Detroit, Mich. - 18 February 1940, Flushing, N.Y.) was an American saxophonist.

The son of German immigrants, at a young age Wiedoeft started playing with his family orchestra, first on violin. At the age of 10, however, he fell off his bicycle delivering newspapers, broke his right arm, and was never able to bow properly again. He switched to the clarinet and by the time he was 15, was a top professional.

Saxophones were just beginning to come into the .US. They were considered a novelty, a toy which no one played well. Rudy picked one up on a whim, thinking the novelty might help augment his income, and very shortly, the instrument became his life’s devotion.

He moved to New York City and became known as a virtuoso saxophonist in the 1910s. He personally met Thomas Edison, the father of the phonograph, who recorded Rudy in 1917, an event that helped launch his career. Wiedoeft made more than 300 recordings for many different record labels, and did much to popularize the saxophone as an instrument in both the U.S. and overseas. His chief instrument was the C melody saxophone, a variety which was immensely popular from the 1910s until the U.S. stock market crash of October 1929. He also played and recorded a little on the E-flat alto and B-flat soprano as well.

His style was noted for very rapid runs of well articulated notes in between long lush legato phrases in a ragtime influenced style. The rapidly articulated notes were made possible by the advanced techniques of double-tonguing and triple-tonguing, similar to those used by brass (trumpet, trombone, etc.) players and flutists. He was also known for his style of vibrato, which was very wide in the later years of his playing. It is worth noting that in his earlier years, Wiedoeft's use of vibrato was quite spare and rather narrow. Wiedoeft employed several other 'sound effects,' such as slap tonguing and "laughing" (altering/bending the pitch of the note) through his horn, and alongside his very distinguishable vibrato, became a part of his musical arsenal to use at his disposal. While he incorporated some elements of early jazz into his playing, he remained stylistically a pre-jazz artist. Some of his original compositions were hits in their day, notably Valse Erica, Valse Llewellyn,Saxema, Saxophobia, and Sax-o-Phun.

He remained a very popular entertainer into the 1920s and performed regularly on radio, but his style started to sound more and more dated to the public as his career continued into the 1930s. He worked for a while in Rudy Vallee's band, then for a while in France. From the mid-1930s on, he essentially stopped playing and was involved in several mining investments that, unfortunately, did not prove successful.

Works for Winds


  • Rudy Wiedoeftworks, Wikipedia
  • Garfield, E. "How Rudy Wiedoeft’s Saxophobia Launched the Saxual Revolution. "Current Comments. Philadelphia: ISI Press. No. 10 (6 March 1989).