The Deluxe Neo Classic Concert Grand Vibraphone was designed and built by Clair Omar Musser around 1941 for competition in the International Paris Musical Instrument Exhibition. It is the only one ever built and remains in excellent condition, including the bars, which are still perfectly in tune.
This three-octave F–F vibraphone has the narrow steel bars used frequently by early vibraphone makers. The bars are longer than standard bars to allow for “incomparable sostenuto” (longer ring). Though the gold-colored plating is common now, it was less common when Musser made this instrument.
The ten lowest natural bars have holes or indentations drilled in them to accommodate the posts that hold the accidental bars. This was necessary because of the combination of the unique twin damper design and the need to have the accidental bars overlap the natural bars. The modern vibraphone is dampened by a single dampener bar because the accidentals are flush (or flat) with the naturals. The Neo Classic vibraphone has one dampener for each row of bars.
Musser advertised the Neo Classic as being an “ultra-modern design, black and gold with simulated white leather ends.” The instrument was designed to be very portable. It breaks down into two parts: the bars and resonators housed in the top portion of the frame, and the supporting, lower portion of the frame. The front grill panel hinges backward and locks to the main part of the frame.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Neo Classic is its resonator design. The resonators for the lowest six accidentals and nine naturals are made of metal and are bent at right angles to keep the vibraphone as compact as possible. The upper resonators are made of heavy-duty cardboard tubes, possibly to keep the instrument lighter in weight.
The instrument was donated to the PAS Museum by Joel Leach.