I found a vintage nose flute that is a real mystery, the Humatune. Oh yes, it sounds like the Hum-A-Tune, the late 1960s Hong Kong copy of the plastic Gretsch Humanatone (see here for instance), but this Humatune brand wears no dashes. Yes, it has the shape of a Gretsch Humanatone, but it is made of metal. Yes, it was made in Japan, like the Gretsch metal Humanatone (see here). In fact it is the exact same flute that the Japan made metal Humanatone. Just the brand and the packaging are different.
Both Humatune and Humanatone, Japan make:
The Humatune clearly uses the same branding codes and graphic chart that the Humanatone, also declined on the 1950-60 plastic version box (see here)
So, the Humatune should be a Fred Gretsch Mfg Co. product. But there were earlier versions of the plastic Humanatone (since 1943), and the brand 'Humanatone' was already a Gretsch property. So why having used an new brand ?
As we said, the printed texts are different. It is interesting to notice the differences, notably in the titles, on one hand "The Nose Flute / A musical instrument…" and on the other hand "Nose Flute / The musical instrument…". It is sometimes possible to deduce which text is prior to another one, for instance when typo had been corrected. But here ...
Although the text is elegant and rather regular, a closer look shows that it had been hand written. Not even produced with a lettering guide... Check the differences between the letters (the size of the 'o' or the 's' for instance). This is pure meticulous hand writing:
And this was probably the same person who wrote both text. The global 'hand' is the same, but more, the little mistakes are the same! For instance, the 'kerning' mistakes regarding the just placement of the 'i' between 'r' and 'l' in NOSTRILS, etc.
(this is not a) Conclusion
The Japan make Humatune and Humanatone should probably have not been sold at the same moment. Indeed, as they were both produced by the same company and share many identities, the text should have been the same. So, my opinion is that one preceded the other. Which one first?
Points in favor of the anteriority of the Humanatone:
- The headline "The musical instrument that anybody can play" is placed on the Humanatone version just over a insertion cutting: when the instrument is on the cardboard, it masks half of the text. The Humatune version, on whish the text has been displaced, may look as a correction.
Points in favor of the anteriority of the Humatune:
- If the first metal flute had been branded Humanatone, there would have been absolutely no obvious reason to change the brand into a new and unknown brand.
- "… and first finger of hand" [Humatune] sounds like gibberish (would one have thought they could play with their foot ?). The sentence "… and forfinger of either hand" [Humanatone] sounds like a correction.
- The use of the article 'the' ('the nose flute') is a bit strange, and did not appeared on the the different boxes that packaged the plastic version. This looks like an archaïc version.
- The sentence "No opening at the corner of the mouth so air can escape" is not very clear. On the Humanatone, the last part is missing. This could have been a correction.
- "you can play" [Humanatone] sounds like a simplification of "you can learn to play" [Humatune]
- 'firmly' ("Hold the Humanatone firmly") is a word you would add, but probably not remove from a user manual. It doesn't appear on the Humatune.
- Many other little details ... "anybody"/"anyone", "hum a tune or sing"/"sing, hum or whistle a tune"… plead in favor of the Humanatone as an amended version.
So, why would have the Gretsch co. used another brand in the early version of this instrument ? Could have it been in order to avoid confusion between the metal and the plastic instruments ?
Could have Gretsch bought a competitor called Humatune, kept the name, but replaced the instrument and the graphic chart ?