More on Amend, the One-Armed Harp Guitarist

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 Cresendo 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!

  1. Beverly Says:

    I am Bert Amend’s granddaughter, Beverly Amend Maloy. I lived closer to my grandparents than any of the other grandchildren even Robin Amend. I have grandpa’s up right player piano which he bought in 1905. I remember all the instruments grandpa had; once a month, when I was a young girl, grandpa and grandma would have family and friends come for an evening of music each playing on their own favorite instrument. My dad, Ford Amend, the third oldest of the Amend siblings, played the saw and the steel guitar. My brother, Donald Amend played the drums, Grandma played the old pump organ and grandpa on the piano. When I was six, I started taking piano lessons. Those were fun and enjoyable days which I miss. Grandpa even had a nose flute that my brother played. Robin Amend, who has the music store in Spokane has made part of the music store into an Amend museum where many of Grandpa and Grandma’s instruments have been given from many relatives. I had Grandma’s auto harp, and a vioin harp, which only a few were made and grandpa had two. I have many pictures of my dad and Grandpa playing in front of the piano with my Dad playing his saw and Grandpa playing a guitar.

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