Smokesax: 70-Foot-Tall Saxophone (Gone)
The owner of a nightclub in Houston named Billy Blues wanted artist Bob "Daddy-O" Wade to build a giant musical instrument to stand outside -- but he didn't want a guitar. Bob suggested a big blue saxophone. "The sax is an interesting-looking contraption," Bob told us, "and I knew I could probably get away with having all kinds of weirdness."
Bob decided to build the saxophone on the fly out of found objects. It took him only three weeks. He used oilfield pipe, an aluminum canoe, cattle troughs, miles of plastic conduits, a surfboard for the reed, and beer kegs for the mouthpiece. The bottom of the bell of the saxophone was made from an upside-down VW Beetle ("The curve was just perfect," said Bob.) and one of its hubcaps became the knob for adjusting the reed.
Bob also "borrowed" many metal domes from room service meals at his hotel, which wound up on the saxophone as valve covers and other embellishments.
The big sax, christened "Smokesax," was repainted red when the nightclub changed owners, then painted blue again. Then the nightclub went out of business.
Bob feared that his 70-foot-tall masterpiece would be torn down, so he called The Orange Show (a nearby folk art environment and non-profit art preservation group) and suggested, half-joking, that they could use it as a billboard out by the freeway.
To his surprise, they agreed. After 20 years in its original spot, Smokesax was carefully disassembled and currently lies in a warehouse. The Orange Show plans to erect it in its new location in 2015.