It was created by Maynard Ferguson in the 1970s, although similar type instruments combining valves and a slide were mass produced in the early 20th century; perhaps the most well-known manufacturer to produce examples was C.G. Conn. The most well-known previous version of the valve-slide trombone was called a 'Valide Trombone', a portmanteau of the words 'valve' and 'slide' . Jazz trombonist and reedist Brad Gowans invented the valide trombone and was well known for playing one from the 1920s on into the 1940s. In the 1970s the Superbone, which has a different design (including a slide that locks) became a staple for trumpeters such as Ferguson and Don Ellis, who doubled on the Superbone models built by Holton (TR 395) in collaboration with Ferguson.
Maynard Ferguson recorded a chart entitled "Superbone Meets the Bad Man" on his Chameleon album which features him playing his Superbone. Perhaps more demonstrative of the hybrid valve-slide trombone's capabilities is Ashley Alexander's recording "Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most", found on his Secret Love album. Alexander demonstrates its flexibility to the full, utilising both slide and valves expertly, combining scoops and glissandi with fast segments of fingered riffs. Alexander played a 'double trombone', an earlier version of the valve-slide trombone for lefties which had the slide on the left played with the left hand, while the valves were played with the right hand.
One of the earliest recorded examples of the hybrid valve/slide trombone can be found on a Duke Ellington recording, as Cuban-born trombonist Juan Tizol started using it after he joined Duke's orchestra in 1928. Tizol was commonly credited as playing valve trombone. This can be seen in the 1933 film short by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra entitled "Bundle Of Blues".
Physically, a Superbone has the fully functioning slide of a traditional tenor trombone with 7 positions, when no valves are depressed. It also has a set of three valves, lying just after the slide in the airstream, which are arranged in the same manner as on other valved instruments of the same pitch. The player grips the valve section with their left hand, which supports the weight of the instrument. The player's right arm holds and moves the slide.
The Superbone gives the player the option of playing the instrument as a slide trombone, a valve trombone, or in combination. However, a warning needs to be attached to the sometimes expressed view that the valves/slide combination offers an easy transposition facility, because the slide positions do not stay the same when valves are depressed, and vice versa - the valves do not add enough tubing to make the expected difference when the slide is extended. This means that it is impractical to use the slide as a transposition aid, unless there is enough time (and excess tubing on the valve slides) to retune every valve. This consideration makes using the Superbone's capabilities to the full solely the province of the expert. A further, related, limitation of this method is that the larger downward valve transpositions make the 7th and even 6th positions unusable, beyond the end of the slide. If the many alternative positions (see Arban for Trombone) are mastered, this may be used as a method of transposition - a pattern played on the slide may be repeated lower, in the stretched same positions as before, with valves depressed. In comparison, a Bass Trombone with two independent rotary valves allows the player to play a complete scale in most keys without having to go past fourth position.