Remembering a Friend
Since I was a early teen, I wanted to meet a bongo man named Preston Epps. I was first made aware of him when I was about 13 years old, sitting on the floor of my uncle's house and listening to records. My uncle played several of his 45s for me that he had kept since he was about my age. I recall watching the label spin around and around while I listened to some of the coolest music I had ever heard! One such record was “Bongo Rock” by Preston Epps. I recall thinking, "It sure would be nice to meet that man." Fast forward to my 30s when I was conducting interviews for NAMM, I asked several friends if they could help me locate Mr. Epps and to my great surprise, I not only got to interview him, but we became friends.
Record companies seemed to be quick to jump on the bandwagon for instrumental trends in the early 1950s. The combination of the waning popularity of big bands and a large cache of powerful musicians still under contract, record companies such as RCA were looking for every opportunities to take advantage of the next big musical fad.
The NAMM community and musicians everywhere are mourning the loss of Hal Blaine, known as the world’s most recorded drummer, who passed away at the age of 90 on March 11, 2019. Hal was a fixture within the NAMM ecosystem, often spotted at a NAMM Show booth talking with people for as long as they wanted. Hal also was extremely passionate about the work of the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, California. Shortly after the museum first opened, Hal volunteered not only his time, but his expertise to speak to guests at a drum exhibition and by the end of the event, Hal even left behind one of his own drum kits for other patrons to enjoy. Hal was a friend to all who will be dearly missed.
By including the name of a musical instrument such as piano, banjo and clarinet in his song titles, Irving Berlin became an advocate and promoter of our industry!
There are those we meet for which we feel an immediate connection. This was the case for when I first met Grassella Oliphant and he later told me that he felt the same way.
Trummy Young was the very first person I ever interviewed. His kindness and fascinating life captivated me and his interview became the foundation of my passion for capturing the stories of those in the music world, which is now my career, my dream job. As I write this blog, August 2018, it’s likely that I will record my 4,000 interview this fall. And to think, my first interview was when I was
Arne Berg came into my life thanks to Yoshi Abe, the engineer behind the TEAC reel to reel recorder. When Abe-San was interviewed, he informed me that fellow audio engineer, Arne Berg, was living just north of me in Southern California.
Specs was a drummer’s drummer! When I first sat down with Ed Shaughnessy (1929-2013) who played drums for The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, all Ed wanted to talk about was the lessons he learned from Specs Powell!
Specs was also a friend’s friend! And I was humbled and honored to have known him!
Each time my wife and I take a walk in a new place, we take a moment to pick up a pebble to remember the experience. As I reflect back on some of the influential people that I have had the privilege to meet and know, I thought of this concept: that learning a nugget of knowledge from these mentors is a lot like picking up a pebble. Each time I learn something new, I gain another pebble of wisdom. Just last night, I learned of the passing of jazz journalist and dear friend, Cam Miller, who I certainly picked up several pebbles of wisdom from over the years.
A love of jazz first brought Eric and I together. We worked together for several years in the 1990s, but even after that working relationship ended, our friendship grew. He knew all about the bebop era and I knew about the swing era, and together we covered 50 years of jazz and explored all the other eras together.
Professor Fritz Sennheiser had a deep interest in audio, long before he designed a tube voltmeter and his first microphone after World War II, which launched his company, Sennheiser Electronic. He was born in Berlin in 1912 and by the time he was ten, he was already building his first crystal radio set.
No one I have ever interviewed embodied the wide-eyed excitement of a child and teamed it with the creative engineering of a world class scientist like Ikutaro Kakehashi. Mr. K was passionate and full of gratitude for "being lucky enough" to design and develop musical instruments, which as he often pointed out, would be held in the hands of great musicians who would then make the world sound better!
The annual NAMM Tribute program is our industry’s chance to pause and remember those no longer with us. This special program includes the names and images of those who have passed away since our last gathering in Anaheim. This year’s program will begin at 5:30pm on Thursday January 19th in from of the NAMM Nissan Grand Plaza Stage outside of the convention center. With music and friends, we have a chance to reflect and remember. Please join us as our industry comes together to pay our respects.
Don Buchla was among the most influential engineers in the early development of electronic music. His Buchla 100 was used by a long list of electronic composers who wanted to explore the sounds that were possible on this instrument. That list includes Morton Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros and Gladys Krenek. In later years, his instruments were explored by a new generation of composers such as
First and most importantly, it is a humbling statement that Scotty Moore was my friend! Long before I knew his name, I knew that sound! I could pick out his guitar licks on records that didn't even list his name on the jacket (expanded internet listings now give me confirmation). When I was ten, my mom took me to the big city library where I boldly asked the reference librarian who was playi