Library - In Memoriam

Remembering oral history interviewees who have passed away.

Mario Procida formed a music distribution company in El Salvador in 1958 that soon expanded into several surrounding countries as well. His strong understanding of musical traditions and the import/export business resulted in Mario’s notable influence as a leader in the music products industry. He knew all too well that unstable governments result in unstable economies, but he pressed on for quality and music awareness in countries whose citizens valued traditional music but were influenced and persuaded by pop culture.

 Don Johnson received his degree in journalism and later landed the editor’s job at a recording industry trade magazine.  Years later the magazine was sold to the owners of the Music Merchandise Review (MMR).  Under Don’s editorial direction the magazine has focused on music dealers with profiles and product news.  He also worked hard to ensure that each issue would contain tips and suggestions that could be applied to any retail store.  In 2007 Don led the effort for the first

Donald Kahn recalled the moment he first realized he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a songwriter. It was as a five-year old child playing under his father’s piano as he composed.

Mike Battle invented the Echoplex, the pioneering electric effects device, which played a vital role in the early development of the rock and roll sound.

This audio only interview was conducted for a radio program by Dan Del Fiorentino and donated to the NAMM Oral History program: Harry Sargent was a jazz drummer based out of Memphis, Tennessee.

Hawley Ades was hired by Irving Berlin in 1932 to assist the legendary American songwriter with musical arrangements.  Hawley stayed with Berlin for five years before being hired by choir master and bandleader Fred Waring.  He joined Mr.

William F. Ludwig II was proud of the company his father started, largely based on the 1909 patented bass drum pedal, which allowed the drummer to sit down for the first time.

Billy Wennlund and his brother Don made up one of the most iconic sales teams in the music products industry. Don was the salesman, the guy with the pitch and Billy knew the products inside out. Together they helped establish the Lowrey Organ in the home market. They were both born in DeKalb, IL and while Billy was in the US Navy, Don got a job at Wurlitzer. When he returned, Billy joined Don at Wurlitzer and in 1958 they opened their own music retail store. Years later Billy became the Vice President of Product Development for Norlin, which owned Lowrey Organs.

Kenny Chilton was deeply passionate about the electric organ. While working at a piano and organ retail store in the Los Angeles area in the late 1960s, Kenny was approached by a research team working with the Mattel Toy Company. After answering a series of questions over several days he was asked if he would be interested in helping the toy company design and produce a low end organ instrument. Kenny headed the sales efforts for the Optigan, which was produced between 1971 and 1976.

John Massa was the vice president of customer service at the Selmer Company and was known for building a strong dealer base, many of which became his personal friends. John contracted Polio at the age of 12 and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, but never once let his disability define him. He was a pioneer in handicap awareness by just insisting he be able to do his job. As a result ramps were added to airports he used and buildings he worked in. During his 17 years of attending the Frankfurt Fair special chairlifts were installed to accommodate his needs.

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