Library - In Memoriam

Remembering oral history interviewees who have passed away.

Gerald “Wig” Wiggins was a world renowned composer, arranger and jazz keyboardist. As an early pioneer in playing jazz on the Hammond B-3 organ, Wig had a strong interest in new and inventive sounds.

David Kutner was new to the music products industry when he was offered the job as President of Hammond Organs in the late 1960s. It was a time for change in the organ business as sales slipped from the decade before, resulting in the discontinuation of the famous B3 line by David’s predecessors. However, the greatest boom for the organ market was about to take place. Dave felt the time was right to launch a new product, which his wife named the “Hammond Piper.” It was a great success and one that gave the company new life.

Bo Diddley was the pioneering rhythm and blues performer who taught the industry one main point in the early days of the electric guitar era. With his square cigar box guitar, patented by Gretsch, Bo demonstrated that, if it’s electronic, it could be any shape and size.

Eleanor West and her husband Pearl established a music store in Iowa City just a year after getting married in 1940. Eleanor was the bookkeeper in the early years of West Music Company and was known to make a penny last during the Great Depression and World War II.

Fred Kalisky became enamored with the maracas on his very first trip to Mexico City and realized it was an instrument that could be successful in the Canadian market (his home since relocating from his native Poland after World War II). The same year, 1957, he formed his wholesale business and called it the Efkay Music Group. The company soon expanded following the Beatles boom of the early 1960s with Fred’s sharp idea to import electric guitars from Japan.

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.