Oral History -

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Kline Locher was one of the good old veteran piano salesmen who travelled the great one-lane highways of America before the advent of the blessed two lane interstates. Kline worked for a number of piano companies during his long career and in all, covered most of the United States as his territory.

Richard Loberg worked for the Schmitt Music store for nearly his entire working career. The company was formed in 1896 in Minneapolis, largely as a piano store. Over the years the company expanded its musical products and services. Shortly after World War II, Richard joined the sales force, although getting musical products directly after the war was difficult, as many suppliers were gearing their operations back up. Soon after the products began coming back to the stores, Richard witnessed the boom of guitars and the store’s record department.

Larry Leberte was proud of his family’s history in music retail. Larry’s grandfather opened a small music retail shop just after the Great Depression hit the United States in the early 1930s. He crafted a business plan that would include trade and bartering as well as greatly expanding the products he offered his customers. Larry’s father carried on the store’s rich history, working closely with music programs in Birmingham, AL.

Albrecht Kretzschmann was the vice president of sales for JA Musik in Germany and played an important role in the company’s expansion into the global market. His vast understanding of the brass instrument product line along with export business became a factor in the commerce of musical instruments in Germany to the west and Asia.

Jerry Kovarsky is the product manager at KORG who teamed with Jack Hotop to create a long line of innovative synthesizer products for KORG beginning in the early 1980s. Jerry and Jack led the team who introduced the first MIDI workstation, the KORG Triton, the KORG Oasys and more recently the M3.

Alberto Kniepkamp engineered many of the electronic organs produced by the Lowrey Organ Company in the 1970s and 80s. Alberto took an active role in the development of the MX1 Lowrey Organ, which was introduced at the NAMM Show in 1979. The product was one of many engineered by Alberto, who began work at Chicago Musical Instruments, which owned Lowrey Organs in the 1960s and 70s. The company changed names to Norlin, which continued to fund research and development for the organ products until the company sold its assets in the 1980s.

Bernie Kalban was one of the great veterans of the music publishing industry. Having worked in the era right after Tin Pan Alley, in the Brill Building and with many of the top firms, Bernie witnessed many of the most important changes to the music industry during the 20th century. He began working for Mills Music in 1939 and was there until he was drafted for World War II.

Brian Justice had been a salesman in many industries in Europe and gained a well-respected name in the music industry for his import/export business between England and Germany, about a decade after World War II. While in the British service, Brian took part in the Berlin Airlift (1948-49) and became interested in the business and cultural traditions of the country.

Robert Johnson served as a sales manager for Chicago Musical Instruments (CMI) when the company first acquired the noted violinmakers William Lewis & Son. As a salesman, he worked closely with Harry Benson, who was also interviewed for the NAMM Oral History program thanks to Robert.

Paul Johnson formed one of the early surf bands in Southern California during the golden era of instrumental music. As a guitarist and songwriter, Paul performed and recorded in the days before the Beach Boys, when it was common for an instrumental recording to be on the Top Ten lists.

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