Oral History -
Lynn Wheelwright has always been fascinated with the guitar, especially the craft of building the instrument. After performing as a teenager, he developed many of his luthier skills from repairing guitars in his own shop. After befriending Alvino Rey in the 1980s and repairing several of Mr. Rey’s instruments, Lynn began studying the history of vintage guitars.
Stephen Stern was born a wood craftsman. In fact, growing up his two passions became building furniture and playing the guitar. When he had an opportunity to put both together in the early 1980s, he jumped at the chance and went to work for Charvel Guitars. After returning to cabinet making he saw an ad for a job at the newly created custom guitar division at Fender and applied for the job. John Page hired him back in 1993 and gave Stephen the task of over-seeing the building of the D’Aquisto arch top guitars at Fender.
Dan Smith was inducted into Fender’s Hall of Fame for good reason. Dan designed the re-launching of the famous guitar company after it was sold by CBS. Dan’s vision was to bring the product back to the early concepts that originally made the Fender name famous. His success led to a long career with Fender including his role with artist relations and marketing.
Money Mark grew up fascinated with music and musical instruments. He read all he could about the latest keyboards and synthesizers, which were becoming popular during his childhood. In his 20s he played in several Los Angeles-area bands, wrote his own music and began recording. All of this was the perfect background for his next big adventure--meeting and recording with the Beastie Boys. Money Mark worked on the Check Your Head album in 1992 as well as III Communication (1994), Hello Nasty (1998) and The Mix Up (2007).
George Hanson’s father was hired by M. Steinert and Sons, the piano dealer in Boston, in 1900. Forty years later George would help his father out after school and on weekends to earn some pocket money. In 1947 George was hired full time and became the longest running employee in the company’s history.
Frank Green opened his first music retail store in Southern California in 1959 and called it Music For Everyone. He began working in the music industry some 12 years earlier as student enroller in an accordion school. He soon became a teacher for the school and a manager before deciding to open his own store.
DJ Fontana drove down to Houston in a pink Cadillac with Elvis Presley after being hired as the then unknown singer’s first drummer. They pulled up to Herbie Brodstein’s Drum Shop (Herb would later form Pro-Mark Drum Sticks) to buy a kit. After playing on all of the sets Herb had out on display, young Elvis sat at Herb’s own set and asked if it was for sale. It was.
Lloyd Fillio grew up in the band instrument capital, Elkhart, Indiana. His father worked in the industry as did his uncle and cousin (Ernie Kenaga who was also interviewed). It seemed natural for Lloyd to work in the industry.
Bill (the Buddha) Dickens became a performer/inventor when the speed of his funky bass lines allowed him to do more than the traditional four string electric bass would allow. Working with Cort Guitars, the Dickens model was designed by Bill and the Cort engineers to get the most out of his talents.
Rob Cook’s name is very familiar to those interested in vintage drums and the companies who produced them. As an author and publisher Rob has penned a series including “The Slingerland Book,” “The Rogers Drum Book,” and “The Ludwig Book.” Rob also established Rebeat Vintage Drums and the magazine Not So Modern Drummer along with authoring hundreds of articles that have appeared in many of the leading drum publications. Once more, Rob has been a historian at heart and has been a great supporter of this archival project.