Oral History -
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.
David Cockerell designed one of the earliest synthesizers produced in the United Kingdom. The Synthi was introduced in the late 1960s by EMS Ltd. The unit, which came in a case with a KS keyboard, used patch cords to root reverb and ring modes. David also included two oscillators both with shape and level controllers as well as a frequency control.
Ravi Shankar was called the Godfather of World Music by his long time friend George Harrison. Ravi’s role in bringing Indian music to the world was the beginning of many musical exchanges that have since been referred to as world music. Ravi’s role as a player is only matched by his amazing teaching, writing and arranging skills that have been showcased in concerts and recording during his long musical career.
Abigail Ybarra was hired to work in the Fender factory back in 1956; just years after the famous electric guitar company released the Stratocaster. She conveyed in her interviews that the early years of the company were very exciting and that she and the rest of the factory workers were very proud of the popularity of the instruments that they were making.
Speedy West was inducted into the Pedal Steel Guitar Hall of Fame as one of the instrument’s most innovative performers. He was able to apply his unique style to country, jazz, and popular music. As a driving force on classic recordings with Jimmy Bryant, Speedy was also a long time product endorser for Fender Guitars.
Morton Subotnick composed one of the earliest and most important works of electronic music. When his album “Silver Apples of the Moon” was released in the late 1960s, it represented an entirely new era of composition. Years before the recording, he hired inventor and engineer Don Buchla to create a musical synthesizer, which preceded the Moog synthesizer by a few years.
Artie Shapiro played the double bass during the golden era of the big bands. His approach to the bass was steeped in the tradition of his classical background. Studio orchestras soon hired him, where he worked extensively for live radio programs.