Oral History -

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Bruce Bolen has had a long and colorful career in the music industry spanning nearly 50 years and with two of the best-known guitar makers in the world. Mr. M.H. Berlin, the president of Chicago Musical Instruments (CMI), first hired Bruce into the industry. At the time, CMI owned Gibson Guitars and Bruce worked in marketing their products.

Ingbert Bluthner followed in the rich history of his family tradition of building world-class pianos. Under Ingbert’s leadership the company expanded production and models along with developing new global distribution chains.

Brady Blade was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, to the pastor of the Zion Baptist Church, Rev. Brady Blade Sr. and his wife Dorothy. At an early age Brady Jr. began playing music in the church and at community events, developing a passion for a wide range of musical styles. He worked for several recording labels before touring with Emmylou Harris in 1995 with the Spyboy Band.

Rob Birenbaum has always had a love for percussion. As a drummer, he enjoyed playing the instrument and found equal satisfaction in selling percussion instruments and related accessories when he formed Drum Headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. The store became a hub for percussionists and created a strong customer base from around the world, long before email and the Internet.

Paul Bierley was a leading expert and author on the life and music of John Philip Sousa. A passionate fan of band music, Paul noticed several elements of Sousa’s career that were not documented.

Arnold Berlin was a one-time president of Chicago Musical Instruments (CMI) and co-founder of Norlin Music Corp. He is also Mr. M.H. Berlin’s son, one of the true icons of the industry. Arnie spoke of how his father got started in the industry as well as how he was able to grow the company into one of the major players within the music products industry. Arnie also spoke of his own career, which began in the late 1950s.

Richard Berger is the President of Grover Musical Products. Richard also oversaw the Trophy Grover Company as well as Grossman Musical Products, which was formed by his great uncle, Henry Grossman.

Irwin Berg has a million great stories, like the one when Glenn Miller ensured that his father not serve in the infantry during World War II, but instead, design and manufacture all the mutes for the Army Air Force band and those of the Navy bands as well. Irwin has since expanded the business to cover the globe, but, of course, they still offer those same mutes!

Gerhilde Benker served as president of Hofner Music, a firm founded by her grandfather Karl Hofner in 1864 in Eger, Germany. Her father, Walter, was the inventor of the Hofner bass, which has been known as the Beatle Bass ever since young Paul McCartney began playing the instrument.

Christian Benker has been an influential leader in the German musical instrument manufacturing industry. With fresh ideas and marketing skills he helped Hofner reinvent itself during the 1950s and 60s. Christian worked alongside Mr. Hofner, the inventor of the widely popular Beatle bass and Mr. Hofner’s daughter, Gerhilde, who Christian would later marry. The couple worked together to keep the company growing and producing innovative projects.

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