Oral History -

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Johnny Smith! What can you say about meeting not only your personal hero but also a hero to thousands in our own industry! Johnny Smith was in person what he has been on recordings, warm, engaging and inspirational. Over the years Johnny has been linked to many innovative musical products, most notably the guitar that bears his name.

William Schultz turned the struggling Fender Musical Instrument Corporation into an industry leader after purchasing the famed guitar company from CBS in 1985. Born in McKeesport, PA on July 30, 1926, he began playing the saxophone professionally before World War II and then opened his own musical instrument repair business within the Progressive Music store.

Leonard Schmitt opened a small guitar shop to provide lessons in the St. Louis area back in 1932. At the time we wrote a method for teaching music called the Schmitt Music Training Approach. Over the years the method has been used to educate millions of students on how to make music.

Jimmy Saied, the founder of the Saied Music Store chain in Oklahoma loved the marches of John Phillip Sousa! In fact, he liked them so much that he teamed with then NAMM President Ziggy Coyle to create the bill Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1983 making the “Stars and Strips Forever” the national march.

Irwin Robinson played vital roles at many of the largest and most important American music publishers for much of the second half of the 20th Century. Irwin worked for Columbia Pictures (as legal counsel for its publishing company, Alden Music), Chappel Music (as president), EMI (as president) and Famous Music (as president) establishing himself as one of the pioneers and leaders in the pop print industry. Along with his fascinating career is a host of memories from witnessing the creative process of music making.

Emil Richards has played a significant role in the expanded use and knowledge of world percussion instruments. Through his recordings and work for TV and the movies, Emil has become known for adding dashes of new sounds and flavors to many of the nearly 2,000 films including authentic Russian instruments for “Doctor Zhivago” (1965).

Larry Rast has served as President of the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation since 1994. With a strong background in teaching, Larry understands the need for music programs for all levels of a child’s development and is proud to have made music education a part of each endeavor he has pursued during his long career. While still teaching music at the college level, Larry developed the piano laboratory program for Wurlitzer during the late 1960s. After the Wurlitzer Company went out of business, Larry was asked to run the foundation for music education established by the son of the company’s founder.  

Specs Powell played jazz drums during the hey-day of 52nd Street in New York City. He worked hard -- sometimes four gigs a night -- playing behind such legends as Billie Holiday, John Kirby and Red Norvo. Specs was active in the V-Disc recordings to boost the troops’ morale during World War II and became the first black musician hired by a network orchestra, CBS back in 1943.

Marybeth Peters has worked in the United States copyright office for 40 years and has become one of the country’s leading authorities on the copyright laws as it relates to published and performed music. Our interview with her included information regarding her career as well as a wonderful review of the history of US music copyright and how it has changed over the years.

Herbert Newton opened his piano store in 1939, a few years after becoming a piano tuner in the Norfolk area. Back in the beginning of the store, traveling out to nearby farms was key to his success. A decade later he found the key to be servicing pianos for the US Navy. Herb spent decades bringing music to his customers and teaching their children to play.