Oral History -
Eleanor West and her husband Pearl established a music store in Iowa City just a year after getting married in 1940. Eleanor was the bookkeeper in the early years of West Music Company and was known to make a penny last during the Great Depression and World War II.
Paul Wertico grew up in Chicago with a passion for music making. At the age of 15 he landed his first professional gig as a drummer and never set the sticks down. As an award winning musician and innovator in fusion, Paul gained worldwide recognition as a member of the Pat Metheny Group from 1983 until 2001, playing on ten of the bands recordings. Shortly before leaving Metheny, Paul began a long association with guitarist Larry Coryell, becoming the drummer of the Larry Coryell Trio from 2000 through 2007.
Paul Werkheiser often says he would never trade his memories of the years he worked for the C.F. Martin & Company. He expressed the family-like relationships he had and the pleasure it was for him to be a part of the growth of the guitar company. Pauly worked at nearly every level of assembly and production and made life-long friends along the way.
Billy Wennlund and his brother Don made up one of the most iconic sales teams in the music products industry. Don was the salesman, the guy with the pitch and Billy knew the products inside out. Together they helped establish the Lowrey Organ in the home market. They were both born in DeKalb, IL and while Billy was in the US Navy, Don got a job at Wurlitzer. When he returned, Billy joined Don at Wurlitzer and in 1958 they opened their own music retail store. Years later Billy became the Vice President of Product Development for Norlin, which owned Lowrey Organs.
Kitty Wells has been crowned the First Lady of Country Music for her pioneering style and impressive string of hit recordings beginning in the 1940s and continuing into the mid 1960s. For most of her life, she had also been a regular on the tour schedule along with her husband, Johnny Wright. Ms.
Richard Webb’s grandfather opened a pawnshop in England and his father, Sydney, developed a small music division within the shop some 20 years later. Since the age of 12, Richard thought of nothing else but to be involved with the family business. Richard enjoyed the music business and was greatly inspired when rock and roll was first popular. Richard and his father opened a combo shop that would later sell keyboards. They were ready for the home organ boom of the 1960s and grew to 48 Minns-Crane stores in all.
Claude Watson was a precise and revered luthier who perfected the fine art of handcrafted instrument building. He was known for his clever design and complex inlay work in country-style flat tops and a series of violins, cellos, and string basses.
Allan Ward has enjoyed nearly 40 years in the print music industry. He has become one of the leaders in promotion and education regarding sheet music purchasing and retail selling. Allan has worked for Belwin, Alfred, and Charles Demont and Sons (print music distributors) in addition to serving as President of the Musical Instrument Association of Canada (MIAC).
John B. Walker was a well-recognizable character of the music products industry having been a piano mover most of his career. He enjoyed success and friendship but is perhaps most proud of the fact that his son joined him in the business. John worked for several movers during his career and supported almost all of the piano builders at one time or another.
Dan Vedda grew up playing music. As an arranger and trumpeter he gained a respected reputation in the Westlake area of Ohio. After working for a music retailer in town he was encouraged by a music teacher friend to open his own store –so he did. Skyline Music--the name comes from his rock band the Skyliners--brought Dan’s great knowledge of music and business together. He focused on the often-forgotten customer of music stores, the music teacher. In 1996 he became a regular columnist for the Music and Sound Retailer.