Oral History -

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Johnny Thompson has the distinction of being the very first music student of a young steel guitar player named Ernie Ball. Back in the early 1950s, before he established his string company, Ernie was a well known country player in and around Los Angeles, and taught a few students for extra money.

Vinny Testa has provided the music products industry with more fervent communication, helping to unite and expand the industry. As founder of Music and Sound Retailer, Vinny introduced many of the magazine’s notable features and expanded the venture to include Testa Television and Testa Communications.

Millie Swanson was known as “The Sweetheart of Wurlitzer.” She joined the company in 1931 as an office clerk while still in high school. Over the years, as Wurlitzer grew into the largest musical instrument maker in the world, Millie was promoted to assistant to Mr. Wurlitzer and served in that position under the direction of three company presidents.

Murray Sunshine was a legend in the New York music retailing business. As an employee of Manny’s Music, hired by Manny himself, Murray witnessed first hand the growth of 48th Street as a music center for not only the country but the world. Murray later opened his own chain of stores on Long Island.

Henry Z. Steinway was quite articulate when speaking about the incredible history of the Steinway and Sons Piano Company. One could say that he lived all elements of being a Steinway as the former president of the Steinway Company. His love for music led to the creation of the board of the NAMM Foundation’s Museum of Making Music, for which Henry was the first president. His passion for music went beyond that of the company. As he once said, “You don’t have to play the piano, but do play an instrument.” His inspiration and example will be felt for many decades to come.

Marvin Snyder became president of Rico Reeds in 1976, after managing the cane plantations, which were used to make the reeds. His father worked with the Lockie family, who owned a chain of music stores in Southern California and brought the Rico Reed products to the United States.

John P. Smith was one of thousands of young musicians who toured the country on the buses, cars, and trains that carried the territory bands of the swing era from high school sock hops to hotel ballrooms. John’s trombone skills made him a sought-after musician who worked with several of the name bands of the 1930s and 40s, including the Artie Shaw Orchestra.

George Shorney’s grandfather formed a small music publishing company in 1892 with the goal of serving the church by printing hymnals. The company, Hope Publishing, has done just that and over the years established a respected reputation for quality research and an extensive catalog.

Doc Severinsen had a mighty career as Johnny Carson’s bandleader on the “Tonight Show” and as a recording artist on several important albums. He is also widely known within the music products industry for his role in perfecting the design and feel of the trumpet.

Eric Schwartz is the Chairman of Sherman Clay, the historic chain of piano stores. The stores are located in the northern half of California and have played a big role in the growth of the piano market in the region. Eric joined the company in the footsteps of his father, working in all positions along side his uncle Donald Ravitch.

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