Oral History -

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Manuel Rodriguez Sr. was very proud of his ancestry as a classical guitar luthier in the deep tradition of his native Spain. With honor, pride and passion, the art and craftsmanship has been handed down from his father and in turn he has taught the skills to his son, Manuel Rodriguez Jr., the current president of Guitars Rodriguez.

Jean Francois Rico had an early interest in news photography, but following his grandmother’s passing, Jean began working at the company his grandfather had established, Rico Reeds. The company dominated the reed industry for many decades with a powerful sales force around the world and a steady stream of new and innovative products.

Don Ravitch pioneered many elements of keyboard retailing as president of Sherman Clay. With an engineering and financial background Don and his partners purchased the music store chain in 1959 from the third generation of Clay’s.

Mario Procida formed a music distribution company in El Salvador in 1958 that soon expanded into several surrounding countries as well. His strong understanding of musical traditions and the import/export business resulted in Mario’s notable influence as a leader in the music products industry. He knew all too well that unstable governments result in unstable economies, but he pressed on for quality and music awareness in countries whose citizens valued traditional music but were influenced and persuaded by pop culture.

Houston Person, after a 3-year old musical partnership with the great vocalist Etta Jones, is only now receiving the recognition he deserves as one of today’s leading instrumentalists in the tradition of Gene Ammons and Stanley Turrentine. Since Etta’s passing, Houston has concentrated on working with some of today’s best Hammond B-3 players; performing blues-oriented soulful jazz, “please music” as Houston likes to call it.

Peter Perez represents a lot of musical history. A former head of CG Conn and CBS Musical Instruments, Peter went on to become the President of Steinway & Sons. His career also included the purchasing of Aeolian Pianos in Memphis and Lyon & Healy in Chicago while he was working for CBS. Another fascinating aspect of his history is his family connection to the industry.

Rudy Pensa formed Rudy’s Music on 48th Street in New York City. It is a favorite for musicians and tourists alike. Beginning in the 1970s Rudy came to America from his native Argentina with a suitcase and a dream to be a part of the music industry. The very doorway that he first stepped through was into the building that became Rudy’s Music within the decade.

Sir John Pearse was proud of the role he played in encouraging countless people to play the guitar. His BBC program Hold Down a Chord was based on lessons he created by picking up simple techniques from his favorite blues players such as Mississippi John Hurt and Big Bill Broonzy.

Earl Palmer may be the most recorded jazz and rock drummer in history! He performed with just about every recording artist from Little Richard and Fats Domino to Ricky Nelson and Frank Sinatra.

George Osztreicher pioneered importing and exporting guitar and violin strings in the United Kingdom back in the 1960s. He formed British Music Strings after working for General Guitar Strings and Cardiff Music Strings. He soon discovered he could have a business based completely on exporting.

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