Oral History -

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Don Schlitz likes to tell the story about how he was in the right place at the right time when his song, “The Gambler,” was recorded by Kenny Rogers in 1978. The truth is, if that was Don’s only hit song that might have been the case, but talent plays a big part in his story-telling songwriting that has since sold millions of albums for artists such as Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Strait and others.

Johnny Rodgers can tell you all about the trends of piano sales in Texas. As salesman for Jent Music in Lubbock, he has watched the market and his customer base change over the years. He has also had the unique opportunity to work with the Jent family, one of the principal families in the industry.

Alvino Rey tinkered with putting a phonograph pickup in his banjo to increase the volume in 1927. His inventive mind also led to early guitar pickups and the design of a pedal-steel guitar.

Nick Peck’s entire face lights up whenever he talks about a great school music program! The son of a band director, the passion seems to be in his blood. After taking over the store his father started in Greenville, South Carolina, Nick joined the NAMM board in 1969. He rose to the top becoming President at a very important time in the industry.

Sammy Nestico has revolutionized the band and orchestra repertoire by composing and arranging top jazz charts for all levels of bands. As a result, this arranger of Count Basie’s band in the 1950s is known as well to music fans in their 80s as he is to beginning music students in elementary school. Along the way Sammy has delighted music fans with a clear and understandable sound that focuses on strength of the melody rather than overpowering high notes and speed.

Les Paul will forever be known for his role in the popularity of the electric guitar, the design of the Gibson Les Paul guitar, the multi track recording, the early guitar effects, and his million selling recordings with wife Mary Ford. However, did you know Les also appeared as product endorsee in more NAMM shows than just about any other artist?

Jay R. Morgenstern was a veteran of the record and music publishing industries and served as the Executive Vice President/General Manager of Warner Chappell Music Inc. His amazing career was only matched by his reputation as a passionate advocate for those he represents.

Vic Mizzy wrote a number of hit songs for popular music, movies and television beginning in the 1940s. He wrote “The Jones Boy” for the Mills Brothers and is perhaps best known for writing TV theme songs for Green Acres and The Addams Family (for which he also sang on the original recording). As he began to work in the movies in the 1960s, Vic became active in ASCAP and other elements within movie contracts to ensure the rights of the songwriter and his art was protected.

Billy May was a fun loving trumpeter who arranged some of the best-loved music of the Big Band Era! His humor and musical talents provided hit recordings for Glenn Miller, Charlie Barnet and Frank Sinatra, to name but three. His enormous output included radio, TV and movie work as well as thousands of studio recordings over his 6 decades as a musical artist.

Jim Marshall was in a full body cast as a 12-year-old boy due to polio. He managed to overcome the incredible odds to not only walk again, but also to become a trained tap dancer. He founded a charity to help crippled children and tap danced at charity events to raise money for the cause.

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