Oral History -

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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.

Dr. Robert Moog was the father of the synthesizer and perhaps the best-known promoter of the Theremin and electronic music. When he passed away in 2005 after a short illness, he was eulogized as an inventor and lover of music. When his Modular Moog was introduced in 1965, followed by the Minimoog in 1969, he forever changed the range of tone in modern music, and many would say its attitude as well. The synthesizer celebrated the two things Bob loved most, electronics and music. Before Bob, the idea of electronic music was toy like; today, it is a way of life.

Bruce Mitchell is a veteran of the Canadian piano and organ industry dating back to 1966 when he was hired as the Hammond Organ sales rep for Canada. Bruce has since been deeply involved with Kurzweil Music and Young Chang as well as the Musical Instrument Association of Canada (MIAC).

Jay McShann ​was one of the last great original stride pianists, one of the last Big Band Era leaders and one of the few musicians to work with such an amazing list of jazz icons. During our interview with him he told some of the most memorable McShann classic stories such as when he was the first big band to hire Charlie Parker and the true story behind Parker’s nickname Bird. What put Jay in a class by himself was the warm way he told his stories and the humble approach he had toward what is without question one of the great jazz success stories in history.  

Robert McDowell was president of the NAMM Board of Directors from 1969-1971. During that time he assisted William Gard in the expansion of the NAMM organization, including more hands on involvement with AMC and its publication Music USA. As a retailer in St. Louis for Ludwig-Aeolian, Bob saw the need to launch a nationwide music promotion campaign in the early 1970s.

Kay McDowell now (and may always) holds the record for the most NAMM shows attended --83 in a row! As a very young girl, she accompanied her father, the owner of Ludwig Aeolian of St. Louis, Missouri, to the show. Years later, her husband, Bob, took over that business and a very active role in the industry (including NAMM President).

Ted Krumwiede was a veteran of the piano industry working for Kimball and Story & Clark in the important re-birth of the piano business following World War II. Ted had training and a real passion for marketing and found success telling the great stories of the companies we worked for. Ted was with the original Story & Clark Piano Co.

Ann Jones was interviewed alongside Dick Dolan, the president of QRS, a company known around the world for their piano rolls. As CFO, Ann has been with QRS since the 1980s. She has played an important roll in the expansion of QRS into DVD products for a new generation of player pianos.