Oral History -

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Jeannie Cheatham played roots music before anyone was calling it that. She grew up on church music, and progressed to the blues in a time and place where black women were encouraged to express their emotions through music.  Jeannie was there when rhythm and blues became popular and played her own style in clubs and dances all around America.

Michael Balter discovered, as a percussionist for many stage and symphonic orchestras, that he could create his own sounds by adjusting or wrapping his mallets. He slowly began designing his own mallets for himself and friends, until it was clear that he had his own business. Over the years the Michael Balter Mallet Company produced a steady number of innovative products while gaining a tremendous reputation as a supporter of school music programs and industry organizations.

Heribert Glassl had two musical loves, the tuba and the cello. While it may seem like a strange pairing, Mr. Glassl made it work. In fact, after a long career in musical instrument making, the tuba and cello are the only products he produced in his small German factory.

Richard Janda specialized in repairing stringed instruments. It was also something he enjoyed very much. During World War II he was trained to repair the band instruments for the U.S. Military marching band, in which he was the trombonist. After the war he sought to add to that education while working in the repair department of Reed Music in Austin, TX.

 Jack Javens loved the piano business and became one of the industry’s quintessential salesmen.  He worked for the Aeolian Piano Company out of East Rochester New York beginning in the 1950s and stayed for 26 years.  He witnessed the famous merger between Aeolian and the Winter Piano Company in the mid 1960s and the strong competition of the home organ boom in the 1970s.  Jack was proud of the products he sold and spoke of the rich company history of Aeolian, which went back to 1903. 

George Lewis was the founder of George L’s in Madison, Tennessee, one of the industry’s leading innovators of cable and electronic components.  George played a large role in the development of ShoBud as a retail store and manufacturer of steel pedal guitars.  George’s entire family works in the business, which is now being operated by his two daughters.  His interview was as much a recount of his career as it was an American history lesson as George was on board a ship in Pearl Harbor on D

Zhi Cheng Tong served as the Chairman for Pearl River Pianos in China and was one of its longest-term employees.  The company was established in 1956, and he joined the company just two years later. Mr.

 John Hornby Skewes is the founder and president of John Hornby Skewes Company Ltd, a noted music wholesaler located in England, which was established in the early 1960s.    John is also one of the pioneers of the Music Industry Association in the UK and the British Music Fair.

Ruth Sibley Bensinger wrote a song called “So Long Sweetheart” when she was a teenager.  The song was about lovers split by war.  Members of her musically inclined family thought the song was quite promising.  Ruth decided to walk the song over to Fred Waring’s home, whom she had met once through her bandleader father.  Mr.

 Mr. Menchey founded the Menchey Music Service in 1936 out of his mother’s sewing room in Hanover. By the time he retired in 1982, Menchey’s Music grew into the premier full-service school music and piano dealer serving Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland.