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Laurence Libin

(Delmetia )

(b Coleman County, TX, March 18, 1899; d at sea nr Los Angeles, CA, March 30, 1941). American inventor of musical instruments. He was co-founder of the National Stringed Instrument Corporation and the Rickenbacker guitar company. He played the violin and the lap steel (‘Hawaiian’) guitar in vaudeville before settling in Los Angeles, where he worked with John and Rudy Dopyera to develop an acoustically amplified guitar, probably inspired by Stroh models. An early model with a Victrola horn failed, but trials using conical aluminium resonators within a metal guitar body (a prototype of the three-cone Dobro guitar) proved successful and attracted investors. Production of metal-body guitars under the name National soon involved Adolph Rickenbacker’s nearby tool and die shop.

From the mid-1920s Beauchamp also experimented with electrical amplification of guitars (including lap steel and bass guitars) and violins of unconventional shape, without normal resonators but using simple phonograph pickups. After his collaboration with the Dopyeras ended, in ...



Matthew Hill

Firm of musical instrument manufacturers and distributors, primarily of electric guitars, amplifiers and sound-reinforcement equipment. The company was founded in 1946 in Los Angeles, California by Hawaiian guitarist Lowell C. Kiesel (b Eustis, NE, 22 Feb 1915; d San Diego, 28 Dec 2009) as the L.C. Kiesel Company. In the late 1940s the company relocated to Gothenburg, Nebraska. In 1949, Kiesel moved back to the Los Angeles area and renamed the company “Carvin,” after his two eldest sons Carson and Gavin. The company has relocated and expanded several times during its existence; to Baldwin Park in the early 1950s, Covina in 1956, Escondido in 1975, and to San Diego in 1995.

The company began by marketing electric guitar pickups of Kiesel’s design, but soon expanded to selling complete instruments (mostly Hawaiian guitars), and amplifiers. In 1954, the company began extensive mail-order sales, featuring Spanish and Hawaiian electric guitars, double-neck instruments, electric guitar kits, electronic components for musical instruments, and even accordions. At various times in the 1950s and 60s, catalogs featured not only the company’s own offerings, but instruments and accessories made by Fender, Martin, Bigsby, and DeArmond. In addition to consumer sales, Carvin also made electric guitar pickups for other manufacturers, notably those found in early Mosrite instruments....


Laurence Libin

American manufacturer and brand of acoustic and electric guitars, other plucked string instruments, and electric guitar accessories. The company originated in 1873 in Smyrna, Turkey, where the Greek immigrant Kostantinos Stathopoulo opened a store selling and repairing string instruments. His son Anastasios opened an independent workshop about 1890. In 1903 Anastasios emigrated with his family to New York, where on 25 March 1909 he patented a bowl-back mandolin named the Orpheum Lyra. Two sons, Epaminondas (‘Epi’, b 1893) and Orpheus, joined him in the business, and when Anastasios died, in 1915, Epi took control and later patented a banjo tone ring and rim. Assuming ownership upon his mother’s death, in 1923, he introduced the Recording line of banjos. As business expanded, the family acquired the Farovan instrument plant in Long Island and in 1928 the incorporated firm became The Epiphone Banjo Corp. By that time Epiphone was making banjos for Selmer/Conn. To compete with their rival Gibson, Epiphone introduced their Recording series of acoustic guitars, both archtop and flat top, followed in ...



Ann Griffiths and Richard Macnutt

French firm of piano and harp makers and music publishers.

Ann Griffiths

The firm was founded by Sébastien Erard (b Strasbourg, 5 April 1752; d La Muette, nr Passy, 5 Aug 1831), the fourth son of the church furniture maker Louis-Antoine Erard (b Delemond, Switzerland, 1685; d1758). As Sébastien Erard was only six years old when his father died, accounts of his having acquired his woodworking skills in his father's workshop cannot be substantiated. He was, however, brought up within a community of skilled artisans, with uncles, cousins, his godfather and older brother all being employed as joiners, cabinetmakers and gilders, for the most part in an ecclesiastical context. He may have known and worked with the younger Strasbourg-based members of the Silbermann dynasty.

Erard most probably arrived in Paris in 1768. The Duchesse de Villeroy (1731–1816) was an early patron, providing him with workshop premises at her mansion in the rue de Bourbon, and in ...



Hugh Davies and Christoph Wagner

German manufacturer of harmonicas, accordions, keyboard instruments and guitars. It was founded in 1857 in Trossingen by the clockmaker Matthias Hohner (b 1833; d Trossingen, 1903), who was not so much an innovator as a perfector of other people’s inventions, which he then marketed successfully. He learnt how to make his first harmonica after visiting a friend’s workshop. For almost half a century he focussed on this single product, which was exported to more than 100 countries around the world. The biggest market was the USA, which in 1890 absorbed more than 90% of the firm’s production. Hohner was the unrivalled market leader and the company name became almost synonymous with the harmonica (see Harmonica). After Matthias’s death his five sons took over the business. They began also to make accordions, and contributed greatly to their technical and musical advancement. The Hohner ‘Gola’ piano accordion, which is still produced, is seen by many as the ‘Stradivari’ of accordions. By the 1920s the company had become the world’s largest producer of musical instruments, employing a workforce of nearly 5000. In ...


(Jap.: Hoshino Musical Instruments)

Japanese manufacturer of musical instruments. Matsujiro Hoshino founded the company in 1908 as a book and sheet music store (Hoshino Shoten) that from 1929, as Hoshino Gakki Ten, also sold guitars by Salvador Ibáñez imported from Spain. Under direction of Hoshino’s son Yoshitaro Hoshino, the company began manufacturing Ibanez-brand guitars in 1935, after Ibáñez’s workshop had been destroyed in the Spanish Civil War and the brand sold to Hoshino. In turn, the Japanese factory was destroyed in 1945, and in 1955 the Hoshino company moved to Nagoya. From that time most of their products were exported, including, from 1957, a line of newly-designed Ibanez guitars. Under Yoshitaro’s son, Junpei Hoshino, the company opened the Tama Seisakusho factory in 1962 to produce amplifiers and electric and acoustic guitars, including copies of classic American guitars that eventually led to lawsuits. Star-brand drums were added to the Tama product line in 1965, and from ...


Arian Sheets

American manufacturer of bowed and fretted string instruments based in Columbus, OH. It is significant as one of the first factory-based producers of bowed string instruments to use machine carving for the fabrication of such components as the front, back, and scroll. An announcement was made in Music Trade Review (30 December 1916) that the Guldan Violin Company was established at 171 West Main St., the first known information about the company. Beginning in 1920 advertisements for Jackson-Guldan Violin Company appeared in The Violinist, some of which offered the production of violins for stencil, or secondary company, branding. Some such Jackson-Guldan instruments survive, notably with the decaled logos of music schools on the back, such as the First National Institute of Allied Arts, South Bend, IN, or with the paper label of Slingerland’s Correspondence School of Music, Chicago, the predecessor to the Slingerland Drum Company, inside the body. The establishment of this line of work was related to the end of the dominant supplies of mass-produced violins from Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, and Japan due to World War I. By the time that these foreign suppliers resumed exports to the United States, Jackson-Guldan was sufficiently established to compete with these larger-volume producers. Nevertheless, in the 1930s the company also produced toys in addition to musical instruments. Jackson-Guldan instruments were offered in various grades ranging from machine-carved and spray-finished student instruments to hand-finished examples which, unlike most foreign violins, were still handmade, although often of poor quality....


Martin Krivin

revised by Margaret Downie Banks

Firm of instrument makers. It was founded as the H.N. White Company (Cleveland) in 1893 by Henderson Nelson White (1873–1940), an instrument repairman, amateur musician, and businessman. White created the company’s first instrument, a trombone, in consultation with trombonist Thomas H. King (1868–1926), after whom the King line was named. The company was renamed King Musical Instruments in 1966.

Foster A. Reynolds (1884–1960) managed White’s factory and a full line of band instruments from 1903 to 1935. A department of acoustical research was established in 1909 in a new factory at 5225 Superior Avenue. Saxophone manufacture began in 1916, followed by the invention of the King saxello (1924; a straight soprano sax with a curved neck and half-turned bell) and the pioneering introduction of sterling silver bells on cornets, trumpets, and trombones. White purchased the Cleveland Musical Instrument Company (1925), added stringed instruments to his line (...



Hugh Davies

Japanese firm of electronic instrument manufacturers. It was founded in Tokyo in 1963 by Tsutomu Katoh and the accordion player Tadashi Osanai as Keio Geijutsu Kenkyujo. From 1968 the firm became known as Keio Electronic Laboratories; although they used the brand-name Korg (‘Katoh-Osanai organ’) on the products, this became the company's official name only in the mid-1980s. Keio began by constructing rhythm units for Yamaha's Electone electronic organs, then produced its own separate units, the Doncamatic rhythm machine followed by the MiniPops series. Korg soon became one of the most successful Japanese manufacturers of electronic instruments, and produced the first Japanese synthesizer in 1968. In 1986 Yamaha bought a 40% stake in Korg.

The range of Korg instruments has included monophonic and polyphonic synthesizers (such as the Polysix), synthesizer modules, electronic organs and pianos (many digital models), string synthesizers, home keyboards, electronic percussion units, guitar synthesizers, samplers, electronic tuners and a vocoder. Its most successful product has been the M1 work station (...


John Thomas

Instrument makers of Swedish birth. From the late 1800s through the early 1940s Carl Johan Ferdinand Larson (b Sweden, 31 Dec 1867; d Chicago, IL, 4 Sept 1946) and (Peter) August Larson (b Sweden, 24 April 1873; d Chicago, IL, 16 June 1944) produced a wide array of fretted instruments, including guitars, mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and mandobasses, ukuleles, tiples and mandolinettos, and harp guitars.

The brothers immigrated to Chicago in the late 1880s and worked at the Cubley Drum Factory until a fire destroyed it in 1892. They subsequently worked at Maurer Mandolin and Guitars, which was purchased by two outside investors in 1900. A few years later, the brothers bought out the investors.

In 1904, August received a patent for a design incorporating laminated bracing that strengthened their guitars, enabling the brothers to equip their instruments with steel strings a full two decades before C.F. Martin and Company. August received four more patents in his lifetime, including one for the steel rod system that ran lengthwise inside the Prairie State brand of guitars....


Margaret Cranmer

German firm of harpsichord and piano makers . Karl Maendler (b Munich, 22 March 1872; d Munich, 2 Aug 1958) began as a piano maker. He married Susanne Schramm, daughter of M.J. Schramm, and on 1 April 1903 became the sole owner of his father-in-law's piano firm in Munich. It is probable that the firm had already produced harpsichords (one labelled ‘M.J. Schramm’ is known to exist), but Maendler built up this side of the business, producing his first harpsichord in 1907, and continuing to make harpsichords, clavichords and pianos until he went blind in 1956. The business then passed to Ernst Zucker. Maendler's main output was of heavily built, mass-produced instruments; he also built harpsichords to the so-called ‘Bach disposition’ ( see Bach harpsichord ); he also used a metal frame which Zucker called Panzerplatte. In the 1920s he developed the Bachklavier , an attempt at a harpsichord capable of admitting touch dynamics. On the other hand, the Händel-Haus at Halle has a Maendler-Schramm harpsichord of ...


Tony Bacon

British amplifier manufacturer. After requests from British rock guitarists and bass players who needed an affordable amplifier capable of high sound levels, the drum teacher and music shop owner Jim Marshall teamed up with his service engineer Ken Bran in 1962 to produce a British-made musical instrument amplifier based on the Californian-made Fender Bassman. Marshall and Bran’s amplifiers were soon developed into the famous ‘Marshall stack’, consisting of an amplifier head containing the valves, circuitry and controls sitting on top of two ‘four-by-twelve’ cabinets, each containing four Celestion 12-inch (30·48 cm) loudspeakers. Delivering 50 watts RMS and frequently more, the ‘stacks’ provided exactly the sort of high power demanded by emerging players such as Pete Townshend of The Who and Jimi Hendrix. Players such as these were playing electric guitars through Marshall amplifiers at increasingly extreme volume levels in the late 1960s as venues became larger and outdoor festivals more popular. Marshall also produced ‘combo’ amplifiers which combined the amplifier and loudspeakers within one cabinet. Building on the fame of their early innovations, Marshall has become a leading supplier of equipment wherever high quality and high volume amplification is required....


Jaak Liivoja-Lorius

revised by Philip J. Kass

French firm of violin and bow makers and dealers. Charles-Nicolas Maucotel (b Mirecourt, France, 1 Nov 1807; d after 1860) served his apprenticeship with Blaise Mast in Mirecourt and later worked for Gand in Paris (from 1834) and for William Davis in London (from 1844). In 1849 he established his own workshop in London, which he operated until the mid-1850s, when he returned permanently to France. As far as is known all his mature work bears a brief latinized printed label dated from London. His younger brother, Charles Adolphe Maucotel (b Dombasle, nr Mirecourt, France, 11 Dec 1818; d Paris, France, 5 Feb 1858), also served his apprenticeship in Mirecourt. Between 1839 and 1844 he worked for Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in Paris, then had his own workshop in Paris, first at the Gallerie Vivienne, next on the rue Croix des Petits Champs, and finally on the rue Princesse. He was very highly regarded as a maker, winning awards at the expositions of ...


Laurence Libin

[Theodore M. ]

(b Somerset, KY, 1910; d Twin Falls, ID, April 1, 2001). American guitar company executive and pioneer in the development of electric guitars. An engineering graduate of the University of Cincinnati (1933), he worked for the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., first as an accountant and eventually as director of purchasing for the retail division. During World War II he was an army engineer. He became general manager of the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1948, vice president in 1949, and was its president from 1950 to 1966. During this period he secured several patents and profitably advanced Gibson’s manufacture of electric guitars, notably in the early 1950s the warm-toned solid-body Les Paul models that later formed the core of Gibson’s reputation. McCarty promoted the design of innovative models (e.g. the three-pickup ES-5, the classic ES-175 ‘jazz box’, and the classic semi-hollow ES-335) and various improvements such as Gibson’s Tune-o-matic bridge system, humbucking pickup (designed by Seth Lover), and the futuristic Explorer, Flying V, Moderne (these three designed by the automobile designer Ray Dietrich), SG, and Firebird lines. During McCarty’s tenure Gibson’s output grew to more than 100,000 instruments annually. He left Gibson to become part-owner and president of the Kalamazoo-based Bigsby Company, specializing in guitar vibrato systems and accessories; he retired in ...


Edmund A. Bowles

American firm of instrument makers. In 1849 Joseph Rogers, an Irish parchment-maker and musician, established a tannery (eventually located in Farmingdale, New Jersey) to manufacture high-quality animal skin for the fast-growing banjo and drum industry. For this purpose he used superior calfskin, and the best of his banjo heads became famous. The business prospered for several generations, but by the late 1930s the decline of the banjo’s popularity created a need to diversify the product line, so Rogers began to turn out drums and drum accessories. When Roger’s great-grandson, Cleveland Rogers, died without heirs in 1953, the firm was purchased by Henry Grossman and became a subsidiary of Grossman Music Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Three years later Rogers moved to a new factory in Covington, Ohio; its range of products was expanded, but when plastic heads became the norm the manufacture of calfskin heads was discontinued. The student market, in particular, grew after Donald G. Canedy, an educator, bandmaster, and percussion expert, was retained as a consultant. The company’s centerpiece was the Dyna-Sonic snare drum, with a unique cradle in which the snares were supported, so that the wire and snare tensions could be adjusted separately and the drum played at both low and high dynamic levels. Other innovations included the Dualmatic High-Hat Clutch, designed for the player of twin trap-drums; the Memriloc hardware system, which allowed the drummer to set up his equipment in precisely the same position each time; and the Swiv-O-Matic pedals for bass drum and hi-hat. In ...



Hugh Davies

Japanese company of electronic instrument manufacturers. It was founded in Osaka in 1972 by the electronics designer Ikutaro Kakehashi (who had co-founded Ace Electronic Industries in Osaka in 1955, marketing rhythm machines and Ace Tone electronic organs); it was named after the legendary medieval French hero. Expansion was rapid, and by the early 1980s the company employed over 500 people in Osaka alone. During the period 1988–90 Roland bought three foreign electronic keyboard manufacturers: Siel, Rodgers and Rhodes.

The range of Roland instruments has included monophonic and polyphonic synthesizers, synthesizer modules, remote keyboard controllers, electronic organs and pianos (many digital models), a digital harpsichord, home keyboards, guitar synthesizers, samplers, vocoders, sequencers and many electronic percussion devices and effects units, some under the names of Roland’s offshoots, Boss and Amdek. The company also manufactures a variety of sound equipment as well as a teaching system designed for use with Roland electronic keyboard instruments....


Anne Beetem Acker

South Korean manufacturer of acoustic and digital instruments. The name Samick (‘three benefits’) refers to benefits to the company, its customers, and the national economy. Founded in 1958 by Hyo Ick Lee (d 1990) as a Baldwin piano distributor, the Samick Piano Co. began building uprights from imported parts under the name Horugel in 1960. In 1964 Samick became the first exporter of Korean pianos and in 1970 manufactured the first Korean grand. Guitar production began in 1965, eventually expanding to acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitars, banjos, and mandolins under the names Samick, Abilene, Silvertone, and the Greg Bennett Signature series. In 1973 the company was incorporated as Samick Musical Instruments Co., Ltd. In 1983 Samick engaged the German piano designer Klaus Fenner. Fenner introduced European-style scale designs and three-ply ‘surface tension’ soundboards, which are claimed not to crack or lose their crown and to suffer only a slight tonal disadvantage compared with solid spruce soundboards....


Cheng Liu and Stewart Carter

Largest Chinese manufacturer of traditional instruments. Located in the Minhang district of Shanghai, the corporation was founded in 1958 through the consolidation of 86 small workshops. Huifang Ren led the company from its inception through 1962; Guozhen Wang has served as its director since 1998. The firm produces more than 60,000 erhus (including about 100 of top professional quality) and 40,000 guzhengs annually, and also makes pipas, ruans, yangqins, Chinese flutes, and a few non-Chinese instruments, notably marimbas. Proprietary subsidiaries of the corporation include Dunhuang Musical Instruments Company, Shanghai Guibao Musical Instruments Company, and Lankao Shanghai Musical Instruments Company in Lankao. The firm has manufactured instruments under the Dunhuang brand since 1962. In 1999 the firm signed a cooperative agreement with the Central Chinese Orchestra in Beijing, under which instruments in that orchestra have gradually been replaced with Dunhuang instruments. The firm also maintains a close relationship with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. Many instruments bearing the Dunhuang brand are exported, particularly through Eason Music in Singapore....


Cynthia Adams Hoover, Roslyn Rensch, and Hugh Davies

American firm of instrument makers and dealers of German origin.

Cynthia Adams Hoover

(Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer (b Schöneck, Saxony, 31 Jan 1831; d Cincinnati, 14 Jan 1914) came to the USA in 1853; he settled in Cincinnati and began dealing in musical instruments in addition to working in a local bank. It is likely that he was one of a long line of Saxon instrument makers, beginning with Heinrich Wurlitzer (1595–1656), a lute maker. By 1860 he had a thriving trade and is said to have been a leading supplier of military wind instruments and drums during the Civil War. In 1865 he opened a branch in Chicago and in 1872 joined his brother Anton to form the partnership of Rudolph Wurlitzer & Bro. On 25 March 1890 the firm was incorporated as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. Rudolph served as president of the corporation from 1890 to 1912...