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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 ...


Allison A. Alcorn

(b Elgin, IL, Dec 12, 1899; d Downey, CA, June 7, 1968). American guitar maker and inventor, known as the father of the electric solid-body guitar. Before World War I he was a patternmaker at a machine shop in Los Angeles. After the war he became a motorcycle racer known as ‘P.A.’, a nickname that carried into later life. During World War II, Bigsby designed parts for US Navy ships. As a guitarist, Bigsby played with an amateur country and western band, and in 1944, dissatisfied with commercially available guitars, he set out to make a better one. He brought his prototype lap steel guitar to Earl ‘Joaquin’ Murphy, who liked it so much that Bigsby built for Murphy his first Bigsby D-8, a double-eight-string lap steel guitar (i.e. an instrument with two necks having eight strings each). The T-8, a triple-eight-string console steel guitar (having three necks, each with eight strings) that Bigsby built for Murphy 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....


Kyle Devine

American manufacturer of electronic keyboards and drum machines. The company was founded in Upland, California, by Harry Chamberlin in the late 1940s. Instead of the electronic circuits and digital processors used to generate sound in most synthesizers, Chamberlins replay the sounds of existing instruments and effects recorded to electromagnetic tape. In using prerecorded sound, Chamberlins are considered forerunners of digital sampling techniques and technologies.

Harry Chamberlin’s first device, the Rhythmate (considered one of the first drum machines) used a series of dials and switches to play back fourteen looped drum patterns. Later designs, such as the Model 200 (1950s) and the M1 (1970s), used a conventional keyboard to activate the tape mechanism. Instead of tape loops, these keyboard models used tape strips that played for several seconds before automatically rewinding. Using tape strips allowed the initial attack of the instrument to be heard.

Sales were sizeable but never enormous: several hundred Chamberlins were produced during the company’s lifespan (...


Arian Sheets

An electric sostenente piano developed by Melvin L. Severy (1863–1951), an inventor and author, in Boston, and produced by the Choralcelo Manufacturing Company, founded by Severy and his brother-in-law George B. Sinclair in 1901. The choralcelo employed direct current, in which regular pulses were created with a rheotome, to excite piano strings and other resonating bodies by means of electromagnets. The current was routed to the electromagnets through complicated switching mechanisms operated from a piano keyboard or organ console with rocker switches and pedals. The earliest versions of the instrument resembled large upright pianos. Later versions employed numerous additional groups of resonating bodies, including those made from ferrous bars, ferrous ribbons, wood and aluminum bars with ferrous weights, and additional strings. Electric pulses with a harmonic relationship to the fundamental pitch of a resonating body could be employed to obtain additional tone colors.

The Musical Age reported in ...



British firm of Synthesizer and electronic instrument manufacturers. It was founded in Putney, London, by Peter Zinovieff in 1969, and subsequently owned by Datanomics of Wareham, Dorset (from 1979), the composer Edward Williams (from 1982), and Robin Wood (from 1995). Since the 1980s it has been based near Truro, Cornwall. The company’s best-known product is the Putney or VCS-3. ...


Thomas Brett

[electronic drum, drum machine, rhythm machine]

An electronic percussion instrument whose sound is synthesized or that stores and reproduces the sounds of sampled percussion instruments. It may be played on non-acoustic controllers that resemble conventional percussion instruments and are equipped with a touch-sensitive trigger that detects and converts mechanical energy into electrical signals. Alternatively, it may be controlled by an electronic rhythm machine, or played through virtual drum machine software. The earliest electronic percussion instrument was the Rhythmicon (1931) made by Russian inventor Leon Theremin on a commission by American composer Henry Cowell. The Rhythmicon allowed multiple rhythmic patterns to be played simultaneously by pressing keys on a conventional keyboard. The Rhythmate, invented by Harry Chamberlin (1949), used tape loops of acoustic drumming playing various rhythm patterns. This machine was a forerunner of the sample-based units that would later appear in the early 1980s.

Electronic percussion was developed significantly beginning in the late 1950s and 60s in the form of the stand-alone “rhythm box” or as an addition to some models of home electronic organs. These units generated rhythms electronically and their sounds were not very realistic. The earliest commercial electronic drum machine was the Sideman (...


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 ...



Hugh Davies

revised by Brandon Smith

Italian company of instrument makers. It was founded about 1870 in Ancona to manufacture free-reed instruments, including piano accordions and reed organs. The modern Farfisa company (from FAbbriche Riunite di FISArmoniche, ‘United Accordion Factories’) of Castelfidardo/Camerano was founded in 1946 by Silvio Scandalli, Settimio Soprani (brother of Paolo Soprani), and the Frontalini Accordion Co. of Chicago. Farfisa revolutionized the mass production of accordions by replacing assembly lines with specialized departments producing components that were then assembled into completed instruments. In 1951 Farfisa developed the ‘Super 6’ accordion, considered by many to be the best in the world. Later, Farfisa began producing electronic keyboard instruments ranging in style from piano accordions to synthesizers. From about 1960 its range of electronic piano accordions included the 41-note Cordovox and Transicord (from ‘transistor’ and ‘accordion’), and in 1970 it manufactured an early electronic percussion unit; one Transicord model included an electronic rhythm section.

The company’s success led to a take-over in ...