What I used to do….

In a previous life I was a real-life Music Man having sold musical instruments on the road for nearly fifteen years.  Right out of college, I was fortunate enough to land a job with C. Bruno & Son selling my wares to music stores throughout east Tennessee and North Carolina.  At the time, 100+ year-old Bruno was the distribution arm for Kaman Music, a subsidary of Kaman Corporation out of Bloomfield, CT.

For nearly 40 years, Kaman Corp. had one of the strangest product mixes in U.S. corporate history being the manufacturer of helicoptors and guitars along with other segments.  Founder Charlie Kaman was an engineer with helicoptor inventor Igor Sikorsky of Hamilton Industries as well as an accomplished jazz guitar player who once turned down a job with Tommy Dorsey to keep on engineering. 

After later starting his own helicoptor brand, he came up with the Ovation guitar.  Ovation was a melding of Kaman’s aerospace and musical interests helped along by the loss of a Defense Department contract in the 1960′s.  He ended up with a large surplus of Sitka spruce meant for the construction of rotor wings for his own ‘Husky’ helicopters and needed to do something with it all.  (For the uninitiated, Sitka spruce is THE stuff to make the best acoustic guitar tops out of and it took a genius with an inventory problem to figure out the connection.)

Anyway… the reason I’m saying all of this is because today an old running buddy of mine sent notice that Kaman has sold out to Kaman’s old rival.   Fender Musical Instruments - the maker of the Stratocaster, Telecaster and other legendary guitars and amplifiers bought Kaman lock, stock and barrel for around $117M.  Wall street liked the move, but I don’t have to.

The music biz has changed mightily since I left the road in the mid 1990′s, but at times I miss it alot.  Good luck to all my old Kaman cohorts during this transition.

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4 Comments

  1. Pierce Egerton
    Posted November 10, 2007 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Dave, speaking of music . . . I recall some weeks ago you were lamenting the fact that Aycock band students had less class time for music in order to increase time spent drilling for standardized tests.

    I was at the BOE meeting Thursday and saw the excellent Aycock drum line and step dance team perform. Most of the public speakers at that meeting asked the Board to restore the instructional time that was cut from music and art at the elementary and middle school levels.

    Some of us are trying to raise awareness of this issue. Please let me know if you’d be interested in joining our mailing list and/or speaking before the BOE about the issue.

    Many thanks!

  2. hugh
    Posted November 10, 2007 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I had an Ovation acoustic-electric 4 string bass that had really great neck action. I have since gone to a more rock bass sound and sold it a few years ago. I really liked it. The bowl shape was a bit funky but the neck and smooth sound made up for it.

  3. Posted November 11, 2007 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Yes, Pierce… count me in. My email is dhoggard@triad.rr.com

    Ovation has always been a quirky instrument, Hugh. People either love ‘em or hate ‘em. But there is no denying they have been successful because of qualities such as the one you mention – playability.

    The ’roundback’ design, although having a revolutionary appearance to modern-day consumers, is actually a throwback.

    Early lutes were bowl shaped as were the old ‘tater bug’ mandolins.

  4. Posted November 12, 2007 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Well, David, as one who got pulled back in to that business I can only hope that some of the manufactureres that Kaman formerly distributed decide to take a long hard look at certain smaller, regional distributors.
    Know of any? Nyuk, nyuk!
    -Doug