The 2020 NAMM Oral History Service Award presented to Robert Wilson MBE

The 2020 NAMM Oral History Service Award, which annually recognises one individual who has contributed greatly in assisting NAMM with preserving the industry’s history, was presented to Robert Wilson MBE who was instrumental in organising a significant number of interviews with industry luminaries in the past 5 years…

Many of you will know Robert Wilson, the founder of Sound Technology, the first UK director of NAMM and a member of the Board of the MIA for 44 years, from 1975 to 2019. Congratulations to the wonderful Robert for this well deserved award! 

NAMM Oral History 

Our Oral History program and Music History Project podcast contain the story of our industry told by those who helped to shape it and have watched it expand and develop through the years.

This collection is our journal, our own way of chronicling ourselves and our community—the community we so eagerly embrace at our trade shows and so proudly celebrate throughout the year.

The NAMM Oral History Program is a collection of one-on-one interviews with people involved in the music products industry, including music instrument retailers, instrument and product creators, suppliers and sales representatives, music educators and advocates, publishers, live sound and recording pioneers, innovators, founders, and artists. The mission of the program is to preserve the history of the music products industry, including industry innovations, the evolution of musical instruments and music retail, as well as improving music education worldwide.[1] The Oral History Program was established by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) in 2000.

The NAMM Resource Center, which curates the program, was approved by the NAMM Board of Directors in 1996, five years before the associations 100th anniversary. The first NAMM Oral History was conducted on March 5, 2000 with professional harmonica player, Bill Walden, who attended the grand opening of The NAMM Foundation’s Museum of Making Music. Just a few weeks later, a more formal interview was captured with former Gibson Guitar president Ted McCarty. McCarty was responsible for signing Les Paul on to Gibson in the 1950s in order to lend his name to the now famous Gibson Les Paul Guitar. Les Paul was also interviewed as part of the NAMM Oral History program back in 2008.[2] As of March, 2019 the program has interviewed more than 3,800 people.[3

The NAMM Oral History program is unique, unlike any other collection in the world. The heart of the collection is the depth of its narratives that cover innovative creations, the evolution of musical instruments, the ever-changing world of music retail, as well as our collective quest to improve music education around the globe. Oral History participants have come from over 72 different countries, 49 U.S. states and were born between 1903 and 1997. This collection is our journal, our own way of chronicling ourselves and our community—the community we so eagerly embrace at the NAMM shows and so proudly celebrate throughout the year. This library of video interviews, now over 3,500 strong and always growing, contains the story of our industry told by those who helped to shape it and have watched it expand and develop through the years.

The NAMM Oral History program seeks to capture one-on-one interviews with those involved with the music products industry. Among those interviewed as part of this collection include but are not limited to music retailers, manufacturers, arrangers and composers, individuals who design, make, market and sell music products, as well as music publishers, engineers and artists closely associated with the industry.

The collection is collection also includes the stories of those who have inspired others to make music! As a result, interviews with innovators such as Hartley Peavey and Remo Belli have been captured. In addition, the stories of these and similar companies have their histories archived through the use of those associated with the companies including person(s) in roles such as musicians, composers, method book authors, factory workers and salesman.

Music industry pioneers that have been interviewed for the NAMM Oral History Collection include Bob Moog, Don Buchla, Henry Z. Steinway, Bob Taylor and Ray Kurzweil.

The Collection also includes music retailers and the history of such store chains as Sam Ash and Guitar Center, as well as independent music stores around the world such as Daynes Music and Andertons Music Co.. The first music retailer interviewed for the Collection was Chip Averwater of Amro Music in 2000.

Musicians interviewed for the Collection are those who designed an instrument, endorsed a product or wrote a method book that has inspired others to make music. These include B. B. King, Roy Clark, Joe Morello, Herbie Hancock and original member of the Beatles, Pete Best. The first interview to be donated to the collection was conducted in 1996 with jazzman Jonah Jones. Jones spoke of his relationship with King Musical Instruments as a product tester and endorser. He later played an F. E. Olds trumpet, which was featured on many recordings during his long career.

The Oral History Collection reached its first milestone with the completion of its 100th interview, Seymour Duncan, in July 2002. Later milestone interviews include 500th interview, Danny Rocks, interview 1,000, Dennis Houlihan, and in the Spring of 2011, NAMM announced the completion of its 1,500th interview, Scott Mandeville, followed by interview 2,000, Tom Schmitt. Chick Corea was the 3,000th interview which occurred in Summer 2016. The first international interview occurred in 2001 and was with Ikutaro Kakehashi, who sat down multiple times throughout his life for follow-up interviews. Later, the depth of the international collection was expanded with the addition of interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Lee of Tom Lee Music in Hong Kong. These interviews expanded the Collection into a diverse, global representation of the music products industry. The NAMM Oral History Collection was also proud to add the first female to the collection in 2001 with the addition of music retailer, Luella Derwin.

Over the years the scope of the Collection has expanded to include Live Sound pioneers, whose involvement with professional audio equipment and recording studios has helped the industry grow. The inclusion of stories from music educators and advocates who have championed the importance of music making in the lives of people of all ages have also been added to the Collection.


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