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NAMM Oral History Program marks 3,000th interview

The project aims to capture the history of the music products industry through first-person accounts

With interviews from BB King, Elvis Presley’s guitar player Scotty Moore, piano company founder Henry Steinway and songwriter Marilyn Bergman, the NAMM Oral History Program has clocked up a milestone with its 3,000th interview.

Since its inception in the year 2000, the program has sought to preserve the rich history of the music products industry through first-person accounts from retailers, suppliers, sales representatives, publishers, instrument and product creators, innovators, founders and artists.

NAMM’s music historian Dan Del Fiorentino (pictured) has conducted each interview, including the very first that featured industry pioneer, Ted McCarty. He served as the president of Gibson Guitars (1950-66) and while there, signed Les Paul, which eventually led to the creation of the Gibson SG electric guitar.

Del Fiorentino says interviewees are chosen based on a wish list that is generated by the industry, with people over 80 an obvious priority and the average interview takes about an hour.

“The idea at the beginning was to try and connect with those luminaries in the music industry whose stories we didn’t want to miss so we started with the older generation who pioneered things to try and capture those stories, while we still had the opportunities, and it grew as people caught on quickly to the idea that it was important,” he says.

“People then started making suggestions, so the older guys are great but this young guy helped pioneer this synthesiser or came up with idea of the electronic composer, so the scope of the collection quickly grew to cover the whole industry.”

The oral history participants have come from 46 different countries and were born in the years between 1903 and 1988, with the 500th interview featuring the late Danny Rocks, past vice president of Alfred Publishing, the 1,000 interview captured Dennis Houlihan, president/CEO of Roland, while the 3,000th was with the 22-Grammy winner and legendary jazz musician Chick Corea. The oldest living interviewee is Viola Smith, a drummer and product endorser at 103.

The NAMM show also features an annual tribute with parts of the Oral History Program used, says Del Fiorentino.

“It’s a way NAMM tries to unify our industry and come together and the oral history plays an important role in that we play segments of those interviewed and pictures of those who have passed, which is also a motivator, as every year I get a list of people that people want to make sure I interview,” he says.

But Del Fiorentino admits that after 16 years and 3,000 interviews, it is becoming tougher to find people to interview and welcomes suggestions from anyone in the industry.

Yet after the thousands of interviews, a person born on every day of the year has been filmed with exception of one: October 15th. Know of someone?

Read the full chat with Dan Del Fiorentino, including one of his all time favourite interviews with Elvis Presley’s guitar player Scotty Moore, in the October issue of PSNEurope.