DID YOU KNOW??
Back in the late 1970’s I started to spend a great deal of time at musical instrument stores. Being the only child out of three children in my family to ever work for my father’s company (Davis Rubber Co.) I was very lucky to have been able to have the financial ability to use and obtain so many pieces of historic music equipment. Even before I was old enough to drive, my father brought me around to help him and also meet everyone that was important to the company and as a result, he was always generous. Thanks to his generosity I also was able to have my own studio and work at many world-class recording studios.
Even though I have been involved in music since I was only a few years old when I asked for and was gifted a “Sears Best” ToRoDoR blue-sparkle drum kit for Xmas, I still worked for DRC up until and even several years after my father’s passing in 2000. Musically, the list of people I have worked with and performed with over the years is quite impressive and again, I am very grateful and appreciative for being so lucky. People aside, the list of musical equipment I have been able to use is equally notable.
Rather than list an entire catalog of instruments used here, I thought it would be interesting and educational to give a few examples of some trivia that most people are not aware of. Starting off with music instrument dealers; most of them would offer “rentals” to make additional income for the stores and simultaneously hope that if you “tried” the equipment, you would buy it. 1980 was really the dawn of the electronic musical instrument age with so many new ideas emerging in the industry you had to be an expert just to keep up. It almost became a game of knowing all the numbers and letters.
I remember renting many pieces that were sent to the top music stores by the manufacturers that were “dealer demos” and were not available for purchase immediately. The stores would usually have two of each; one for the sales floor and one for rent until actual “production models” were shipped. It was often a waiting game just to use the “only one for rent” if you were not lucky enough to be the first to get your hands on one the day it arrived at a store.
Some of the equipment never even actually went into the “production” stage by a manufacturer and even more were different from the first “two” each store received when they did go into production. I remember “renting” pieces and when the production inventory arrived at a store, I bought one, brought it home and upon unboxing, it was totally different from the “rental” piece I had been using.
One example of a dealer demo versus a changed production piece that sticks out in my mind is the 1980 Roland TR-808. The first one I used was because I was lucky enough to be at the top music store in Boston the morning they received their “two” dealer demos. I rented it for quite some time and when I brought it back, the production models had come in and they had sold the “floor model” which was one of the original two. The floor model now on display (and is the one that everybody is now familiar with) was nothing like the rental I was returning.
This phenomena was not just limited to musicians themselves, but to some studios as well. One of the studios that comes to mind is the now-defunct Unique Recording Studios in NYC. I originally chose them to record at because they were a virtual music store in and of themselves. What they didn’t already have could be obtained at (also defunct) Manny’s Music as a rental. The studio had a close relationship with Manny’s and could get the use of some pieces before anyone ever had a chance to see one, let alone use one.
Interestingly enough, at the time of this writing, apparently even the entire building that used to house Unique is now just a memory. Fortunately, most of the vintage musical instruments are not….that is if you are lucky enough to get your hands on them.