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A NAMM Reporter's Notebook
(Soapbox Column #15)
Bass Player Magazine
Published June, 2002

I realize that this isn't the first time I've used this column space to talk about NAMM. You know, the National Association of Music Merchants' annual convention every January in Anaheim, where musical equipment manufacturers rent floor space to show off their latest and greatest to retailers, international distributors, sales reps, professional musicians, the music press, and even a few visitors lucky enough to score a badge required for entry. Much has been written in this publication about it, and you can count on a Bass Player "NAMM Report" every year like clockwork.

But enough about what I think of this circus of a convention. This year I took along a microcassette recorder and got the story straight from the mouths of those brave souls willing to answer one simple question on the record. (Some decided to expand their responses beyond the question, to my delight.) The answers were as revealing as anything I could have written, and considering that the deadline for this column fell two days after the show...well, you get the picture.

(Full disclosure: I work for SWR, and endorse Mike Lull Custom Guitars, Taylor Guitars, D'addario strings and Raven Labs. I made every effort to interview as many people from as many different companies as possible. In other words, no conspiracy theories, OK?)

So, without further adieu, here's my January 2002 NAMM reporter's notebook, laid bare for all to see. The big question: "What's the first think you think of when you think of NAMM?"

* * * * *

Tommy Wilson [Product Manager, Ampeg]: "A lot of really, really hard work and a lot of really, really good times. Very good products, great people in the industry, seeing all your friends, that's what NAMM's all about."

Rudy Schlacher [President, Washburn International]: "An incredibly large assortment of musical instruments. Perhaps too many."

John D'Agostino [V.P. of Public Relations, Taylor Guitars]: "Chaos. Fatigue. Lots of toys that I want that I probably won't end up having."

I then asked about his NAMM "dislikes."

"If they got rid of all the split ties with the piano keyboard on them, and the pencils with the little bobbing musician-you know, get that stuff out of here [laughs]."

Doug Wimbish [Bassist, Living Colour]: "Purgatory. It's like being stuck in hell for about four days. But you love it. You can't wait to get back."

John Ripley [G.M., Mars Nashville]: "Excitement. It's packed this year. I had to park miles away."

Mark Blasquez [Product Specialist, Line 6]: "Not available, maybe May." (This is a well-known and quite accurate acronym regarding new products shown at N-A-M-M.)

Jakob Morelli [visitor]: "Absolute chaos. In a good way. It's the kid in the candy store, but on a real big and professional level. The coming together of a lot of people trying to hook up music as their profession, and I'm just trying to meet as many people as possible."

Mike Connelly [Director of Artist Relations and New Product Development, Dean Markley]: "Pain. Fun."

I ask: "So, pain and fun are not mutually exclusive concepts to you?"

"It depends on where you work."

Andy West, [Bassist: Dixie Dregs, FWAP]:
"My feet."

Mike Levine [Editor, Onstage Magazine]:
"Music, crowds...and bad food."

Dale Krevens [V.P., Tech 21]: "Party time. I think of a high school reunion, except you like everybody."

Jon Levy [Advertising Acct. Mgr., Southern California, Bass Player and Guitar Player]: "H-E-L-L."

Ned Steinberger: "I think of the stress of trying to sell musical instruments."

Bob Moog: "Having to shout until you're hoarse. That's what I think of."

Charlie Turner [Sales Rep, Upscale Marketing]:
"Whether or not I'm going to keep my job-there's a lot of heads rolling out there, a lot of reps are being shifted around, and it's very dangerous with all the power you have in the superstores coming and going, that whole thing. So, a lot of changes, because the musical instrument business is growing up and learning how to go corporate."

Kathleen McCann [visitor]: "80 percent long-haired beautiful artists, male. And that would leave 20 percent female. That's the first thing I think of when I think of NAMM. Let's be really honest here. Very good hunting."

Paul Herman [G.M./V.P. of Sales, SWR]: "Noise."

Dave Pomeroy [Nashville session bassist, Bass Player columnist]: "Noise!"

Lisa Lopez [NAMM Booth Reception, Samick Music Corporation]: "Rock stars."

Michelle Webster [NAMM Booth Reception, Samick Music Corporation]: "Rock stars!"

Robert Marston [Sales Rep, Savvy Marketing]:
"Dean girls. I like the Dean women. Schecter now has some nice women too." (Certain companies use various methods to attract attention to their booths. Dean is famous for this, as is Gemini.)

Brian Courtney [Group Publisher, The Music Player Network]: "Too much time away from my family."

Eddie Kramer [Independent Sales Rep]: "The Dean girls."

Steve Rabe [President, Raven Labs]: "The most fun for me is coming back each year and seeing my friends in the industry, which you don't necessarily get to do at any other time during the year."

Brad Houser [Bassist: New Bohemians, Critters Buggin']:
"Lizard-skin porno chicks, really horrible guitar playing, typewriter-slap bass, and a lot of cool gear."

Bob McDonald [Design & QC Manager, Modulus Guitars]: "Lots of people, music, and insanity."

Mark Magnich [File Control Manager, Guitar Center Management]: "Innovation. New products. It's interesting to see what the industry's going to do now, or the next year, to see who's going to take things to the next level."

Michael Stoltzman [Employee, Redlands Guitar Shop (18 years old, first NAMM)]: "It's badass. They have everything, and plenty of it."

Dave Boonshoft [CEO, Aguilar Amplification]: "The Bass Player Breakfast, absolutely. I think of having the Bass Player Breakfast." (Dave refers to a veritable breakfast feast hosted by Bass Player every year. I was there; he's got a point.)

Wes Wehmiller [Bassist: Duran Duran, Warren Cuccurrullo]: "I have to make sure that I have my pills with me, because my anxiety really acts up around all these people and sounds."

Simon Bradley [Guitarist Magazine (an English publication)]: "Sore feet. And the fact that I've had to spend 150 quid on a new pair of dapps.

I ask, "Dapps?" [points down at his trendy-looking shoes]

"These. Dapps. It's Welsh, actually."

Matt Garrison [Solo Artist & Bassist: Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin]:
"Noise. Headaches. And lots of fun."

Mica Wickersham [G.M., Alembic]:

Mike Lull [President, Mike Lull Custom Guitars]: "Really sore feet, really sore back. Long hours. Shows. Lots of really great gear, and seeing old friends."

Stacey Ferguson [visitor]: "People watching. And seeing great equipment that I've never seen before in my life."

I then asked about her NAMM "dislikes."

The closing at 6:00 thing. It's just because people want to go party, right? Well, I can't get here until later, so I want it to be open later."

Oscar Cartaya [Bassist, Jennifer Lopez]: "I think of Vietnam. And if I can survive all four days, I earn a purple heart."

Mark Gooday [President, Ashdown Engineering]: "Sex. What can I say? And, of course, SWR, and the problems they cause around the world for me."

I exclaim: "How am I going to run any of that? I can't run any of that!"

"Good. That's what I want."

(Hey, Mark...gotcha!)

Greg Ross [Forklift Driver, Sullivan Transfer (show crew)]: "I like it. I think more people ought to be able to come and see it. More of the public. I know everybody can't afford this."

Harvey Citron [Citron Guitars], question asked during the show's final night breakdown: "Waiting for my cartons. Three hours. Three hours waiting for a few cartons."

The Dean Girls: "No comment."

Tom Wheeler [former Editor-In-Chief, Guitar Player Magazine]: "Friends. Friends that I've had for a long time now. Ned Steinberger-I remember when he came with the first Steinberger bass, and no one would give him the time of wonderful to see Larry DiMarzio start off in a little 10x10 booth, and like everybody else, see them grow in their businesses. Many have become great pals-and the thing is, many I see only at NAMM shows. So I do get a bang out of trying out new gear. I'll always get a kick out of playing a new Les Paul or a new Stratocaster. But I can do that in a music store. Seeing some of these friends, I can only do here."

Reprinted with permission from the June, 2002 issue of BASS PLAYER. For subscription information, please visit


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