Every year for four days in January, I take an incredible and exhausting trip to California for NAMM.
NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) is America’s largest music trade show, and it’s poised at the top of the year to showcase what most companies will roll out as their newest and most innovative products. I’m always excited to see the latest of the latest and even more excited to make some great deal or relationship for the artists that I represent.
This year while on post during a couple of Mark’s performances, I noticed a booth that I’ve seen years prior, but this time I couldn’t stop looking at it. I told the Ladybug about a month ago that I’m so much more aware of vintage and vintage things now that she’s turned me on to it as a lifestyle. So based on my fixation on this booth, I decided to compose a post that would showcase some of the vintage inspired ideas found at this year’s NAMM.
I’ll begin at what was the beginning for me… The Souldier booth.
The booth was mad busy and the owner; although she acknowledged me and posed for a photo wasn’t able to talk, so I simply asked for some lit and went on my quest (since I changed the entire idea of this year’s first SSwK post completely in 13 seconds) to gather photos and information. She asked me to come back to talk and maybe she wouldn’t be so busy.
You won’t believe all of the vintage inspired things you’d see here in this “music geek cave” of innovation, but there was a lot and I didn’t even scratch the surface.
First I came up on and amp and effects pedals company called Burriss. Robert Burriss had some beautiful gear. In talking with him, I learned that he has been in the repair business for many years… working on some of the greatest equipment ever (a lot of which is now considered vintage). His line is inspired from the coolest things he came to know and love in vintage equipment. He’s been hand building his line of amps since 1995. One of his greatest passions behind his brand is the desire that someone build heirloom worthy devices that are well priced.
I also checked out Vintage Vibe pianos. These keyboards pay homage to the Fender Rhodes. Very well built and super sexy!!!
Guitars are plentiful at NAMM, but earlier in the day I couldn’t help stopping by Italia Guitars to see in person what I’d salivated over in print. And can I tell you, they are BEAUTIFUL!
There was also Jay K. Co. guitar strap company and Gretsch, which is one of the oldest drum & guitar companies out there. This year they are celebrating 130 of being in business and one of the artist who endorses their guitars is a wonderful vintage expression artist named Lynda Kay. I love the photos on her site… and the music is good too. And I can’t forget about Ayin Aleph, whom I actually shot while she was playing yesterday because of her slick vintage look.
On the basement level of the convention center, you’ll find many of the acoustic stringed instruments and the pure genius (this product will be your grandchild’s new hotness), along with the completely obscure… and that was the case with the Wheelharp for Antiquity Music by Jon Jones & Sons. No one playing on it knew how to play it, so I won’t say anything about the sound, but it looked interesting.
There was also this string of booths that seemed to all be strung together like a chain of analog modular synth scientists sons’ bedrooms with a “Keep Out” sign on the door.
Also downstairs I witnessed the musical mind of Don Lewis with LEO. “WOW” is all I can really say.
There was even a company there selling a product that was designed to speed up the “vintage process” by aging the tone of your instrument called Tone Rite.
But by far my best and most friendly “vintage find” of the day was the inspiration that sparked this post. With tired legs and mind that were asking my body to walk out of the door, my heart returned me to the Souldier booth which was still in high hustle. I took advantage of the wait by taking in the array of products and a seat in an open chair.
I watched, in admiration, Jennifer Tabor (company founder and President) and her trusted staff sell strap after strap to everyone in their full booth. She moved nearly 30 to a guy before my very eyes.
When we finally got a chance to sit down to talk, I learned that the company is based on the west side of Chicago (Ukraine Village) and it was started 7 years ago. She simply made a few gifts using seat-belt material and vintage fabrics for the guys in her band, each one receiving something to fit their different personalities. They encouraged her to make more to sell at their gigs and it quickly grew from being something you could only get at a show on a weekend night to merchandise sold in 200 stores within a year. …And did I mention that she was teaching at the time? She’s a cellist who taught kindergarten – 8th grade orchestra for ten years.
Jennifer has taken the time to find old non-existent fabrics from the ’60s & ’70s and put them back in demand by creating products that are chic and reminiscently recent. Something I found intriguing is that for her, the word “vintage” was nearly a bad word regarding a certain demographic of her customers. This is why she uses the term “original fabrics” for her Rock n’ Roll Lifestyle brand.
Since I had a chance to talk with Ms. Tabor about her business, I figured I’d ask The Ladybug’s famous question… “What does vintage mean to you?”
It’s funny how this question can sometimes stop people in their vintage tracks, but Jennifer pulled through with a very nice response. “Vintage is my childhood… It’s what we’re drawn to as adults (for example: the things we like now that we didn’t like then) because they bring warms memories from our childhood. It also has to be offset by 20 – 30 years [so none of my childhood memories are vintage yet... they're just "original"].”
I had my eye on this bag… I loved it so much that I picked it up and put it on. I wanted to buy it!!! So I opened it up to find out what was in it to make it so heavy… “Umm, somebody left their stuff in my new bag.” I guess that would have worked if it wasn’t the president’s bag. LOL
See you “next Sunday!”
To see more great pix and videos detailing my experience at NAMM, visit my facebook page: www.facebook.com/knagui