For the 12th and final time, NAMM, the International Music Products Association, held its 2004 Summer Session trade show in Nashville, Tenn. July 23 – 25 at the Nashville Convention Center and adjoining Gaylord Entertainment Center.
NAMM trade shows are to musicians what the BASS Outdoor Pro Shops are to hunters and fishermen. (For my wife, NAMM would have the same effect as a trip to Home Depot).
With more than 500 exhibiting companies and thousands of retail buyers, the association’s second-largest trade show attracts more than 20,000 attendees from around the world and is open to manufacturers and retailers from the international music products industry and music publication journalists.
In short, the products you will see in trade magazines such as Guitar Player, Electronic Musician and Keyboard in December are debuted at Summer NAMM each July. As for the attendees, well, you’ll see dudes walking around in their night club best. Others have gone all out with their “personal presentation”, sporting red-spiked hair and navel piercing. Still others look like they just stepped off the set of the 700 Club. Then there’s grandpa Jim over there at the Yamaha booth, says he wants to “find one of ‘them there’ keyboards that you can play one-finger style”. “Let’s play a boogie,” he tells me. There’s Billy across the way, whose pony tail and denim attire, is reminiscent of his hero, Willie – Nelson, that is. He tries out Taylor Guitar’s new Thirty Anniversary Limited Edition. Just down the aisle is James Harvey who, with electric guitar in hand, is groovin’ with a new drum machine that Roland is showcasing.
No matter how they’re dressed or whether “cool” is pronounced with one syllable or two, everybody at NAMM has one thing in common – the absolute, undiluted love for music. From Zithers to Xylophones, kazoos to computer-triggered loops, attending NAMM is an unforgettable experience. This year, I took along my guitar-playing buddy Larry Roness Fail. I particularly wanted to see his face as he entered the main exhibit hall and saw the world’s second largest music show. (The largest is NAMM’s winter show in Anaheim, California.)
He was absolutely astonished to walk into Taylor Guitar’s exhibit room and see the company’s owner, Bob Taylor, talking with customers. That’s NAMM. The “names” share guitar picks and war stories with plain ole, common, ordinary folk.
After a short breather Friday evening at the hotel, we headed for Nashville’s “music row”. Unfortunately, the “Country Music Capital of the World” isn’t what it used to be and “music row”, the main drag through downtown, which was once lined with spots that berthed many of country music’s greats, now appears to be withering. Perhaps that may be one of the reasons NAMM is pulling out of Nashville. But Jack’s is still there. You won’t find any live pickin’ at Jack’s, but in my meager southern opinion, you’ll find some of the finest barbecue and sweet tea in the world. It was so good, we chose it as the dining spot of choice for Saturday night, too. And what a night.
Through a series of unbelievable, perfectly (and we believe, divinely) timed events, we found out about Muriel Anderson’s All Star Guitar Night at the Ryman Auditorium, the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry, and we were in the right place at the right time to get free tickets and great seats, thanks to Avlex, a great, new microphone company. We heard the best of the best, playing the best of the best of the best equipment. I still haven’t recovered from it. There was Peter Frampton, Duane Eddy (34 chart singles, 100 million records sold worldwide), Seymour Duncan, Nokie Edwards (of the legendary music group, The Ventures), Pete Huttlinger (John Denver’s guitarist), Dave Pomeroy (350 albums with many greats such as Elton John), and James Burton, the famous lead guitarist for Elvis Presley, and several other famous players. Stunning talent, plus an overwhelming showcase of guitars, amps and processors.
If that wasn’t enough, Sunday morning began with NAMM’s sold-out, Gospel Pancake Breakfast. Denver and the Mile High Orchestra (you’ve got to hear these folks, see www.denvermho.com), a gospel, big-band-style group, and the Crabb Family, a contemporary Christian lineup headlined. Both groups were as good as syrup on a flapjack.
Roness and I couldn’t believe that later that day at the expo we would bump into famed guitarists Seymour Duncan and James Burton. I took Roness’ picture with his life-long heroes. He got to chat with them. “Hey, send me one of those pictures, I’d love to have one,” Seymour Duncan said to me. That’s NAMM. A picture perfect event, with unbelievable opportunities.