Dear Musician - When Music Icons...Come Back
By Dendy Jarrett | (edited)
Pictured (left) Gibson CEO James "JC" Curleigh, and (right) Cesar Gueikian, Chief Merchant Officer
Back when we learned that Gibson was filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Harmony Central’s parent company is Gibson Brands, Inc.), I wrote a Dear Musician titled When Music Icons Stumble. At that time, we didn’t know whether Gibson (and subsequently Harmony Central) would be able to weather the storm and survive. Many thought this meant the end of Gibson.
But not everyone.
The first words spoken on stage at the opening of the 2019 Winter NAMM show by Gibson's new CEO, JC Curleigh, set Gibson's course for the future by quoting an iconic song from the past.
“Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.”
Well, Gibson started swimmin’ - and yes, the times, they are a-changin.’
The 2019 Winter NAMM show was where Gibson made its comeback - not just as a company but as a family. The Gibson booth was mobbed from the moment it opened until well after it was (supposed to be) closed. Everyone wanted to know Gibson's next step in a new era, with a new team, and with a very different attitude. The consensus: Gibson is back to making the guitars that guitarists want.
Gibson presented Doors' guitarist Bobby Krieger (see picture below) and, for a moment in time, I witnessed men and women of all ages transformed into 18-year-old music fans, once again experiencing the magic that music creates.
And in a very cool move, Gibson brought the magic of "being built in the USA" to the show floor, with craftsmen performing custom carving on guitar bodies, pickguards, scraping of bindings, winding coils, and more. Showgoers were fascinated to see what "hand-made" really means. But perhaps even more important for the company's future, Gibson employees were smiling again...and, once more, were proud to be a part of Gibson.
It must be true what they say—the culture of a company starts from the top. Guitarists want this brand to succeed. The employees want Gibson to succeed. Even those who were casualties of the pre-bankruptcy mass firings still want Gibson to succeed. The passion from all concerned was palpable at the show.
Yes, there's residual damage (to the brand) that needs to be reversed, and years of neglect have taken their toll. But anything is possible with teamwork, hard work, and a clear vision of how to fulfill the dreams of guitar players around the world.
Gibson is back. At Harmony Central, we're unabashedly proud to be associated with this brand and its comeback. And as guitarists and members of the Harmony Central community, we have a reason to celebrate. -HC-
Gibson CEO, JC Curleigh kicks off a fantastic evening of music at The Grove
Reverb Interview with Gibson CEO, JC
Music Radar Interview with Gibson CEO, JC
Gibson is Back!
Bringing Made in the USA to the NAMM Floor
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.
Edited by Dendy Jarrett