There are a few great pioneers in the musical equipment industry who both built companies and created revolutionary products. Charles Kaman was not a drummer, he was a guitarist. But he was a great friend to drummers and all musicians through his relentless commitment to innovation and the company he founded, now known as KMC Music, home of the Gretsch, Gibraltar, Toca, and LP brands. He died yesterday at the age of 91.
Charlie Kaman was first known as an aviation innovator before he turned his attention to music. It was Charlie’s continuing quest for a superior sound that led him in 1965 to develop the Ovation® Roundback guitar, and throughout his life, Charlie continued to drive guitar innovation. He applied composite materials, such as the Adamas® carbon graphite top, to guitar construction. He was the first to incorporate pickups and preamplifiers in the acoustic guitar, creating the category of acoustic/electric guitar and allowing the acoustic guitarist to plug in when playing live.
Early on, Charlie saw the importance of efficient distribution in the music industry, first acquiring Coast Wholesale and later C.Bruno & Son, providing the building blocks for KMC Music to establish a national distribution network while growing into the largest independent distributor of musical instrument accessories.
In a KMC Music press release his colleagues recall him as a visionary leader, pioneer, and entrepreneur. "Above all, Charlie believed in the people at Kaman. He both challenged and encouraged his team while paying them the respect that they deserved. His goal throughout was to innovate and stretch boundaries. The success of his companies was a mere byproduct of these efforts. Though KMC Music is no longer a part of Kaman Corporation, we continue to take great pride in the heritage that Charlie provided. He will be sorely missed."