UMI (United Musical Industries)



    Company founded by Richard Soloway in Farmingdale, New York, around 1967.

    Richard Soloway:

      I was in high school in the mid-1960s. It was cold installing garage door openers in unheated garages, so I wanted something I could do indoors. When a friend needed new drumsticks I went with him to Gracin’s Music in Freeport, N.Y. After looking at the electronic amplifiers I told the owner I could make a more powerful one that cost less. He told me that if I could do that he’d order 100.

      I converted the basement so I could manufacture these amplifiers and went to work. I knew where to get components because I had the data sheets. I also shopped in the area known as Radio Row in Manhattan, near the site that would become the World Trade Center. I ordered the boxes, and my dad did the cosmetic design. We chose Bird’s Nest Blue with black streaks for the casing.

      I was hanging out on 48th Street in New York City, known as Music Row, at music stores like Manny’s, Sam Ash’s and Jimmy’s. I also went to clubs like Cafe Wha? and the Cheetah Club. You could mingle with the musicians back then. They’d hear I was an engineer and want to talk to me about equipment.

      Jimi Hendrix was just getting his start. He asked me about coming up with a new sound for him. We went back to his hotel room and fooled with Channel 3 on the TV. I wanted to find something similar to the static sound of the snow on the screen. That gave me the idea for my first fuzz box, a device running from a guitar to an amplifier that provides controlled distortion. I built what’s called a wah-wah pedal along with it. Musicians would attach both devices to their equipment and alternate between them to get different sounds.

      I started United Musical Industries with these two products and amplifiers and sold them to hundreds of music stores. During this time I helped set up the equipment for the Doors at Fillmore East and other clubs. Eric Clapton also used U.M.I. equipment.

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