Many other firms were entering the market for guitar equipment. Randall Smith started guitar amplifier company Mesa Boogie in his California workshop in the late 1960s. Smith told Guitar World that he saw the decline of Fender and Gibson in the 1970s, and he was determined to “avoid that fate and remain dedicated to the instruments and the musicians that play them.” Smith’s company went on to invent an array of new features for guitar amps that have become standard in the industry.
Hartley Peavey has a similar story. As a teenager in Meridian, Mississippi, Peavey began building guitars and amps for his friends, which led to his founding Peavey Electronics in 1965. He wanted to offer consumers better value for money than the gear on the market at the time. Peavey’s early years were tough, but he used innovative manufacturing techniques to keep his costs down and to challenge Fender and Gibson with quality guitars at lower prices. Today, Peavey is one of the largest names in amps and guitars, and it ships many of its products worldwide from factories in Mississippi.
Hartley Peavey says that he has been driven to “to be the best.” That description also matches Paul Reed Smith, whose name graces his high-end Maryland guitar company. Smith started building guitars in college in the 1970s, and he eventually dropped out to focus on his business. In the early years, he lugged his guitars to rock concerts and nagged famous bands to give them a try. His hard work paid off, and today Smith’s guitars are known throughout the world for their beauty and craftsmanship.
As for Fender and Gibson, they finally got back on track after investor buyouts. By the early 1980s, Gibson was “floundering” and “might well have gone under,” notes Guitar World. Fender was “all but dead,” according to the company’s official history. But Fender was bought out in 1985 and Gibson was bought out in 1986 by teams of investors determined to revive the traditions of quality at the firms. Today, Fender and Gibson are back on top of this very competitive industry.
In Obama’s July 13 comments, he said that “if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” But when you read about the gutsy entrepreneurs behind many industries, you can see why the president’s comments offended people. It is true that some industries rely on the government, such as the defense industry. But most industries are like electric guitars — they were built by individuals with the drive and vision to try and make something new.
Chris Edwards is director of tax policy studies and editor of DownsizingGovernment.org.