Fourth In A Series Of Annual Reports Exclusive To Folkworks

By Larry Rosenberg

Photo by Susan Rosenberg

By the end of the Winter 2012 NAMM show, 95,709 registered attendees had toured 1,441 exhibitors in the 110th edition of what continues to be by far the largest and longest running music merchandise show in the United States. The 4-day show took place from January 19th through the 22nd and was again held at the Anaheim Convention Center. This mid-sized city of music makers grows larger each year with this year seeing a 6 percent increase over last year, and 231 new exhibitors.

NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants. The two large trade shows it produces are not open to the public (other than a public day at their July, Summer Show in Nashville), however, the press is welcomed. This is my fourth report for FolkWorks on acoustic music at NAMM and despite the increased attendance, your reporter was able to attend the press-only preview day on January 18th, as well as arrive early before the crowds on the weekend days while it still seemed there were more ukuleles at NAMM than people and surveying what was being presented at the show was somewhat more relaxed. None-the-less, even with that early bird advantage, it was still difficult to see, let alone report on, all that was there.

Photo by Susan Rosenberg

One acoustic instrument (or one should really say one instrument family because there were so many variations) which could not be missed at NAMM this year was, indeed, the ukulele. More manufacturers than ever offered all sizes and styles of the again increasingly popular instrument and Shubb Capos presented a new line made specifically for ukulele. Chris Thomas of C.F. Martin Guitars confirmed that the ukulele is becoming as popular as it was in the 1920s and Martin has plans to expand its already significant ukulele production. I put in a plug for Martin to once more offer a baritone ukulele and Chris said that could happen. The other good news from Martin is significant list price reductions on some of their popular mid-priced models.

Another trend at NAMM this year was the parlor guitar. Parlor guitars feature smaller bodies and usually 12, instead of 14, frets away from the body. Because of their size and tone (and the then low cost), they were very popular with early blues players and were so named because they were also appropriate for use at small, indoor gatherings. The signature guitar made for and presented to John Mayer by C.F. Martin at NAMM was an extremely well-made parlor size guitar and many guitar makers featured high quality models in this style. Martin also introduced a “triple 0” size nylon string model at NAMM and said sales of its triple 0 and “double 0” models were growing rapidly.

Photo by Susan Rosenberg

Pick-up equipped 6 string banjo-guitars of all styles and price points were offered by Deering Banjos The idea of such instruments is, of course, to allow a guitar player to add banjo voicing without having to learn to play the banjo and thanks to Deering Banjos, there are now more possibilities to do that than ever before.

Gold Tone again brought a dozen or so new acoustic instruments, including the OT-700A which is a wonderful sounding A Scale 5 string banjo with a tubaphone tone ring.

What would a music manufacturers’ show be without musical entertainment and appearances by musicians who have created some of the most influential music of our times? On press preview day, the “Music for Life” award was given to Brian Wilson for a lifetime of such music, and Michelle Phillips representing the The Mamas and The Papas and John Mayer introduced their signature C.F. Martin Guitars. Throughout the 4-day show there was entertainment at various vender booths and also on the main stage (pictured above) which is actually in the lobby of the convention center open to the public.

Photo by Susan Rosenberg

In addition to almost as many jams as you will find at the Topanga Banjo*Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival, Inc., I was happy to see and hear Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band  preform their style of Americana at the Shubb Capos Booth (and only mildly distracted when Stevie Wonder passed by).  Being a banjo player, I was also very much wowed by The Kruger Brothers, playing at the Deering Banjos Booth, including brother Jens playing his Deering Jens Kruger Signature Model and who is counted as one of the best banjo players in the world.

Time and space won’t allow an account here of all that was Winter NAMM, 2012, but I hope this report has stimulated your thinking and provided some specific information about what is current in the world of acoustic music. If you have any comments or questions about this review, or anything you might want me to look into at next year's show, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo by Susan Rosenberg
Photo by Susan Rosenberg

Larry Rosenberg is an attorney and editor-at-large based in the San Fernando Valley. When he is not practicing law or writing an exclusive for FolkWorks, you might find him playing his banjo at the 52nd Annual Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest at Paramount Movie Ranch in Agoura Hills, CA, on Sunday, May 20th, 2012.