2019 NAMM report, bluegrass edition

This report of the recently concluded NAMM trade show in Anaheim is a contribution from Danny “Hootenanny” Clark, a bluegrass picker and entrepreneur from back east now living in California. The show is the annual convention where music retailers come to see new products targeted at their industry. Danny runs the Bluegrass Bus Museum with his father, Don Clark.

As I walked into the 2019 NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show, I was greeted by the sounds of a banjo and fiddle sound checking through the main stage speaker system. A local family bluegrass band, The Wimberleys, opened the morning main stage. This talented young quartet, based out of Orange, CA, performs traditional bluegrass as well as original tunes in the bluegrass and western styles.

The sheer size of the Anaheim, CA NAMM show is enough to excite even the most well-traveled of troubadours. When compared to the Nashville version of NAMM, Anaheim is ten times the size. The 2019 edition featured thousands of unique music industry booths along with an assortment of lectures and demos. I spent eight hours wandering the trade show and only managed to skim the surface. Next year I’ll be back for multiple days.

Note to all future attendees, bring earplugs. At times you may find yourself surrounded by dozens of drummers who are all dedicated to reaching the mythical volume of 11. Banjos beware.

There were endless exhibitors at the show and a few really stood out. Deering’s banjo booth drew me in with an impromptu performance of a five-string banjo and six-string gitjo. Once in, I got to look at their line of banjos and was impressed by the craftsmanship and detail. They really have a knack for creating intricate inlay work. Oregon based Weber Mandolins was onsite and had a wide array of mandolins and mandocellos. The Weber Diamondback F14 model has a particularly powerful punch. At the Martin Guitar booth I geeked out on a “Martin Sample Box,” these trade show specific marketing tools showcase the current trends that accompany the different models of each Martin guitar. I was impressed by the liquid metal bridge pins that produce a louder tone when compared to traditional pins.

For all you folks who travel frequently with your instruments, the Texas based Calton Case Company showcased their new line of interior and exterior case designs. The new sparkle exterior is so gorgeous it’s almost too pretty to cover in stickers. They are also now producing cases for fiddle and viola.

One new product I was particularly drawn to is a shoulder rest made by the SoCal company Acousta Grip. The rest is a soft foam fiddle pad that sticks to the back of the instrument. They use a form of fabric which suctions onto the instrument creating a bond without leaving any damaging residue on the finish. The foam pad even molds to your shoulder. This new product seems like a great idea for students.

If you are a bluegrass fan who is professionally involved in the music industry you should attend the Anaheim NAMM show. Music businesses from every facet of the industry are in attendance. This is a remarkable event where key representatives from luthier supply companies, merchandise manufactures, string companies, instrument insurance brokers, tech companies and more can meet, collaborate, share ideas, show off new products, and attract new clients and customers. Come on out the weather is fine.