Defunct Musical Instrument Manufacturers  - K to Mn.

Defunct Musical Instrument Manufacturers - K to Mn.

Kalmen Opperman
Primarily known as a clarinettist, music writer and teacher, but in addition to that Mr. Opperman actually made high end clarinet mouthpieces and barrerls from his New York, USA based workshop. His products wese sought after by collectors but not distributed to stores or via mail order and could only be bought by visiting Mr. Oppermans workshop where he would finish them while you waited, note that all early models of his mouthpieces (70's ~ 80's) were signed there was a tendency in his latter years to deliver them unsigned on an occasion. Sadly Mr Opperman passed away in 2010.

King Kong (USA - guitar amps 80's) See --> Evetscorp

Kiso Suzuki See --> Kiso Violin

K.Lith Visionese (Manuscript paper) See --> Grover-Trophy Music Company

KR Guitars Inc.

Small company that was founded in 2005 and incorporated in 2008 in Vallejo, California, USA. KR Guitars was run by and named after Kevin Robertson an ex-Mesa/Boogie tester and the company manufactured electric solidbody bass guitars plus one model of an acoustic guitar. Although the company gained some interest initially for looks of their instruments it was really the their “Ursa XL” bass that caught peoples imagination, but that is a long neck bass that allowed a similar note range for a 4 string bass that you would expect from a 6 string. Company had been de-listed by 2011. Not to be confused with

Resources: -- Dave’s Bass Place has pics and info on the Ursa XL.

K. Suzuki See --> Kiso Violin

La Paree See --> David Wexler & Co. (Flutes and piccolos ca 1940's to 90's)

Linko (Guitars, recorders & stands) See --> KHS Group

Louis Lot (France - Flutes 1930's to ca. 1970's) See --> Algam

Lowden (Acoustic guitars) See --> Avalon Guitars (1988 to 2002)

Mad Cat See --> David Wexler & Co. (1970's)

Mainframe (USA - stands 80's) See --> Evetscorp

Martin (Wind instruments) See --> Conn-Selmer

Martin Coletti (Guitars) See --> J. E. Dallas & Sons

Masakichi Suzuki See --> Suzuki Violin Co.

Maxxas See --> Hoshino Gakki (Guitars - Japan - 80's)

M. Christensen
Danish organ builder, built a 13 voice pipe organ for the Dómkirkjan church in Reykjavík, Iceland between 1902 and 1904 and a slightly smaller instrument for the Fríkirkjan in 1905, since neither church had been electrified by that time both organs were initially foot pumped. Later the same year he starts works as a carpenter, piano repairer & tuner in a woodworking company called Eyvindur og J. Setberg also located in Reykjavík. Leaves the country for his native Denmark in 1910, but I have not been able to find out what he did after returning home nor even what his full name is.

Note that in articles in Icelandic magazine Organistablaðið the Dómkirkja organ is incorrectly identified as a 14 voice, but a letter from Hr. Christensen to local rag Þjóðólfur in 1910 he definitely gives it out as a 13 voice and mentions that he would have liked to have it bigger but finances did not allow for it.

McKinney (Capos) See --> Thomas H. McKinney III or Frank Neat

M & G Amplification
A partnership rather than an incorporated company, M and G Amplification was a repair facility and custom guitar amplifier builder based in Brooklyn, New York, USA founded by Russian immigrant Mike "Crazy Ivan" Kach and local boy & noted motorcycle enthusiast Glenn "Moondog" in the mid 1990's or thereabouts. Although the partners made fully built amps they were actually better known on one hand for their modifications of valve amplifiers, in particular Marshall amplifiers and on the other as providers of parts such as turret boards and "replacement" faceplates to the DIY community. These sort of faceplate replacements are usually sold as replacements but have a tendency to end up on "recreations" (i.e. home made fakes).

The company was expanding their offerings into the parts and upgrade market with emphasis on the DIY community in 2001 and with that in mind they also organised a DIY musical electronics convention in NYC that same year. The company announced in 2002 that they would be moving to California and they have not been heard from since. One quirky thing about the company is that all new amp builds and most major restorations/upgrades appear to be signed by Mike & Glenn and usually also have a message to the buyer written on the inner enclosure.

Michel Lâg-Chavarria

French guitar builder, started repairing sting instruments as a side-line in 1978 to supplement his income and went full time in 1981 when he opened up a small shop in the city of Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrénées region in France in association with a friend called Daniel Delfour, who was by then an accomplished classical string instrument repairer (and a notorious motorcycle nut). The company was housed in a building that had previously served as Mr. Chavarria’s grandfather’s furniture workshop.

Initially the partners did primarily repairs but by 1982 both were making instruments as well, in the case of Mr. Chavarria his first products were a semi-acoustic guitar and a solid-body bass available in a variety of versions with the top of the line models being called the “Collection” series and that was a system that the company kept for many years making the same basic guitar designs available but offer variants with more work put into them, high end woods, hardware and electronics sold under the Collection name. By 1983 he had a variety of guitar models on offer in addition to doing custom builds and was selling his instruments using the Lag Guitares brand, later shorted to just Lag, and while sales of new instruments were still only a part of their operation it was still enough to force the company to move that same year since the original building was intended for carpentry done by hand and the installation of woodworking machinery proved difficult.

Sales started slowly but Mr. Chavarria found a ready market for his creations by the mid 80’s initially by word of mouth in his home town but the endorsement of fingerstyle legend Marcel Dadi was especially important, but in addition to being one of the best known guitarists in France, the late Mr. Dadi had a store in Paris that specialised in selling American guitars and the endorsement and promotion of the Lâg instruments in his store became a big boost for the nascent guitar builder, not the least since Dadi’s shop stocked the more expensive models only.

There was at the time a large market in Europe at the time for high end guitars, not just for original boutique creations but also for guitars that were alternatives to USA made guitars, i.e. conservatively styled guitars that looked like the Fenders, Gibson’s and Richenbachers from the 50’s but were decently put together and featured more modern hardware and so on. By the 70’s the USA based guitar factories had become dominant not the least because of the rock explosions of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s where American bands and British bands dominated, the Americans only used local instruments for the most part and the British bands were so heavily influenced by American music that they were kitted out with American and not British instruments and during that time European rock stars were more likely to been seen with a Yamaha Corp. than a European guitar.

Lag catalogue 1984

However the quality of American instruments went downhill rapidly in the late 60’s, during the 70’s a large part of Gibson’s output resembled firewood with strings on it and while Fender’s quality control never went anywhere near as bad as Gibson’s they operated more like a furniture factory than a musical instrument manufacturer, there was no one working for Fender that had any experience in instrument building of any sort until Fred Stuart started working there in the 90’s and even then the main luthiers at Fender’s custom shop like Stuart and Hamel were self-taught and not educated or trained instrument builders, and initially not even hired for their guitar building skills but as factory floor workers.

The situation was made even worse by the strength of the dollar during the Reagan period which made fairly indifferent instrument ridiculously expensive by the time they reached European markets. This was a golden opportunity for builders like the notoriously detail obsessed Mr. Chavarria who quickly got a reputation for building superior instruments and alongside fellow French company Vigier Guitars, early incarnations of Blade Guitars and a couple of German companies managed to prise huge chunks of the high end guitars segment in central Europe away from the larger American companies.

It also helped that Mr. Chavarria and his peers had their ears closer to the ground than the bigger companies, the explosion in European heavy metal that occurred in the early 80’s took a few years to reach North America and never amounted to much as far as record sales or radio airplay was concerned but the emergence genre metal bands in every small town in Europe sure helped guitar sales and unlike the traditional rock fans, the metalheads were looking for something more aggressive looking and the emergence of more extreme playing styles inside the genre lead to demand for build variations like extended necks (and better necks in general), scalloping and 7 string instruments which was much easier for the smaller concerns to meet than the larger ones.

Mr. Chavarria addressed this with the introduction of the Rockline series in 1985, an instrument whose basic body shape could be described as strat-like, but with more pronounced horns and a variety of striking paint jobs available including some that where quite, mmm … “80’s” shall we say. The company also made other styles and even variants of the Rockline that featured other body shapes but the clever thing was the use of paint and things like pickguards to visually suggest a more variety of styles, a typical Rockline instrument was delivered without a pickguard with 2 humbuckers or active pickups, had a tremolo with a black anodised aluminium arm and a painted headstock that appeared smaller than it actually was, but the company also offered a instruments that had the same body and hardware as the Rockline but also for instance a pickguard similar to the ones on a strat, or one from a tele and with other minor touches like an unpainted headstock, monotone paint jobs, chrome coloured hardware and an extra middle single coil pickups for a strat like instrument or a cylinder metal plate for the control pots on a tele like instruments. All this cumulating in an instruments that the company called “the blues” that was visually very evocative of a Fender Stratocaster and a Telecaster without looking the same at all, having more modern hardware and electronics and reasonably priced due to the use of common parts.

Original LAG logo used in the 80’s, replaced with the “roundish” logo (top) sometime before 1990

The company did make instrument that were much closer to Fenders and other classic guitars in build but only on a custom basis for those that specifically requested it thus quite expensive, but this huge variety of visual styles alongside a dip in the second hand prices for Lag branded Rockline style instruments after 2003 when the brand moved production partially to Asia meant that there are a number of private collectors with a surprisingly large amount of instruments in their collections, some quite unique. The Rockline was replaced by the current Arkane line but they are very similar in many respects with the primary difference being a better neck/body join that allows for a thinner instrument.

It should be noted that during the 80’s and early 90’s the market was very different pricewise than it is now, the budget section of the market (e.g. half decent guitars under 200 pounds/euros/dollars) that we have now simply did not exist, one may be tempted to thinks so reading the prices from old catalogues but the fact is that the values of the dollar and pound has dropped so much in real terms that direct comparisons are pointless, remember you could get a decent house in England for 4000 UKP in the early 80’s, you are now looking at 140,000 for a similar property. You will often find people taking about “budget” lines from Lag they are in that case referring to what we would describe as mid-range guitars today, they all have European or American hardware and none of them is mass manufactured in the sense we see from American or Asian companies, at its peak in the latter half of the 90’s the company was making around 1500 solid-body instrument and 800 acoustic and semi acoustic ones per annum and all were hand finished.

The model that the company remains best known for although it was not necessarily the bestselling one is the Roxane, a guitar with a body that is reminiscent of the Gibson SG & Yamaha SG X000 series that was originally introduced in 1993. While it was available in the same flashy finishes and sported the similar quality necks as the Rockline/Arkane the Roxane somehow manages to capture the imagination of guitarists more in particular the higher end models that feature exotic woods often with interesting or unusual grain or bacterial decay patterns that were highlighted with varnishing or other light paint jobs, somehow the more symmetrical shape of the Roxane alongside the excellent craftsmanship, hardware and electronics of the upper range Roxanes somehow ended up in an instrument that got almost anyone agreeing to its qualities.

It is also interesting to note that the company’s first products were basses and they sold well in the 80’s and 90’s and were in particular known for 5 string basses with high end pickups (typically one passive and one active unusually enough) and such as the “Force” series, early models had 5 band parametric EQ on board even, although the revised line introduced in 1992 trimmed that down or a more usual 2 band. But for some reason the basses and the acoustic guitars that were a full 1/3 of the company’s output during their later years get very little attention and after the brand was taken over the manufacture of basses seems to have been discontinued altogether.

The company had been steadily growing from the mid 80’s which forced a move to new premises and in 1992 the company opened up a purpose built factory located in the town of Bédarieux in the Hérault department in southern France, close to the Tyrrhenian coast. By 2000 the company was having some distribution problems and had seen the sales of their lower priced range of instruments contract after most of their competitors moved their production to China, although the high end models continued to sell at a similar rate as before. A chance meeting between Mr. Chavarria and Gerard Garnier, the owner of Algam who are the biggest musical instrument distributor in southern Europe resulted in Algam investing in the company with the intention of helping them with their distribution within Europe but at the same time they decided against financing large scale manufacture since they were the local distributor of a number of American and Japanese guitar manufacturers including Gibson, Takamine and Taylor Guitars and they did not want to go into competition with their business partners.

In 2003 however a number of their American suppliers had announced that they would take the distribution of their products in Europe into their own hands and that left Algam without an electric guitar line in their distribution catalogue so later that same year they took over the company and while the French factory was kept intact with Mr. Chavarria at the helm and that side of the operation handles the design work and the manufacture of the higher end models the mid and lower end production has been moved to Asia.

Resources : Denis Weening’s collection of Rockline guitars -- Lag fan club

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The site was last compiled on Sun Nov 10 2013 at 9:15:00am