Gibson Guitars

By Christopher Hull, Ferris State University student

Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of blog posts for GRandJazzFest written by Ferris State University public relations students. Thank you, Ferris, for helping to build awareness of jazz, the great American music art form! 

Michigan was once a virtual breeding ground for jazz musicians, but the state’s contributions to the genre include more than just the artists themselves.

Orville Gibson founded the Gibson Guitar Corporation in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1902. The company produced a wide variety of guitar models and many jazz musicians have relied on the company to supply the tools of their trade through the years.

The Gibson ES-150 came to market in 1936, and is recognized as one of the first commercially available electric guitars. The smooth, warm sound of the ES-150 was favored by Charlie Christian, whose work with the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra made it – and himself – world-famous.

In 1949, Gibson released its ES-175 model, and it soon became one of the most well-known jazz guitars in history. Though the ES-175’s pricetag of $175 was considered quite affordable at the time, its rich tone was prized by jazz greats like Herb Ellis and 20-time Grammy Award-winner Pat Methany.

Gibson launched the Les Paul in 1952. Though considered to be a market failure in its first decade, the Les Paul is now one of the most celebrated and legendary instruments ever made. Designed in collaboration with jazz great Lester (Les Paul) Polsfuss, the model is now best known as the choice of acclaimed rock guitarists Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, Pete Townshend and numerous others.

Following a series of corporate takeovers in the middle part of the 20th century, in 1974 Gibson Guitars began transitioning production to Nashville, Tennessee, later adding factories in Memphis, Tennessee and Bozeman, Montana. The Kalamazoo plant would finally close its doors for good in 1984, but soon reopened under the banner of Heritage Guitars, a venture of former Gibson employees who chose not to relocate with the company. Though it has been nearly 30 years since a true Gibson guitar was built in Michigan — and even longer yet since jazz’s Golden Age — the connection between the genre and this state will live on forever – one just has to listen for it.

By Christie Bender, Ferris State University student

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of blog posts for GRandJazzFest written by Ferris State University public relations students. Thank you, Ferris, for helping to build awareness of jazz, the great American music art form! 

Awaiting the long arrival of the 2013 GRandJazzFest’s schedule, participants hoped  to see some of the same faces as last year. One of those faces is the renowned Edye Evans Hyde.

Last year, Hyde kicked off the GRandJazzFest by performing with the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, an invitation she earned with her reputation. She has been a vocalist in West Michigan for more than 30 years. In 2011, she was named West Michigan Jazz Society’s Musician of the Year.

Last year’s GRandJazzFest’s audience of more than 4,000 people at Rosa Park’s Circle was nothing new for Hyde. She has performed all across the United States as well as in Europe and Asia, and she still performs for West Michigan audiences.

Hyde has shared the stage with legendary musician Ray Charles who was ranked number 10 in Rolling Stone’s list of greatest artists of all time. Hyde performed as his opening act more than once, and her first was at the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids. Her second time was during the Muskegon Summer Celebration, which attracted an audience of more than 15,000 people. Other musicians, artists and actors with whom Hyde has partnered include Maria Muldaur, Connie Stevens, Linda Hopkins and Michael Bolton.

Hyde followed her appearance at the 2012 GRandJazzFest with her entrance into the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition , a worldwide competition for women vocalists.

In addition to singing throughout the Midwest and beyond, Hyde also teaches jazz voice at Hope College.

Hyde attracted a crowd at the Keller Cooler Series’ first-ever “Jazz Night” at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Her band included well-known jazz musicians Mark Kahny, Randy Marsh and the late Mel Dalton.

The overwhelming success of the GRandJazzFest’s free one-day show debut in 2012 has inspired the expansion of the event to two days in August 2013.

christie-benderChristie Bender is a senior in the public relations program at Ferris State University. She is the Vice President of Internal Relations and Secretary for the Ferris State chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America. 


By Hayley Miller, Ferris State University student

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of blog posts for GRandJazzFest written by Ferris State University public relations students. Thank you, Ferris, for helping to build awareness of jazz, the great American music art form! 

Most widely known as the creator of Fox’s animated sitcom, Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane is a man of many talents.  Not only does he write, produce and animate for Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show, but he also utilizes an orchestra and composers on a weekly basis to write the show’s scores.

Seth MacFarlane was born in October 26, 1973, in Kent, Connecticut. Since he was a small child, he was always in touch with his creative side. By the young age of five, he was already drawing his own cartoons and knew he wanted to be an animator. In 1991, he graduated from Kent High School and went on to study film, video and animation at Rhode Island School of Design. After receiving his bachelor’s degree of fine arts, MacFarlane originally wanted to work for Disney, but soon changed his mind after he was offered a position with Hanna-Barbera.

During his childhood years, MacFarlane’s parents exposed him to Broadway musicals and The Great American Soundbook. A portion of his inspiration for big band jazz came from Disney’s television shows in the 90’s such as The Muppets and Sesame Street. This is what gave him the idea to incorporate orchestral music into his own TV shows.


In an interview following the release of his debut album, MacFarlane stated, “I think the Great American Soundbook, and particularly the early-to-late 50’s era of orchestration was the peak of musicality as far as what singers and orchestrators were doing with relatively old songs  from the 20s and 30s.”

In 2011, Universal Republic Records signed a record deal with Seth MacFarlane. The same year, he released his first album, Music is Better than Words. The album is described by the artist as “classic Sinatra-style” and is his take on classic songs from the 1950s. Music is Better Than Words was produced and conducted by American Dad composer, Joel McNeely. The album was nominated for two Grammys: Best Traditional Pop Vocal album and Best Engineered album.

Putting big band songs in popular TV shows is a great way to keep jazz around in pop music. Seth MacFarlane has opened the door for other animators to also incorporate a variety of music in TV shows, something that was beginning to fade from TV.

Hayley Miller is a student in Ferris State University’s Music Industry Management program.

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