Don Talbot,

Salesman for Coast Wholesale Music, Meets Gene Leis

Don Talbot first called on Gene in the late 1960's, as a salesperson for Coast Wholesale Music. Don introduced himself to Gene and was impressed by how nice Gene was. But Gene wasn't too happy with Coast Wholesale Music. It seemed Gene owed a large amount of money to Coast. Gene told Don, "You know I don't think I owe that money". So they pulled out invoices and went over each one. It seemed that Gene paid by the invoice ­ so if the amount owing was $400 for some merchandise, he'd pay just the $400 and ignore the rest. So the amount he owed was interest and other charges ­ it wasn't for any merchandise. Don worked with Gene and Coast, and worked out a solution, opening the way for a long friendship and business relationship.

How Ovation Guitars Got Their Cutaway

Gene used to play an Ovation electric acoustic, wide-neck nylon string guitar. He loved it, but wanted to be able to play farther up the neck than the production model allowed. So he talked to a guitar repairman that he worked with, Korky Lowery, and Korky figured out how to build a cutaway into the unusual Ovation construction. Gene loved it and used it all the time when he played at clubs like BeachBum Burts.

Gene had a wide circle of friends, one of whom was a naval officer who knew Charles Kaman, the CEO of Kaman Corp, the aerospace firm which owned Ovation and Coast Wholesale Music. Charles Kaman was an avid guitar player, and when he went to college, he made his living playing guitar. Now Mr. Kaman also knew this naval officer, and it wasn't long before Mr. Kaman and Gene got together. You can imagine Don Talbot's surprise one day when he called on Gene, when he found Gene, Mr. Kaman and this other friend in Gene's studio jamming away on their guitars!

Mr. Kaman loved the cutaway in Gene's Ovation guitar, and shortly after that, Ovation introduced cutaways on their guitars. Charlie Byrd also played a cutaway nylon-string Ovation, but the one that Korky created for Gene was the first. Sadly, one night after playing at BeachBum Burt's the original guitar was stolen. Gene bought a production model from Ovation, which he used after that night.

Gene's Personal Touch Builds Business

One of the many customers Gene had was a nun, Sister Rosalie. Sister Rosalie apparently taught guitar, and if another nun wanted to learn to play, Sister Rosalie would refer her to Gene. He developed a whole guitar outfit with a classical guitar, a case, pitch pipe, strap and Gene's Instruction Chord book for Guitar, and called it the "Sister Rosalie Special". He'd get orders for this from all across the country, and built up quite a network of sisters who would refer others to him for this start-up kit. It became an unofficial Coast Wholesale Music item ­ Gene would call Don Talbot up and order another 12 "Sister Rosalie Specials". Don would try to get Gene to include a Mel Bay book with it, but Gene said, no, he had a book of his own that was part of the outfit.

about Dob Talbot

 Don Talbot began his music industry career in 1960, and held a variety of positions with Kaman Music Corp's Coast Wholesale Music division, including outside sales representative, regional sales manager, West Coast assistant general manager and general manager of the Ontario facility. Don called on Gene at the store over a great many years, and the two became good friends.
Coast Wholesale Music was a subsidiary of the Kaman Music Corporation of Bloomfield, Connecticut, and distributed a number of musical instrument lines including Ovation, Adamas, Applause, Takamine, Latin Percussion, Sabian, Gibraltar and others. It specializes in serving the entire West from two warehouse locations, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The firm was established in 1905 on the policy of Quality, Service, and integrity, and was acquired in late 2007 by Fender Musical instruments Corporation.