Paul Klipsch’s legacy heard in full stereo at Hope Chamber Coffee

This week’s Hope Chamber of Commerce Coffee, which drew about 50 people, took place this morning after the ribbon was cut on the new Klipsch Museum of Audio History Visitors Center at 403 West Division, next to the Bill Clinton childhood home.

The event is part of the Klipsch Museum Association’s four-day observance of the birthdate of Paul Klipsch, who began the company named after him in 1946, which has produced since then a high-end line of speakers based on his designs. Currently, the company has 180 employees, with its technology development headquarters in Indianapolis and its manufacturing center here.

A birthday cake was served along with the obligatory coffee and fruit-flavored water. Afterward, attendees milled around the Visitors Center, through rooms that each had a motif for past decades, the 20s, 50s and 70s.

One attendee, Lee Brooks, a designer for Klipsch from Texarkana, recounted his first time hearing the speakers, but not the music itself, though that music sounded “lifelike, real, no distortion.” While his day job is with Klipsch, his occasional night job as lead guitarist and singer with the Dusty Roads band also has him using his company’s speakers.

In the museum’s 1950s room, an early stereo recording made by Paul Klipsch of John Eargle of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor played through speakers made during the bobby socks era. The heft of the organ’s sound was considerable. The Klipsch museum’s curator, Jim Hunter, was talking to Bill Ross from Texarkana, who had inherited two Klipsch speakers his grandfather had first owned from his uncle. “The Klipsch horn is one of the only loudspeakers you can actually inherit,” Hunter said. 

Ross was thinking of replacing the crossovers (jargon for a part of the speaker that divides the sound signal so that lows go to the large, more delicate woofer and highs to the smaller, harder tweeter) on his pair, but was assured by Hunter that if they weren’t leaking oil, “they’re fine.”

Richard Groves, the chairman of the Klipsch Heritage Museum Association Board of Trustees, meanwhile, stood in the 1970s room, wearing a suit jacket with the Klipsch logo emblazoned on the back, said he and Curator Jim Hunter made a deal that if the board hired an executive director, which it did in January with the hiring of Beckie Moore, Hunter would volunteer. The current employee roster of two could grow in the future, though. “We’re trying to build as large a foundation as we can. We will do more as we go on.”

Groves’ first time hearing the speakers play music occurred when he asked a now-vanished store named Sound Advice to bring several brands of speakers to his house for a demonstration. Once he heard the Klipsches, he bought them. “It’s the closest thing that we have to a live performance,” he said.

Groves introduced the president of the board, Roy Delgado, who, like Brooks, designs speakers for the company. He remembered his first time hearing Klipsch speakers, which took place as he was applying to work at the company, as life-changing: “When I interviewed and Paul showed me the Klipsch ones I was just floored. What I told Paul was that I’m in a live band and it was first time I ever heard speakers that sounded like the band itself. And I said, ‘Sign me up.’”

Delgado will be featured as the museum launches its Youtube Channel today at 4 pm. “I’ll be on a five-second delay,” he said.

He described Paul Klipsch, with whom he began working when the Klipsch founder was 82, as a restless quester for ways to improve his products. “He was not just content, sitting back. He always wanted to know what can you do, what can you do, and I loved that. What can we do with new materials. What can we do with new sources?”

From Indianapolis, museum board member and 28-year Klipsch employee and co-author with Hunter of “Klipsch 75 Years: A Pictorial History,” (sold out and awaiting its second printing) Matt Sommers stood in the museum’s front room. His first encounter with the speakers took place during a visit to a Chicago Hi-Fi shop where he heard James Taylor’s 1977 “JT” album. “They took me by the throat and said, ‘This is what music is supposed to sound like. And I just fell in love with the Scalas just from the beauty of the speakers and the handcrafting of the wood.”

“I hadn’t known what efficiency in a speaker sounded like and that changed my life.” This encounter when he was a 15-year-old paved the path for him to become a musician, producer and eventual current Global Creative Director of Klipsch. But he still remembers what he heard that day about 30 years ago.

“The thing that blew my mind was Talking Heads’ ‘Reveal in Light’ album. To this day, it’s my favorite album.”

The Klipsch Museum Association will hold several events starting Thursday at 6 pm, when a dinner will take place on the lawn of the Visitors Center while Revis Edmonds from the Arkansas Department of Heritage speaks and a jazz trio plays.

March 11will be the busiest day, with the Education Center on Airport Road opening at 10 am and holding a silent auction, with a Mardi Gras Walking Parade starting at 6 pm at the back parking lot of First Baptist Church (3rd and Walnut) along a route including Walnut, 2nd, Main, Division and Elm.

An evening of music will follow at the Klipsch Muncipal Auditorium starting at 7 pm. The concert will include an acoustic set with Jeff Madlock and Jeff Smith. Then Jack Daniels and the GMBC Band will perform. Closing will be Hope native Joe Purvis with his band LLC. Entrance will cost $25 a person with tickets on sale at the Visitors Center and before the event at the auditorium.

March 12 will feature free tours of the Education Center and Museum from 10 am to 2 pm. Attendees will want to bring their lawn chairs and their favorite music to the Visitors Center at 6 pm for the demonstration of the Jubilee speakers.

Photos courtesy of Matt Sommers, Klipsch

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