It’s not a songbird, it’s not Led Zeppelin’s airplane, it’s not a even a Musical Instrument Museum…it’s the Museum of Making Music. Get it right, man. Part of the National Association of Music Merchants, the mission of the eleven year old museum in California is to “celebrate the rich history and encourage the future of music making.”
The permanent exhibits tell the history of American popular music from the 19th century to the present, mostly focusing on the manufacture and retail of musical instruments in the music products industry. There are more than 450 vintage instruments and artifacts on display, hundreds of audio samples of obscure early 20th century songs…and yes, they take their name seriously…a place where you can literally make music if you want.
What did I learn? That there’s always a Chicago connection. In the late 19th/early 20th centuries, Chicago was the western hub of the music industry. When I hear the name Lyon & Healy, I always think of the ghost sign on the side their old building on Wabash now owned by DePaul University. Founded in 1864, this harp manufacturer is still in existence today. They were one of the first retailers to use the radio for advertising by sponsoring radio broadcasts of concerts on WGY radio station. Their factory located at Fullerton just west of Pulaski (then Crawford) still stands, even though operations have moved to another part of the city.