1956 I was working as a mechanical engineer
and photographer. Living in the Bronx, I
happened upon New York's famous Birdland
jazz club. I was so taken by the music that
I became a regular at the Monday night jam
sessions, which were headed by flutist Herbie
Mann. It was there that I was able to see
percussionists like Candido
Camero and Jose
Mangual. It was Jose in particular that
inspired me. I saw greatness in Mangual,
and that's what I wanted to be, somebody
who had that mastery of something.
became a student of the 1960's Latin scene,
and wanted my own set of bongos. But, because
of the government-imposed embargo against
Cuba, finding good instruments in the US
was very difficult. This did not stop me.
I put my engineering skills to use and made
my own set. I used a photo of Johnny Pacheco's
bongos and created my first prototype. This
was the beginning of my education in creating
percussion instruments. I knew nothing about
machining or about wood or metal working.
The first wood shell I cut was on a Friday,
and by Monday it was a quarter of an inch
smaller. I didn't realize it was wet wood
which was cut and that it had to dry first.
Once I knew what it was I needed to do,
I was delivering bongos and cowbells to
musicians in brown paper bags, soliciting
feedback and using the Latin nightclubs
as my research and development labs.
I began expanding my business by receiving
a contract to make cowbells for Rogers Drums
and continued to sell bongos on consignment.
I made a set of claves for Charlie
Palmieri and also designed wood blocks
and sound effects for Carroll Sound.
I then met Specs Powell, the drummer for
the Ed Sullivan Show and a staff musician
for CBS. He asked me to make him a pair
of bongos and a bongo stand so he could
play standing up. I fashioned a mounting
system without having to drill into the
shell, thereby keeping the tone pure. This
pleased Specs and he introduced me to Bob
Rosengarden, who was the drummer for The
Tonight Show. Rosengarden asked me to create
an instrument that would replicate the sound
of the traditional horse jawbone with rattling
teeth. My modern-day verson of the jawbone,
called the Vibra-Slap®, became LP®'s
On August 12, 1964, I officially started
Percussion. Having just left an engineering
job and with a baby on the way, I set out
to prove that my strange percussion devices
could support my family and change the world.
My passion was now my own company. My first
workshop was in my basement, with the gas-welding
taking place in a detached and unheated
garage. Not only did I do the welding, but
I was the photographer, copywriter, market
researcher, salesman and janitor.
For over 40 years I have been taking photos
of musicians. As a matter of fact, the real
reason I formed LP® was to have an excuse
to take pictures. Over these many years
I have amassed a collection of photos of
those musicians who have shaped modern music.
from Latin, Afro-Cuban, pop, jazz, classic
I am eager to share these images with those
around the world who share in these interests.
I will, where possible, give some background
as to how I came to take the photos and
how the individuals impacted music.
I hope you enjoy this section of Congahead.com.