- Nic Renshaw
In a small-town music scene, every little bit counts. Places like Salt Lake City and even Provo can rely on their large-ish populations to produce a diverse crop of local talent and a dependable audience to turn up to shows. But in a town like Logan, the local music community depends wholly on all hands being on deck, whether you're a fan, a performer, a venue owner ... or even a guitar shop. Cache Valley's best (and only) full-service music store, KSM Music (50 W. 400 North, Logan, 435-753-6813, ksmmusic.com), has had its hands on deck for nearly 2 1/2 decades, both promoting music and making it stronger with products of its own invention.
General manager Chris Hampton emphasizes that KSM's obligations to local musicians go beyond simply supplying them with instruments, amps and the occasional tune-up: "We try to sponsor the artists—not only the local events, but also just anything they're putting on, to try and make sure the band thrives." He adds that it's their goal to help "get people to show up, or anything else that helps [a band] to continue to be a band."
That above-and-beyond attitude manifests in many ways: a community bulletin that allows musicians to connect and find people to perform or play with; lessons that encourage younger players to hone their skills; an annual songwriting competition that brings together talent from all over the area for two days each year to share and compare their art. "A lot of it is just being here and helping to inspire people, whatever we can do to do that," owner Kevin Moore says. He relates a recent interaction where a customer thanked employee John Starn for the store's efforts, after her daughter's involvement in their songwriting contest encouraged her to continue playing and writing music.
"I've seen a lot of these kids continue to do the competition year after year, and get into bands and pursue their musical careers just because of a competition that we hold," Hampton says. "Small things like that can really make a difference."
KSM staff puts a lot of effort into building bridges within the Logan music community, but they're also bridge-builders in a much more literal sense. Moore—who founded the store to market guitars he built as a hobbyist luthier—developed as a sort of passion project his own patented design for a bass guitar bridge, the metal part at the bottom of the instrument connecting the strings to the body. "I had seen a lot of guitars and basses come across my repair bench that had bad bridges ... In fact, every instrument had a bad bridge, because they don't make good bridges!" he says. "I had complaints all the time about it going out of adjustment, the strings not sounding good, all the complaints that come along with bridges, and I started thinking, 'Well, why hasn't anyone developed a bridge that fixes all these problems?'"
After years of trial-and-error, failed prototypes and negotiating a licensing arrangement for a particular aspect of the bridge that had already been patented—by, of all people, Nokie Edwards of pioneering 1950s rock band The Ventures—The KSM Foundation Bass Bridge was finally born. While discussing the bridge's construction, Moore's enthusiasm for the end result is as clear as his understanding of his customers' needs.
"If you came up with the ultimate guitar bridge, it would be something that was solid, and did not move or have any soft components that vibrated," he explains. "But, unfortunately, a solid piece of metal can't be adjusted. ... Since you have lots of different string gauges on the market, and people have their own preferences for how high or low they want their strings, you have to have adjustability. So [with] this bridge, you loosen it up from its solid state to adjust it, then you tighten it back down into one solid piece after it's all adjusted. ... With the material and the construction, we've really achieved the best of everything."
Looking ahead to the future of the business, Moore has high hopes for the store and his bass bridges. "For the bridge, my hopes and dreams are to one day have a little office somewhere and people on the phone all the time taking orders for it," he says, "As far as the store goes, I just hope we're able to continue to be the No. 1 music store in Cache Valley."
Hampton agrees on both fronts, saying, "I think it'd be great to have that bridge as a consistent thing in the background, to keep having orders coming and hopefully a national audience that we're attracting while we're doing our business here. Of course, we'd like to grow and expand, have more and more people in here, and have a more diverse selection of instruments, or just expand on the lines we currently carry."
But at the end of the day, Hampton makes clear one thing: "Overall, we want more and more people thinking we're the best shop in town." If KSM keeps up its efforts to nourish the music scene around them, they should have no trouble getting there.