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Making the music happen

“The interesting thing about Peavey is that we make everything from arguably some of the simplest guitar amplifiers up to and including the world’s most sophisticated sound systems under the guise of different divisions,” said Hartley Peavey, CEO of Peavey Electronics. “Each division has a separate clientele, management structure and sales force. I am a busy boy and many people at the company have no idea what all I do.”

Peavey founded Peavey Electronics in 1965, 10 years after he was the youngest student — a sixth grader — to be allowed in Meridian High’s Ross Collins Vocational School, where he studied electricity. After winning nearly every science fair in high school and yearning to become a rock star, Peavey began building amplifiers with used parts in his father’s basement after he earned a business degree from Mississippi State University. “Musicians needed good gear at a fair price,” he told MBJ contributing writer Bill Johnson in 2000.

Today, Peavey Electronics is the largest manufacturer of musical instruments and portable sound equipment in the U.S. and is the only American company that manufactures every link in the audio chain from guitars, bass and drums to mixers, amplifiers and speakers. Many of Peavey’s more than 2,000 products are used onstage during concerts and sporting events in 136 countries and can be heard on nearly every radio station around the world.

Based in Meridian, Peavey operates 33 manufacturing facilities totaling 2.5 million square feet, including a factory in Corby, England. Peavey has joint ventures in Italy and Brazil and distribution centers worldwide. The company holds more than 100 active patents and employs nearly 2,000 people. Peavey products are distributed to more than 4,000 music stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“Many people think we’re just a music business, but Peavey is actually about five or six companies flying in close formation,” said Peavey. “We continuously look for new ways to parlay our resources. At the end of the day, we’re electromechanical manufacturers. That’s what we do.”

Three divisions handle the lion’s share of the business: Peavey MI (Musical Instrument), Architectural Acoustics and MediaMatrix. The latter handles high-tech sound systems all over the world, including the U.S. House and Senate; Parliament Houses of China, New Zealand, Russia and Germany; Sydney Opera House in Australia, Opryland Convention Center in Tennessee; and in more than a fourth of all NFL stadiums. MediaMatrix is wired along “The Strip” in Las Vegas and in many major theme parks. In 1998, Peavey acquired Fairlawn, N.J.-based Crest Audio, which handles high-end audio touring and installation in churches and coliseums.

Peavey’s accolades run the gamut, from being awarded another $1.3-million National Science Foundation grant with partner MSU in 2000 for a four-year program to expose high school teachers worldwide to

“Research Experiences in Industry,” and being the first private sector company to implement the Job Skills Education Program (JSEP) in 1988, to being awarded the Motorola/Electronic Engineering Times Award for Product of Imagination in 1993 and receiving National Literacy Honors from President George Bush at the White House in 1992.

Peavey hit a low point beginning in March 1998, when he lost his wife, Melia, his mother and father in a 13-month period. “That was a kick in the teeth,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what have I done?’” Since then, Hartley’s sons, Marc and Joe, have joined the company and several internal changes have been made.

Despite Peavey’s personal setbacks, the company has continued to prosper. “Peavey is growing in a number of different directions through a process we’ve been engaged in for the last 15 years,” said Peavey.

Peavey never became a rock star, but he plays a vital role in nearly every recording studio on the planet. On Jan. 20, 1990, he was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, gotten to meet people all over the world,” he said. “Hell, I’ve met Castro. But the biggest thing in it for me, maybe in some tiny way, the world’s a better place for Peavey having been there. It very much feels good to have made a difference because frankly, many people never get that opportunity.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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