MERIDIAN — You don’t have to look far for evidence that Peavey Electronics is preeminent in its industry.
Hanging in one of the halls of its Meridian headquarters is an undated framed award from Atlantic Records when five million copies of the record “Skid Row” were sold. Yet no one can tell you the date of the award because the ever-courteous security man says, “There’s a whole bunch more down that other hall.”
The company recently received nine of the top awards from Music and Sound Retailer magazine. Those honors were decided by dealers in music and sound equipment. And founder/chairman/CEO Hartley Peavey said another trade magazine has just recognized his firm as “Manufacturer of the Year.”
“We’ve always been very innovative,” Peavey said. “We have more than 100 active patents and we file about two or three more a month.”
Peavey’s reputation for quality began in 1965 when Hartley sold his first amplifiers with a lifetime guarantee. Any of those still around are repaired free of charge, but federal restrictions in the 1980s forced removal of that guarantee. That was one of early disagreements between Hartley and various governmental agencies. More on that later.
A world traveler can see one of Peavey’s MediaMatrix systems in Australia, China, Germany or at a Penn State football game, and the market for those and other Peavey sophisticated sound equipment continues to grow.
“If someone had told me 10 years ago that we’d be putting sound equipment in major airports around the world, I’d have told them they were crazy, but we’re doing that,” Hartley said. “And our fastest growing market is the odd combination of churches and discos.”
Peavey Electronics’ growth has made it Meridian’s largest private industry employer. In recognition of that fact, Mayor John Robert Smith recently presided over ceremonies naming a major thoroughfare “Hartley Peavey Drive.” When this is pointed out, it touches a nerve and Hartley begins to pace the floor.
The well-groomed 61-year-old Peavey has a reddish Van-dyke beard. He’s casually dressed in a sport shirt, slacks and deck shoes. Like all the other employees, an ID badge hangs from his shirt pocket. But there’s no doubt who’s in command.
“I appreciated that honor, but frankly I would have been much more appreciative if they hadn’t gone up on my taxes and my water bill,” Peavey said, “And they’re trying to annex the Sonny Montgomery Industrial Park where we have a lot of facilities. Yes, I appreciate the honor, but at the end of the day it doesn’t buy any groceries.” Then he begins to discuss his differences with state authorities.
Two pages of agencies
“I find it more than a little ironic that we’re promising hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign companies to come into Mississippi when our own state government in many ways is very hostile to (established) industries,” Peavey said.
Then he recommends that a story be done on the vast number of state and federal agencies to which he his company must report. “If you listed them, it would take two pages because there are at least 50.”
And Hartley is contemptuous of the tort reforms passed in last year’s legislative special session. “That was just window dressing for the masses and the na