Innovators give us new things and we don’t even know who they are. If you play guitar or knew anyone who played guitar in the last 20 years, you’ve seen or heard of a Ovation guitar. If you were lucky, you owned one. Why? Because it is different. A good sleek playing neck combined with a classic shiny wood top but then a futuristic sleek hard plastic looking back that fit comfortably on your lap and still sounded great. This was new innovation given to the masses of former hippy guitar players of this generation.
This gift was given to us by a guy no one really knew in the music world because he was a business man who owned his own corporation. No hippy dude here. He was Charles Kaman who was know as a helicopter innovator who recently died at the age of 91. He was involved in the development and manufacture of helicopter technology and used his knowledge to further his guitar hobby passion to create a comfortable guitar. He is known to be the inventor of one of the first electrically amplified acoustic guitar. Before his creation, you could amplify a regular guitar by fitting a metal contraption across under the strings and have wires everywhere getting in the way of your strumming. This was new.
At 26 years old he became a aeronautical engineer when he founded the Kaman Aircraft Company in 1945 in the garage of his mother’s home. It grew into a billion-dollar concern that distributes motors, pumps, bearings and other products as well as making helicopters and their parts. The company’s HH-43 Huskie was a workhorse in rescue missions in the Vietnam War. His “hobby” led him to invent the Ovation guitar by reversing the vibration-reducing technology of helicopters to create a generously vibrating instrument that incorporated aerospace materials into its rounded back.
In 1960 he created a division of his company to manufacture the Ovation. It is unique because it allows musicians to amplify their sound without generating the feedback that often comes from using the traditional microphones. Even the new wireless microphones can’t compete with its clarity of sound. The country star Glen Campbell(who people say I resemble) was the first to use it on his TV show in the 60’s.
He was known to have introduced jet engines to helicopters and developed the first remote-controlled helicopter in 1957. The company is developing such a helicopter, the K-MAX and has a contract to deploy it to the Marine Corps for use in Afghanistan. He wasn’t done yet. He founded the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation which trains German Shepherds as guide dogs for the blind and police. Since 1981, Fidelco has placed 1,300 guide dogs in 35 states and four Canadian provinces, said Eliot Russman, the foundation’s executive director.
We all know names like Snookie and Paris Hilton who have contributed nothing to society but we never heard of this guy who made a helicopter to take us to war zones, made a great guitar to sing and play about our adventure and trained guide dogs in case we can’t see from all this. He hit all bases. We should have known him better.