The Rose-Morris Story
With the securing of the Ludwig agency for the U.K., Rose-Morris now offer the modern musician a cross-section of the finest instruments and equipment available today. From a deal concluded at the recent Frankfurt Trade Fair, the company now offers dealers, and through them the public, probably the best known drums in the world, as well as what are probably the best known amps in the world, Marshall.
A handshake over breakfast on the last day of the Trade Fair is such a simple gesture, but to thousands of musicians in the U.K. it will come to mean a great deal. Rose-Morris are immediately launching a major campaign to promote the Ludwig range and they are offering delivery from stock, with a special order delay of only two to three weeks.
"We're going out of our way to ensure quick deliveries" Marketing Director Tony Morris told International Musician. "When a particular kit is ordered that we don't have — perhaps because a customer wants something very special — we'll fly it in, deduct our usual freight charges from the bill and pass the net cost to the customer. We won't take anything for the extra organisation or handling, we are anxious to service this agency as well as possible. One of the most remarkable things is that we are expecting to be able to sell Ludwig slightly cheaper in the U.K. now than they have been recently. We received a firm order within ten minutes of completing the deal with Ludwig and I'm sure that the partnership will be very successful for both Ludwig and this company".
Ludwig, however, will only be one line marketed by Rose-Morris, no matter how successful the marketing is. Rose-Morris is a long-established trading company which has specialised in the musical instrument trade for over 50 years. Today the company is part of the mighty Grampian Holdings Group and Roy Morris, son of the co-founder, A.V. Morris, is Chairman and Managing Director.
Roy Morris has also been appointed President of the Association of Musical Industries this year and his appointment aptly coincides with a period of growth and consolidation for the company he heads.
"Frankfurt was very good for us this year", says Roy. "We were showing the new Marshall solid state amplifiers for the first time and they were tremendously well received. In addition, we secured the agency for Ludwig for all the British Isles and for certain other territories — parts of Africa for example — which are still being defined.
"This company has gone from strength to strength and we now have a young executive team looking after both buying and marketing. A large percentage of our business is in exports now and as well as manufacturing instruments for export we also re-export a considerable amount. In the last five years our ranges of musical instruments have become far more professional. We're still selling the bread and butter lines to the general public, but there has definitely been a swing towards the higher quality professional instruments and equipment.
"To give an example of these ranges we're handling Marshall and Ludwig of course, and we're also expecting great things from the Ovation range of guitars. These guitars are now beginning to break through — they're excellent instruments — and I'm sure that this year will see a rapid growth in their market. The Shaftesbury range of guitars has also become very popular and some of the more expensive models are really intended for professional use. Likewise, the professional Gem Organs and the Mini-Korg Synthesisers. We're expecting to see a new, far more sophisticated Mini-Korg soon, so that should be extremely exciting".
There's one place where all the lines marketed by Rose-Morris can best be seen in their full individual grandeur and that's at the Rose-Morris Shop in London's Shaftesbury Avenue. This is really a retail showroom for the company and it often plays host to musicians who call in to see a new line just to try a particular instrument.
"We employ just over one hundred people at the moment, including the staff at the shop, and they're concerned with manufacturing, office work, warehousing and so on".
One man who's spent his entire working life with the company is Harry Bargeman. He joined the company soon after it's foundation and today he has a small workshop to himself where he repairs stringed instruments and continues the craftsmanship in wood that he's carried on all his life.
"I don't believe in these truss rods", laughs Harry, as he showed me the neck of a banjo he made in 1932. "See these inset laminations of sycamore here? They stop the neck from twisting. Straight as a die after 40 years".
Despite it's role within Grampian Holdings, Rose-Morris still has the air of the family business about it. It was founded in October 1920 when A.V. Morris, a wholesaler in musical goods, teamed up with Stanley and Charles Rose. The company began a long struggle for establishment and despite several threats like the general strike of 1926 the company grew until 1930, when they started manufacturing portable gramophones.
Mouth organs became the rage in the early thirties and accordions also became an important part of the company's trade. An important development for the company was the take-over in 1932 of the drum manufacturing company John Grey & Sons. This firm had been established in 1832, and had been renowned for both drums and banjo making.
The manufacturing side of the company increased apace, with a lapse during the war years when the company produced goods for the war effort, and up until the 1950's continued its steady growth.
In the late fifties the rock music boom started and Rose-Morris was the right company to take advantage of the situation. Guitars were needed and Rose-Morris was there to market them. Drums too were in greater demand than ever before.
During the sixties the company consolidated its strong position in the market and with the acquisition of such lines as Marshall and the launching of instruments like the Shaftesbury drum kits, the company has managed to stay at the forefront of the industry.
A particular strong and steady side to the company's turnover is the Marching Drum division. Previously called the Military Division, the term Marching is now a better description to cover the widely different types of organisations using drums made by Rose-Morris. At last year's Pipe Band Championships in Stirling, five out of the six top bands were playing Rose-Morris drums. This tradition dates back to the foundation of the Grey drum factory and illustrates the diversity of trading undertaken by Rose-Morris in 1975.