In the early 1970s, Joe Calzone was a professional drummer in the Northeast; like every musician out of their teens, he was ready to ‘make it’ in the music business. But it was the keyboard player in his band, and specifically the purchase of the group’s first Anvil case that gave Joe the inspiration for a lifetime in the protection business. “We were on our way to becoming superstars,” Joe fondly recalls, “and I couldn’t afford any Anvil Cases for my drums so I tried to make some. My dad and I built a few metal cases at a sheet metal shop which I still have! There’s a metal trap case, and I figured out you had to put wheels on it, and a smaller one that was more manageable for the society gigs. We also made a cymbal case and a gong case … you have to have a good gong case.”
While this activity was spot on for the future of the case industry, it was perhaps a sign that Joe’s musical career would take a back seat. He says that like many bands, they had trouble keeping the band together and finding good gigs. “We were having great difficulties keeping our guitarists, and we lost interest in the club scene. With the music we had to play, we got a little disenchanted with the live music scene, and I saw an opportunity based on a discussion I had with Dennis Berardi, who was one of the owners at Gracin’s Music on 48th street in New York.”
Dennis was also a drummer, and decided he was going to start a guitar company with a guy named Gary Kramer, and Pete LaPlaca who worked for Norlin Music at the time. Joe told them he was thinking of making some cases, and asked if they could do something together. Encougaging me to pursue it, Joe put a plan together to build cases for their basic guitars. His first two employees were his uncle and Robert Mackno, brother of keyboard player.
Joe explains, “Fortunately my uncle worked at a furniture manufacturing facility in Norwalk, and he let me use their Thomas Register A to Z and that’s where I sourced casters, hardware, rivets, etc. It was the only source at the time, and I was able to get ahold of a variety of suppliers. One day I was at the hardware store with my dad, and we were trying to figure out how to put these angles on the case. We saw the window frame section, and it had this interesting looking extrusion that the frames would slip into that’s where we got the nemesis of the double angle construction.”
Kramer cases hit the scene in 1975. “We started talking in 1974,” says Joe. “That was the development stage while I was still playing music for a living. I didn’t make a paycheck for about five years, but that’s fairly normal. At the first NAMM show we piggybacked on Kramer’s booth in Anaheim it was our introduction to the music industry. We showed six different cases guitar in black, bass, acoustic guitar which also served as a trap case when we put a divider in, cymbal, attache, and microphone and we started to sell to music stores that carried Kramer. One of our most successful reps was in the San Jose area. We actually set up a warehouse in San Jose, and shipped quite a number of cases it was a hotbed of innovation and music.”
Not surprisingly, shipping cases into California put them on Anvil’s radar. “We ran into Wayne Thompson at the end of one of those first NAMM shows, as we were wheeling out our first workbox, which my dad helped make. Wayne saw us and came over. He said, ‘Hey I can take care of that for you, just leave it with me and I’ll ship it back to you from my shop’. We said ‘no thanks, we’ll take care of it … but thanks for the offer.”