Chicago Musical Instruments

Chicago Musical Instruments Co. (CMI) was a musical instrument distributor, which at times had controlling interests in Gibson Guitars (1944 to 1969), Standel, Lowrey, F. E. Olds (brass instruments), William Lewis & Son Co. (stringed instruments), Krauth & Beninghoften, L.D. Heater Music Company,[1] Epiphone Guitars, Selmer UK, and other musical instrument brands.

Chicago Musical Instruments Company (CMI)
IndustryMusical instrument distribution
Founded1920; 103 years ago (1920)
FounderMaurice H. Berlin
Defunct1969 (1969)
SuccessorNorlin Corporation


CMI was established in 1920 by Maurice H. Berlin, founder and president.[2] In 1944, CMI took over controlling interests and marketing of the Gibson Guitar Company,[3][4] then known as Gibson Inc. CMI expanded Gibson's Kalamazoo, MI, plant at 225 Parsons Street by 15,000 square feet in 1945, and changed the logo on Gibson headstocks in 1947. In 1949 CMI appointed as president of Gibson Ted McCarty, who would lead Gibson until 1966, overseeing many classic Gibson guitar designs, such as the Les Paul, the ES-335, the SG, and others.

CMI acquired F. E. Olds and Son brass instruments shortly after World War II.

CMI acquired Epiphone Guitars, a former competitor of Gibson's, in 1957.[5] The Epiphone name brand came to be used largely for marketing budget versions of classic Gibson designs, originally made in the Kalamazoo plant but since the 1970s in Asia.

In 1969, ECL, a South American beer and cement company, acquired a majority of CMI shares, and the two companies merged in July of that year.[6] The new company was renamed Norlin Corp (a portmanteau of the names Norton Stevens of ECL and Arnold Berlin of CMI;[7] Arnold Berlin, Maurice' son, and Norton Stevens were friends and classmates at the Harvard Business School)[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ White, Forrest (1994). Fender: The Inside Story. Backbeat Books. p. 182. (White's book quotes a January 1990 issue of Music Trade magazine, which lists "Lowrey, Gibson, Olds, William Lewis, Krauth & Beninghofen, L.D. Heater, and several other smaller divisions" as being operated by CMI.)
  2. ^ Duchossoir, A.R. (1998). Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years: An Illustrated History from the Mid-30s to the Mid-60s. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 27.
  3. ^ Duchossoir, A.R. & (1998), p. 27
  4. ^ Achard, Ken (1999). The History and Development of the American Guitar. The Bold Strummer. p. 189.
  5. ^ Bonds, Ray (ed.) (2006). The Illustrated Directory of Guitars. Barnes & Noble/Salamander Books. p. 344. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  6. ^ White, Forrest & (1994), pp. 180–181
  7. ^ Bonds, Ray (ed.) & (2006), p. 376
  8. ^ "Arnold Berlin" (video). NAMM Oral History Interview. NAMM Resource Center. July 9, 2002.

Further readingEdit