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Peavey Electronics: Top Quality at a Fair Price



As a young man in 1957, Hartley Peavey went to a Bo Diddley concert, fell in love with rock and roll guitar music, and the course of his life and career were forever changed.

Peavey is the President and CEO of Peavey Electronics, one of the largest independently owned manufacturers of amplifiers, sound systems, microphones, guitars, drums, consumer electronics, and other products. The Mississippi-based company has 33 facilities on three continents, including 18 in its home state. Hartley founded the company in 1965 and has been its sole owner and CEO.

Peavey Electronics produces 2,000 products that are sold in 136 countries. Their instruments or equipment can be seen in use on stage at concerts by the likes of Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Three Doors Down, Visqueen, Nickelback, Hank Williams, Jr., and in facilities like the Beijing Airport, Sydney Opera House, Hollywood Palace, Disney and Six Flags theme parks, and New York’s Apollo Theatre. In fact, the company has made it possible for artists, churches, and organizations all over the world to afford quality sound equipment.

So how does someone go from attending a Bo Diddley concert to becoming a legend in the music-products manufacturing industry?

As a kid, Hartley used to win science fairs and model airplane contests, so he had an aptitude for building things. He was also growing up in Mississippi, at a time when much of what we call rock and roll was taking root in the region up and down the Mississippi River. Peavey’s father was a big-band musician who owned a local music store and had his son select the records to carry, with the criteria being records that young people would purchase. So Hartley became familiar with the emerging artists so popular in that region, and beyond, like Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, and B.B. King.

Hartley applied his aptitude for technology to build his own guitar, and then his own amplifier. He hoped to be a rock star, but after getting kicked out of three bands, he had what he calls a serious conversation with himself. “My gift,” he told an interviewer in 2010, “was building things. And thank the good Lord, I had the intestinal fortitude to realize that I wasn’t the greatest musician, and to sit down and decide what I was good at, and then to go for it.” 

In the 1960s, the independent manufacturers of instruments and equipment were being bought up by corporate conglomerates, and many felt the results were higher prices and declining quality. So Peavey saw an opportunity and built his business around providing top-quality products at fair prices (rather than pushing the limits of what the market would bear). That is a philosophy his company has maintained for nearly 50 years, under his steady leadership.

The Peavey product catalog is constantly evolving, because the trends in music and the needs of musicians are always changing. One of the most complex products to develop was the MediaMatrix, introduced in 1993. It is a software-based digital networking system, with more than one million lines of source code. Innovation continues at a fast pace. And the new Vipre amplifier, which was debuted at the National Association of Musical Merchants (NAMM) show in 2013, has amazing features and is one of the most versatile amp products on the market.

Hartley Peavey is proud to be a manufacturer, and has been a member of the National Association of Manufacturers and the NAMM for years and years. He is also proud of the opportunities his company creates, not only for its employees, but for its customers, in terms of providing affordable, highest-level products.

His business success reflects the fact that he found something that his natural talents would allow him to be good at, and that he worked extremely hard. There is a lot of sacrifice in getting to the top of a business, he says, and you’ll never get there with an eight hour day. His company’s many thousands of satisfied customers are grateful for his hard work, business philosophy, and continued commitment to innovation.

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