Adding "Gold Tone" to "Bluegrass"
by Susan Marquez
In Brevard County, Florida, not far from the Kennedy Space Center, a couple of troubadours entertained folks along Florida’s east coast throughout the 1970s. Wayne and Robin Rogers were active folk musicians, who became entrepreneurs with the opening of Strings N’ Things Music Center in Titusville, Florida in 1978. The business was the brainchild of Wayne, who went with Robin to a local music store after she had an accident with her guitar. He looked around the store, noticing it was mostly band instruments and realized they had no idea how to fix a stringed instrument. He saw a need and he created a business to fill it. Learning as they went, the couple made a few mistakes, but they learned from them and continued to grow. Little did the couple know that they would build a multi-million-dollar music instrument manufacturing company.
They ran the business during the week and played at the local Best Western on the weekends, learning to juggle business with raising two daughters.
Wayne, in addition to being a musician, is also an innovator. People from all over brought instruments to the store for him to repair in a small shed behind their home. His first design was the Gold Tone banjo – the original TB-100 Travel Banjo, often called “The Traveler,” due to its shorter sized neck and smaller sized body. The banjo was sold via mail order. A positive review of the instrument in the Banjo Newsletter resulted in huge demand for the banjo, and it is still a best-seller to this day.
Gold Tone Banjos became the Gold Tone Music Group in 1993, a supplier of fine instruments to musicians around the country.
Amanda Rogers, the daughter of Wayne and Robin, grew up in the business. “I’ve done a little of everything here.” She currently serves as Gold Tone’s operations manager, overseeing the company’s finances and coordinating with distributors. Amanda explains that the company has always sold directly to dealers, but the COVID-19 crisis has created changes and challenges. “We are now selling directly to consumers,” she says. “Folks are now able to order instruments directly from our website.”
The headliner is the company’s namesake, the Gold Tone line of products. Banjos are made of maple from the United States and Canada, rosewood and ebony from Africa and Indonesia, and blackwood from Australia. Wayne’s innovations often referred to as “folkternative” instruments, are often a mash-up of different instruments in one. The banjitar features six strings, and the cello banjo, which Amanda says is a redesigned version of an instrument that was popular in the 1920s and the Little Gem banjo ukuleles, featuring a composite see-through plastic rim, winner of the “Best in Show” award at the Summer National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) conference in 2018. Gold Tone instruments are high quality, yet affordable, ideal for beginners and hobbyists to professionals, and for all genres of music, including bluegrass, folk, pop, and rock.
Many professional musicians choose Gold Tone, including Kid Rock, Bruce Springsteen, and Bela Fleck. Mumford and Sons used all Gold Tone instruments on their first album.
In addition to selling the Gold Tone line of products, Gold Tone Music Group is the sole distributor in the United States Jose’ Ramirez guitars. The famous guitars have a 135-year-history of excellence. Many seasoned guitarists choose Ramirez’s handcrafted guitars, including Eric Clapton, Andres’ Segovia, Manuel Barreuco, Carlos Santana, and George Harrison.
“We are proud to distribute Jose’ Ramirez guitars,” says Amanda. “They fit in well with the entire Gold Tone Music Group.”
The company also sells Earth Tone drumheads, Wind Song advanced acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars. “We also sell the Zero Glide Nut System, something my dad came up with,” says Amanda. The system is designed to fit into the stock nut of any fretted instrument.
Loop2Learn is the app owned by Gold Tone that is touted as the next step in home learning. The app allows someone to loop a part of any video, on YouTube or their device, giving them the ability to watch it over and over again to learn from it. Videos can be slowed up to 60% to help master difficult passages.
The mom-and-pop business mentality is still present at Gold Tone, despite the company’s amazing growth. Both Wayne and Robin are still involved with the business, and Wayne is still tinkering and innovating, designing the next generation of instruments.