The 40 Year Friendship: Bob Moog and David VanKoevering

 

The 40 Year Friendship: David Van Koevering and Bob Moog with Images from the Bob Moog Foundation Archives || Van Koevering Collection.  

[Note: This blog is the result of information mined from archival material and an extensive interview with David VanKoevering in May, 2015.]

In 1970, Bob Moog whisked an enthusiastic potential customer off to the first Moog synthesizer performance at Carnegie Hall, Gerson Kingsley’s First Moog Quartet.  This potential customer was so enthusiastic, he probably didn’t need a sell job, but that event certainly secured the sale.  In the time it took to drive back to Trumansburg, New York from New York City after that concert, the two were already discussing the layout of this customer’s new Moog modular synthesizer.

Moog Quartet Carnegie Hall Program, Well Tempered Synth ad page
Program from First Moog Quartet, 1970

 

Thus began a 40-year friendship that wove through music, technology, innovation, and sales.   The customer was none other than David Van Koevering, who went on to employ his own incredible salesmanship to secure a portion of the Moog legacy in history forever.

In celebration of Bob Moog’s 81st birthday, we are putting the spotlight on a few selections from Van Koevering Collection in the Bob Moog Foundation Archives.  David generously donated a wealth of fascinating documents, catalogs, and photographs from his long history with Bob Moog in 2011, and they reveal a friendship that walked hand-in-hand with aspects of the development of Bob Moog’s legacy.

How do you market a product that is unlike any product that has ever existed before?  How do you build a customer base out of people who don’t know how much they need this product?  How do you inspire people to desire a product that is expensive and challenging for them to learn to use?  How do you know what demographic to aim your efforts?  The man who knew the answers to all of these questions was David Van Koevering, a talented musicologist, musician, and salesman from Florida.

To backtrack a bit, David Van Koevering was a traveling musician and music educator who toured his educational program.  In a music education journal, he found an article about the R.A. Moog factory in Trumansburg that invited people to visit it.  David took that trip in 1969, and got a tour of the Moog factory from Moog history greats Chris Swansen, Bill Hemsath, and Gene Zumchak. It was his hope to meet Bob Moog, but Bob was in Europe at the time.

After having met Bob, it wasn’t long until David Van Koevering included the Moog Synthesizer they had discussed in his educational program.  “The Science of Sound” featured a unique arrangement of the synthesizer he bought from Moog… which just happened to be one of the synthesizers that was used in the First Moog Quartet performance he had witnessed!

Taco Bell Flyer
Taco Bell Flyer

David became committed to celebrating and promoting Bob’s musical instrument, and the great example of this commitment was the creation of the Island of Electronicus in 1971.  David Van Koevering was friends with Glen Bell, the creator of Taco Bell.  Glen was purchasing a round building on a man-made island in near St. Petersburgh Florida, and David talked him into letting him lease the building and convert it into the “Moog Rotunda,” where he would do weekly shows celebrating Moog instruments (including the brand new Moog Minimoog), and through clever sales tactics, sell them.  Happening five nights a week to overflowing crowds, David was able to sell 15 or 20 Minimoogs, which, when adjusted in today’s currency, were worth about $9300 each.

It’s not surprising that David’s friend Bob came down to have the Island of Electronicus experience.

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Bob Moog and David VanKoevering at the Island of Electronicus, 1971

 

David’s faith in Bob’s company inspired him to load up his Cadillac with Minimoogs and travel the country selling them.  Techniques like finding out where rock musicians bought their instruments and focusing on that retailer, letting keyboard players play the Minimoogs during their gigs, and even inspiring keyboard players to get their girlfriend’s mother to cosign on a loan, allowed David to establish a national presence for the Minimoog, and a network of retailers who were willing to carry it.  His passion for the Moog product line laid some of the groundwork for its eventual iconic success.

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Invoices for Minimoogs

 

While he was driving around the country, David got a phone call from a guy who identified himself as Bill Waytena.  Bill insisted that David meet him in Atlanta.  Baffled, David told him he had a schedule to keep and asked him who he was.  The reply was something along the lines of “I bought Bob’s company, and if you don’t meet me in Atlanta, you’ll never get another Minimoog.”

David immediately called Bob and asked what had happened.  Bob admitted sadly that he had sold R.A. Moog, Inc to Bill Waytena, owner of MuSonics, Inc.  David was devastated by this news, as he and his business partner could have been able to buy the company, had they been notified of the plans to sell.

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David did end up going to meet Waytena in Atlanta.  In the same declaratory tone in which he announced that David was going to Atlanta, he announced that David was coming back with him to Williamsville, NY in order to become the Vice President of Marketing for Moog Music.  David Van Koevering was going to sell Minimoogs to the world.

David packed up his family and moved to the former MuSonics factory in Williamsville, New York in December of 1971.

In addition to his work in marketing at the factory, David was also involved with the creation of a new performance synthesizer.  Here are some progressive drawings and notes written by David about the new performance synthesizer.

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Performance synth function list

 

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Moog Super Mini

 

This synthesizer bears more than a passing resemblance to the layout of the Sonic V and eventual Sonic Six.

This document below is a memo from Bob to David regarding the development of the synthesizer, now called the “Solo 800.”  (The modular series had the number designation “900,” Bob’s modular drum synthesizer had the designation “700.” )

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In this drawing, we can see the evolution taking place.  The synthesizer this was to become is becoming apparent.

The result of all of this back and forth was one of the last Moog synthesizers Bob Moog was to work on with the original Moog Music company… the Lyra.  Originally intended to be a part of the Constellation ensemble, the Lyra was different from the Minimoog in its interface and feature set.

David has said that Bob was not a fan of sliders because of the way that slider manipulation is less ergonomic than knob manipulation.  “You don’t have the resolution with your wrist that you do with your thumb and forefinger.”

David parted ways with Moog Music when Bill Waytena sold it to Norlin.  Between December of 1971 and September of 1972, he had sold 86 Minimoogs and 168 Sonic Vs, Sonic Sixes, Satellites, and accessories.

Bob and David kept in contact, and saw each other regularly at music conventions. Projects and interactions occasionally happened between the two over the years after David’s departure from Moog Music in 1972. Bob’s departure from Moog Music came in 1977.

The next major collaboration between the two came in the 1990s with the creation of the Van Koevering Interactive Piano. It is a digital piano with a computer touch screen and a wide variety of sounds and interactive lessons.  Bob designed the analog portions of the device, and helped to build the prototype.  David raised 40 million dollars to fund the creation of it, and 4700 of them were sold.

 

Bob Moog and David VanKoevering with the VanKoevering Piano
Bob Moog and David VanKoevering with the VanKoevering Piano

The 40-year friendship between Bob Moog and David Van Koevering yielded a lot of contributions to the Bob Moog Legacy, and we are fortunate to be able to celebrate Bob’s 81st birthday by sharing some of the fascinating pieces that exist in this historic collection of David Van Koevering documents.

4 Responses to “The 40 Year Friendship: Bob Moog and David VanKoevering”

  1. John Tussey

    This is great article. Thank you!

  2. Paul VanderJagt

    I’m a distant relative
    L relative of Davids, so remember that first Moog in his house in St. Petersburg Florida. I have been wondering! about David all these years and his association with Moog, very cool…Congratulations David.

    Paul Casey Vander Jagt
    Grand Rapids, Mi

  3. Ed cornett

    To whomever reads this,
    I was pleased to work for VanKoevering up and until the company had to close its doors. For me, David VanKoevering still remains on of the giants in the music industry.
    I believe we made a lot of people happy with our devoted effort to promote the technology that at the time was definitely in a class by itself. I also believe that my opinion has validity because I also helped promote other great companies such as Yamaha, Kurzweil, Moog, Generalmusic and Solton. I found each to have it’s own signature appeal to a variety of buyers.
    Thank you for allowing myself and others to put into print our glowing admiration for a wonderful human being…David VanKoevering.

  4. John Tussey

    I too have worked with David Van Koevering. He is a kind and special person. The knowledge base he has is amazing! What a privilege to work with such an amazing man!

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