Brian Fischer is one of the early pioneers of concert sound who turned his passion for sound into one of the largest collections of vintage musical instruments, especially electric guitars.
Inspired by Woodstock, Brian started building sound systems in 1970 while he was attending Livonia High School in upstate New York. Brian was a customer of Brighton Sound in Rochester and remembers purchasing a set of used high-frequency horns that originally belonged to the band Seatrain for one of the early sound systems that he was building. Modeled after the Altec Lansing Voice of the Theater speaker system, he built a sound system for his own band, and this turned into building them for the purpose of renting sound systems to local bands. He called his original business Hogmeyre Productions.
In 1973, Brian moved to Dover, New Hampshire and studied sound design as an independent study at UNH. From 1974-1976 Brian started his sound reinforcement company called Ear Craft. Brian began designing, building, renting and selling sound systems using Electro-Voice and JBL speakers. Besides sound systems, Ear Craft also built cabinets for guitar and bass, fiberglass horns, crossovers and lighting systems, as well.
In the early 80s, two of his employees were the Francis brothers, Toby and Elwood. Toby got hired away to do sound for Joe Perry and then to Aerosmith, and Elwood, who did stage lighting design, has recently taken Dusty Hill’s position as the bassist for ZZ Top.
At one point, Ear Craft had 35 sound systems, a number of them on long term rentals with working bands. Ear Craft provided sound related services for artists like The Who, Ella Fitzgerald, Boston, Aimee Mann, Cheap Trick, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Aerosmith, and many more. Ear Craft was also doing church installations, outfitting large and small venues and schools with sound systems.
But, at heart, Brian was a guitar player who had a deep passion for vintage instruments, especially guitars. He started collecting guitars in the early ’70s and even started taking cool guitars in on trade for sales and rentals of his sound systems. In essence, Brian’s sound system business facilitated his entrance into the guitar business. In the early-mid 1980s, portable PA systems for bands became more readily available to local music dealers and the competition to provide sound became more challenging. So, Brian started thinking about transitioning Ear Craft into a more guitar oriented music retail business.
Brian began traveling to states like Texas and California, sometimes visiting over 200 pawn shops, buying up many of their vintage guitars and amplifiers. Each trip would yield anywhere from 80 to 200 Vintage instruments. By 1985, Brian had built a substantial collection of vintage guitars and amplifiers.
In 1987, Brian opened Ear Craft Music in Dover, New Hampshire, selling mostly used instruments. But, as trades kept coming in, Brian would cull out some of the vintage pieces and put them aside for his personal collection, continuing to build a huge vintage inventory. At one point his vintage instrument collection grew to thousands of pieces, one of the largest vintage instrument collections of that time.
In the 90s, Brian, along with a partner, Russ Sutherland, began running guitar shows including the New England Guitar Show and the Boston Guitar Show. In the mid-90s, Brian worked with Darcy Kuronen, curator of musical instruments for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to put together the exhibit “Dangerous Curves: The Art of the Guitar.” The exhibit ran for about 2 months and attracted the second largest exhibit attendance (at the time) in the history of the MFA with well over 100,000 attendees.
Brian was a member of the board of directors of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota and has donated many rare instruments to a number of museums around the country.
Today, while Brian’s collection is not as large as it once was, he still has some of the most amazing electric guitars anyone has ever seen.
Ear Craft Music is still operating in a 10,000 square foot storefront in downtown Dover, NH.
(by Fred Bramante – March 2022)
Published on March 21, 2022