The History of Durdel's Music
Our guitar store has been around for a long time, and we've seen a lot of changes in the industry. Below is a brief history of our more than 60 years in business.
Even before Cliff and Ruth purchased the store from the Blauseys in 1946, Ruth had been teaching lap steel guitar for about six years at the "Stars of Tomorrow Studios" with Wilson and Paulina Blausey. Cliff worked at Sun Oil as a lab tech testing octane ratings. Within several years of buying the store, and after the birth of their first daughter, Connie, he quit to work full time with Ruth at the store. At that time, students were enrolled by going door to door. They gave group lessons of 6-10 people for lap steel classes. There was also a radio show where 'Uncle Abe' helped to recruit students. Late in the forties, they brought in their first two non-steel teachers, Vicki Pasorik and Carl Russell, who both taught steel and Spanish guitar.
The fifties brought out the first solid-body Fender electrics, and Durdel's was there to lead the way as the first Northwestern Ohio and Southeast Michigan dealer for Fender electric guitars. Many developments were taking shape during these years, and the companies were eager to hear what the dealers had to suggest. During a Gibson clinic, Cliff and his Gibson rep, Andy Nelson, set down on paper some ideas for what they thought may improve the Gibson sound. At that time, the Gretsch Country Gentleman was popular. The idea was to give a thinline the sound of an acoustic. Although there was no direct credit given to Cliff or Andy, the ES355 was born soon after that. Also in the fifties, their second daughter, Pat, was born. Other great guitar instructors, like Elmer Saunders, Don Heminger, and Bob Sass, gravitated to Durdel's.
The new decade brought the addition of the Central Ave store. For the first year, the building was shared with a bakery (in the long section of the store), and a hairdresser, Marcella Chor, in the rear of the store, (facing Haughton). In 1963, the store on Jackson was moved to Huron Street. Students were taken in groups to competitions once a year to compete against other studios, sponsored by the IMA (Internat'l Music Assoc.).
The sixties saw an unbelievable growth in guitars, both acoustic and electric. Durdel's was one of the top ten Martin dealers in the country. Companies were trying new things to get their piece of the guitar action. In 1966, a company called Ovation showed a radical new design at the summer trade show. The top looked like a guitar, but the back was like a shiny black bowling ball! To show its durability, they slammed the backside over a chair! (Unfortunately, it failed the demo witnessed by the Durdels!) Undaunted, Durdel's became the first Ovation dealer in Toledo. Local folk guitarist, David Browning, recalls the fall of 1967. He walked into the store and Cliff said, with his patented grin, "C'mere, I've got something to show you..." David bought that first Ovation. "Cliff could always 'grin' me into a guitar!", says Browning. Also, about that time, a red-haired kid named Fred Shuman got his first Fender, a blue Mustang,
During the seventies, Ruth had some health problems, and the Durdels thought they would 'retire' to Florida. They sold the business on land contract to a local management team. At one point, there were branch stores at Southland, Miracle Mile, and Great Eastern, as well as the original locations of Central and Huron. However, after a short time, the loan defaulted, and Cliff and Ruth had to come back from Florida to reclaim their business. Fred Shuman was one of the new employees working there when the Durdels came back. Cliff, looking over the top of his reading glasses, said to Fred, "Exactly what is it that you do?" Fred has always joked that "No one ever told me to leave, so I stayed!" Once finances were back in order, and all the stores except the Central Ave location were closed, the Durdels returned to Florida, leaving most of the management of the store to Fred. They would visit quarterly for 2-4 weeks at a time, and would come up just after Thanksgiving to stay for the Christmas season.
During the eighties, Fred handled more and more of the stores' day to day activities. In May of 1983, he married Alice, who had met him while taking lessons with Rob Worden. Durdel's became a Peavey dealer in 1984 and started buying direct in 1985. (Yamaha had previously been purchased through a jobber named Midco.)
Another first for Durdel's was in the birth of a company called Steinberger. An all-plastic polymer, single-piece body and neck with no headstock made this guitar quite unique. Its unusual shape prompted some to say, "Where's the rest of it?" Don Binkley bought the first one, soon after it came into the store. Durdel's was also the first Paul Reed Smith dealer in the Toledo area. In May of 1986, there was a surprise 40th Anniversary party for the Durdels, given by Fred and Alice (for which Cliff has never forgiven Alice...he said "If it was MY party, I would have known about it!")
In March of 1990, Ruth lost her 17-year battle with cancer. A gracious woman up to her last days, we miss her still. Cliff turned over the books to Fred the following year with the comment, "Well, if you're going to buy the business, you might as well see what you're getting into!" The deal was closed in July of 1993. In October of 1995, Alice left her job with Dana to work full time at Durdel's to do "all the things Fred hates to do." Sadly, the year after the store was purchased, Rob Worden passed in his sleep at the tender
age of 41.
In June of 2001, Cliff left this earth but will forever be remembered in the many lives he touched. It is our goal to continue the tradition of honesty, service, and quality that people have come to expect from Durdel's well into the next century. We appreciate our many loyal customers for whom this brief history may have rekindled some fond memory of their "first" from Durdel's.