KSM Guitars is featured in Cache Magazine
The Unique Sound of KSM
Kevin Moore’s patented guitar bridges are making their way around the world
Sitting in front of a desk in a small office at the back of KSM Music, Kevin S. Moore suddenly can’t contain himself when asked to describe some of his successes as a guitar maker and an inventor. The 55-year-old suddenly lunges towards a laptop sitting near the back of the desk, almost simultaneously apologizing for his poor typing and spelling skills as he declares, “One of the big successes I had that gave me a thrill was through Leo, and a custom bass he built for Michael McKean.”
Leo is Leonardo Lospennato, an Argentinian of Italian descent who is a renowned luthier in Germany. Lospennato is also the author of “Electric Guitar & Bass Design,” a book that features the innovative bass guitar bridge designed by Moore on its cover.
Prior to a tour of the United Kingdom in 2009 by the fictional — but legendary — rock band Spinal Tap, Lospennato built a bass specifically meant for McKean, aka David St. Hubbins. As Tap’s lead singer, McKean normally only plays rhythm guitar, except for the hit song “Big Bottom,” in which everyone in the band but the drummer picks up a bass.
“So, here he is in 2009 at Glastonbury,” Moore says as he hits play on a YouTube video from the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts in England. “Just look at all those people.”
If you didn’t know what Moore’s patented bass bridge looked like, you probably wouldn’t even notice anything out of the ordinary. But as McKean, also known as Lenny on “Laverne & Shirley,” plucks away on a pale yellow bass while wearing a long, blonde wig, it’s quite clear that there’s a Foundation bass bridge on that guitar.
“They played Glastonbury, Wembley, all those places in front of thousands and thousands of people,” Moore says with a grin. “You’ve got Michael McKean playing a bass that Leo built for him with a KSM bridge on it that came out of a tiny little music store in Logan, Utah.”
“Isn’t that cool?” Moore asks.
Kevin Moore’s career in music got off to a rocky start. A native of Logan, he grew up below Old Main Hill being “force fed” piano by his mother.
“I was probably around 10, and I rejected it,” Moore recalls. “I couldn’t play a note today.
“I wanted to play guitar, so kept on saying that I was going to quit piano and take guitar. But my mom said I needed to learn piano because that was the basis for everything else.”
But Moore’s parents, Sheldon and Sharmeen, did provide him with the occasional musical Christmas gift like Neil Diamond and Three Dog Night cassettes, and eventually he picked up some 45 records like the Cowgills’ “Hair” and Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy” that ended up being the gateway drugs for a serious appreciation of rock ‘n’ roll.
“I loved music,” he says, “and I lamented the fact that growing up in Cache Valley, there wasn’t any real rock ‘n’ roll around.”
Moore says his life really changed when he caught a performance by Kiss on NBC’s “Midnight Special” program in the mid-’70s. But while the band was breaking across the nation, he was unable to find Kiss’ debut album in Cache Valley, so he had to special order it from Somers Music.
“I think I bought the first Kiss music in the valley,” Moore proclaims. “I was really interested in Alice Cooper, as well, but with Kiss, it was about the music. Kiss made me really want to play.”
At the time, Moore did have some experience playing the guitar. He started out with an acoustic and even took a class from future USU guitar legend Mike Christiansen while in junior high. In 1972, he went to the House of Sound, a long-gone stereo store on Main Street, and purchased a Kimberly electric guitar with money he earned by mowing lawns.
“I bought a guitar amp head at a garage sale, and my dad helped me build a speaker box for it,” Moore says while gesturing towards the old Kimberly that still hangs above the service area at KSM Music. “It would just launch you into space.”
But despite his love of the guitar, Moore admits “I never really developed into much of a player,” and says his biggest regret is that he was never in a band growing up.
“Looking back I think, Why the hell didn’t you do that?” Moore declares. “I wish I had done it when I had the chance.”
Real life soon took over Moore’s life. He started working as a printer for the Moore Corporation (now RR Donnelly) in 1977, but after “messing around” with both woodworking and guitars in the ’80s, Moore eventually decided to combine both of those passions together and started trying to repair and then build his own guitars with the aid of Tom Wheeler books.
While becoming a luthier usually comes with an apprenticeship, Moore says he did it all on his own “because I go the road of hard knocks with everything I do.”
Nearly 37 years later, Moore still works at RR Donnelly, which makes KSM Music and KSM Guitars his side ventures.
“I’m still in here every day, but it depends on the day how much time I spend,” he says of the music store. “I’d like to focus on guitars only, but it just doesn’t pay the bills.”
The first KSM retail store opened in 1996 on Main Street, then spent some time in the Cache Valley Mall before moving to its current location at 50 W. 400 North about a decade ago. What started out as a guitar store now sells, rents and services all types of instruments, and the KSM SoundFactory provides instructors for budding musicians.
KSM Guitars itself is based in Moore’s woodshed, where he might take up to a year to create a new six-string masterpiece. He estimates he’s built about 30 guitars through the years, including the standard KSM Model 358 and custom-built guitars currently being played by local guitar heroes like Corey Christiansen, Kris Krompel and Austin Weyand.
Those electric guitars come with Foundation bridges that Moore started to develop around 10 years ago after growing frustrated with guitar bridges that hadn’t changed much since Leo Fender used a door hinge while building guitars in the early 1950s. The screws holding guitar strings in place were always coming loose, causing unnecessary vibration and noise.
Moore says he finally hit the wall when he saw his repairman son Super Gluing down the screws on an expensive new Fender.
“I said, ‘What the hell are you doing? You paid a thousand dollars for this guitar, and you’re screwing it up.’ And he said, ‘Well, they keep moving on me.’”
“That’s when I really started to wonder why we’re still using 1950s technology,” Moore says. “I mean, it works, but it’s not the best. I thought there’s got be a better bridge, so that’s when I started to develop the Foundation bridge.”
Patented in 2009, Moore’s Foundation bridge comes in both bass and six-string varieties, but while the bass bridges are sold separately, the six-string bridges comes only with KSM guitars.
“That’s one of the things that sets my guitars apart,” Moore says.
Country music star Lorrie Morgan has a pink KSM guitar, as does her guitar player Roger Eaton, who has also played with Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell and is a part of the backup band at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
“Sometimes I just can’t win because when (Eaton) travels, he never takes his KSM guitar because he refuses to fly with it. He says he’s seen too many guitars busted up,” Moore explains. “But he also said he doesn’t fly with it because he told his kids that’s going to be their heirloom that they inherit, so the only place you’ll see him playing that guitar is on the Opry stage.”
Moore then adds, “What I like, though, is that the sound engineer at the Opry says that’s one of the quietest guitars he’s ever seen as an engineer.”
That’s the whole point of Moore’s Foundation bridges is to provide more stability by having far fewer moving parts. He admits, however, that he hasn’t “sold a whole lot” of the bridges, and is clearly frustrated over how to market them.
“Everybody that uses one just loves it, but I haven’t figured out the marketing,” Moore says. “The conception, prototype, licensing, patenting, manufacturing and packaging was harder than hell, but it was a piece of cake compared to the marketing.”
That’s clearly why seeing someone like Michael McKean playing an instrument with his bass bridge on it is so satisfying for Moore, who says he’ll keep making guitars “until I die.”
“I can’t play guitar that well, so I get a real kick out of watching somebody who knows how to play, play a guitar that I built,” Moore notes with a big smile. “I had a chance to watch Corey Christiansen, the USU guitar professor, play at Summerfest this year, and he did some sonic acrobatics that were just amazing. It was so cool.
“I still get chills just thinking about how he just made that thing stand up and talk.”