John Edwards - Former JBL  Vice President of Finance
John Edwards


John Edwards has the distinction of being the fourth employee of Lansing Sound Inc., and is now the only one living of the four. From humble beginnings as a jack-of-all-trades, John was to rise to the position of Vice President of Finance and held a stock interest in JBL. He was the right-hand man to the President, Bill Thomas, and was in charge in Thomas's absence. John participated in the struggles of the company at its very beginnings, often on the verge of bankruptcy, and then made significant contributions to its ultimate success and growth. At the end of his tenure with JBL, the firm had become the preeminent loudspeaker manufacture of the time.

Just before World War II, John had graduated from Woodbury College with a diploma in Business Administration. John didn't get a chance to put this education to use as he shortly joined the U.S. Navy for four years. He participated in the battle of Iwo Jima and also the invasion of Okinawa where his ship was attacked by Japanese Kamikaze planes, with the loss of many lives. After the war he joined a staff at Lansing Sound Incorporated that consisted of only Jim Lansing, Bud Fassett and Howard Weiser. As John puts it, "Howard was the voice coil expert... Bud did the rest and Jim of course could do it all including making enclosures" one of which John still has. John was hired to do all of the office work.

The early times at Lansing Sound were difficult and John was often called upon to do whatever was necessary to complete the job at hand. Many times John had to personally deliver products straight off the manufacturing floor, dropping them off out of the back of his car to local dealers. Money was tight and it was not uncommon to have to ask staff to hold their paychecks until money could be raised to cover them.

John relates that the job which established the firm was a contract to supply all of Fox West Coast Theaters with sound systems. However, they nearly missed the opportunity to gain that work. Lansing Sound first had to develop a prototype. They found themselves in the classic "Catch 22" where they would not be paid without the contract, but couldn't get the contract without paying the suppliers to build the prototype. It required John's skill as a negotiator and the patience of their suppliers to get through this impasse.

John was instrumental in establishing a family work environment that resulted in unions being unsuccessful in attempts to organize the production staff during his tenure. Annual family events were held, including picnics, bus trips to Dodger games and Christmas parties. Benefits included profit and pension plans and the right to purchase JBL products for personal use at reduced prices. John was also on top of the technology of the day and ensured that JBL's accounting was automated with the latest IBM and NCR business machines.

One of the more intriguing insights that John was able to provide was into the personality and background of James B. Lansing. He was able to relate the origin of the "Lansing" name. Jim once sold shoes in Lansing, Michigan. He liked the name and took it when he decided to change his last name from Martini. John also recounts how Jim was a workaholic. John had made arrangements to rent a motel room close to the plant to save Jim the time in driving to his home in San Marcos. However, Jim seldom used it and was often found asleep on a workbench when the staff began arriving for work.

In a more telling episode, John relates that many times when money was tight, Jim Lansing would ask that the company drop the "key man" policy on his life. However, John always found a way to pay the premiums. It was this policy that allowed the company to continue after Jim's death.

After 21 years, and following the sale of the company, John became the asset manager in Los Angeles for the Charles Dunn Company and also for the Equitable Life Assurance Society of The United States.

2000 Don McRitchie