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Kierulff Sound Flyer Circa 1950
Cap Kierulff


Cap Kierulff was not only a witness to, but a key participant in, the birth of the "Hi-Fi" phenomenon. Cap was the founder and owner of Kierulff Sound Corporation of Los Angeles, California. It was the first, and ultimately the largest, retail outlet in all of southern California for James B. Lansing Sound products. What follows is Cap's account of those early days as only he can tell it.

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Kierulff Sound Corporation was the main retail outlet in all of Los Angeles, California, for all of Jim Lansing's consumer products during the 15 years between 1946 and 1961 (after which time, I sold the business to others).

Gradually, more dealers received franchises, but "Kierulff Sound" was No. 1 in introducing, marketing and promoting post-war "High-Fidelity" components and custom music systems (later, our customers called it simply "Hi-Fi", and then we developed the follow-on "StereoPhonic" market which our customers soon changed to just "Stereo").

In fact, it was Bill Cara, Kierulff Sound's Sales Manager, who first introduced consumer "Stereo" to Los Angeles, when we rented a big auditorium in downtown L.A.'s Alexandria Hotel, and we invited the public at large to listen to the first ever concerts taped on Ampex Corporation's only prototype stereo recorder (3-channels!). Guess what? We filled in that "void in the middle of the stage" (between 2 wide-apart JBL speaker-systems) with a third JBL speaker-system, and we as well as all our guests were amazed at the "virtual" realism!

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I still remember, and "feel" the excitement of the crowd which believed something "Out of this World" had been visited upon them! And I'll tell you exactly why - Bill Cara had taken that Ampex 3-channel-recorder out to the Glendale train station the night before and recorded, stereophonically, a steam engine and cars passing in front of his 3 widely-spaced mics. When all of us heard that train approach on left-stage, roar across the center, and steam off into the distance through those 3 JBL speaker systems, we couldn't contain ourselves - a new era had been ushered in which we instantly knew would be embraced by the public!

A year or so later, Bill and I rented the downtown L.A. Biltmore Hotel Theatre and staged another JBL and Pickering Stereo Concert for the public. This time, it was the introduction to the world of JBL's famous "Paragon" stereo system in an absolutely beautifully designed "one-of-a-kind" piece of technically perfect cabinetry, along with Pickering's introduction of the first ever stereo phonograph pickup cartridge. Again, this was a free, several day, marketing event to sold-out crowds who couldn't get enough of these post-war improvements in the still young Hi-Fi era.

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We all know of Jim's tragic death. My memory of that will not go away, because just two weeks before, Jim had attended one of many Kierulff Sound "in-house" concerts for the public at our main-location, Olympic & Figueroa, in downtown L.A. (We had expanded this growing stereo business to 6 stores in southern California, but sold out before the big Stereo-Super-Stores took over, many decades later.) We had many tuners, amplifiers, speaker systems on working display, with the best turntables available to play some of Bill Cara's 16-inch transcription records from his friends at Capital Records. Kierulff Sound's customers, friends and suppliers all gathered here from time-to-time to "really" enjoy these pre-stereo components to the "Max!" James B. Lansing was here. Two-weeks later he took his life.

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Another annual big Los Angeles "Sound" event must also be mentioned. Bill Cara and I, as part of our professional zeal in our "younger days," brought from New York to Los Angeles, and managed, the well-known "Audio-Fiestas" which we started in the early '50s for the benefit of manufacturers like Jim Lansing, and their representatives and for all of their dealers in the southern California area. Again, we rented rooms on several floors of the Alexandria Hotel, then moved several years later to the Biltmore Hotel. We were supported by the entire Hi-Fi and stereo consumer industry across the USA, contributing greatly to the advance of the public's awareness of what early Hi-Fi and stereo was all about. Bill and I remain quite proud of all these activities on the part of our good friends and associates, then and now, within this world of consumer sound.

Let me give you just "one-more" memory from the past, not specifically relating to Jim or JBL. Would you believe, Groucho Marx had me march up to Hollywood, so he could get an answer to: "What is Hi-Fi, Cap"? This was for his three million "You Bet Your Life" television viewers, before stereo, in the early '50s! (His script-writer's, of course, put the answer in "my" mouth - the whole dialog was pre-scripted, for both Groucho, and me!) This was "Kinescoped!" There was no such thing as a video-recorder, then. Years later I asked the producer for a copy for my grandkids. John Gudel said: "Are you kidding? All copies "disintegrated," in their cans!"

Here's the "answer" which the Phd script writers rehearsed into me: "Why, Groucho, Hi-Fi is just like having an orchestra in your living room!" (I don't remember his scripted comeback punch line which got all the laughs). But then, Groucho DID deviate, only once from the script (which he had NOT memorized, but was reading, for the very first time - no rehearsals for him, on the teleprompter in back of my head.) He asked me an "off the script, on the air" question which I had never ever replied honestly to before in all my then 40 years: "Cap, How did you get that name Cap?" On Camera, I was momentarily flabbergasted beyond words! But not for long! This had been my private secret for all of my life! Simply because of the embarrassing way (I had always thought) in which I got it!

I knew "this" was the time to "tell all," even to the three million! I was 40, and it was time I grew up, and honestly replied, right? So I quickly gave Groucho (& the 3-mil) my long answer: "When I was yeah high, my mother took me out for a walk and a nice man in a beard and a hat asked her my name. She replied that she and my dad, Charlie, had not yet decided, really, 'cause I was also a Charlie, the Junior Kierulff. Would it be Charles, Chuck, Charlie Jr, What? The nice man said simply: He looks like the "Captain of Your Heart," to me!

End of story! Needless to say, my mother grabbed onto "Captain of her Heart" and that was it! I "worked" as a kid in the 20's and 30's in Charlie Kierulff's 2-3 employee pre-electronic, radio parts distribution business counting insulators and wire. Since "he" called me Cap, the employee's did likewise. To this day, age 81, my name has been Cap. Long story, short name! (I must have boiled it down for Groucho. Only you get the Full-Monty!)

2000 Cap Kierulff