AUDIOPHILE INTERVIEW: James Bongiorno

Dejan V. Veselinovic (TNT-Audio) in 2001 wrote:  For the sake of younger readers, some 20-30 years ago, companies like SAE were the dreams of all us avid audiophiles, then came others. Very few knew, myself fortunately being one of those that did, that behind all these revered names and milestone products, stood one man - James Bongiorno. This gentleman deserves at least a book, but for the time being, you'll have to be satisfied with a small interview. I all but gave up on ever meeting him, but thanks to the omnipotent, ubiquitous Internet, some dreams in life did come true, and this is one of them. It was well worth waiting for.

But enough of me already - Mr Bongiorno, the floor is yours!

TNT-Audio >
Mr Bongiorno, over the decades, you have been associated with many famous names in audio, such as SAE, GAS, Sumo and others. You are quoted in books, magazines and texts dealing in audio. How did you start out and where, and why audio?

JB >
I started when I was very young, about 10 to be exact. I was studying classical and jazz accordion with one of the greatest musicians in the world, Russ Messina, in Buffalo, N.Y. This was in 1953 and at that time the accordion manufacturers were changing the style of the instruments from open grills to closed grills. They also added tone chambers and felt muting under the grills to make the instrument sound more mellow. Unfortunately, This also made the instrument much harder to play inasmuch as one had to pump the bellows harder to get volume. At this point the industry made the jump to amplification which obviously made the instrument much easier to play. Along about this time, our teachers and other great accordionists started making recordings. Being a kid made it difficult as we didn't have any hifi gear. What we did was to obtain say a Bogen turntable with a ceramic (high output voltage) cartridge and plug it directly into our instrument amps. Also, the cartridge didn't need to be equalized either. The instrument amps were also very rugged because they originally had to support guitars and electric basses and could also play LOUD. As I got older, I moved into electronic organs with Leslie speakers, etc. All of these things however, didn't really have that great a sound quality. So this is how I migrated into designing hifi gear.

My first job was working for Wurlitzer however, at that time (1959) I still had the desire to be a great musician and so for many years I vacillated between being a technician and being on the road as a musician. In 1965 I got hired by Dawson Hadley to be his right hand man. He had a problem with Parkinson's disease and was shaking badly and needed me to be his hands. I learned quite a bit from Dawson. I wasn't there very long and I went back on the road. I then saw an ad in the back of Audio magazine from Marantz Co. I then started a communication channel with the great Sid Smith who was Chief engineer. After about six months of talking he hired me. This was my shortest job in history. I (and everyone else) could not .........

http://www.tnt-audio.com/intervis/bongiorno_e.html