By Steve Gillespie / Managing Editor
The Meridian Star
Hartley Peavey's hometown turned out Thursday to watch him receive honors from the state.
His star was unveiled by the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center on the Walk of Fame in downtown Meridian, and the Mississippi Blues Commission unveiled its latest Blues Trail Marker citing his contributions to the world of music.
The Peavey Electronics founder and CEO has received numerous awards on the international stage since starting his business 48 years ago. He said Thursday's recognition was special to him "because it's from the home folks."
With less than favorable weather conditions Thursday morning a large crowd gathered at the MSU Riley Center for the MAEC ceremony, including Gov. Phil Bryant and Malcolm White, head of Tourism with the Mississippi Development Authority. Both said they wouldn't have missed the events honoring Peavey under any circumstances.
Reminding the crowd that Mississippi is the birthplace of American music, Bryant said: "Without Mississippi there would be no American music, and hundreds of millions of people would not have heard it if it wasn't for Hartley Peavey."
Peavey Electronics is one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of musical instruments and professional sound equipment in the world. Peavey has earned more than 180 patents and distributes to more than 130 countries.
While congratulating Peavey, Mayor Cheri Barry thanked him for his dedication to the city, telling him "you are our star of Meridian."
"Most people have no idea what an impact this man has made worldwide," said MAEC Executive Director Marty Gamblin, who also noted that Peavey Electronics has employed about 14,000 people over the years.
Paul Ott, MAEC board vice president, bestowed a new title upon Peavey. He said B.B. King from Indianola is the Father of Blues, Elvis Presley from Tupelo is the Father of Rock and Roll, Jimmie Rodgers from Meridian is the Father of Country Music, and Hartley Peavey of Meridian is the "Father of Audio Systems and Making Guitars."
Peavey said his job is to find people who have talents that compliment his own talents.
"I had to create a support structure for me to do my thing," Peavey said. "Experience is like radiation, it's cumulative. And if experience is education then I've been in the classroom longer than anybody in the business. People ask me why I still do what I do. It's because every day I learn something new."
Peavey said he had to re-evaluate his own talents after being kicked out of three different bands when he was young. Instead of becoming a rock star he started building amplifiers and became an entrepreneur.
"I wish I could say I planned it all down to every last detail," Peavey said. Instead, he created an environment so that his company could grow, much like a trellis in a garden.
"You can have good soil, rain, and sunshine, and a vine will grow, but without a support structure it will just ramble along the ground and rot," Peavey said. "With a trellis it can grow into a thing of beauty. That's what Peavey is, and I'm the catalyst."
Peavey shared his appreciation for employees over the years, people in the community, and Meridian's Ross Collins Career and Technical Center, formerly Ross Collins Vocational Center, where he went to school.
"If it hadn't been for Ross Collins I wouldn't be here," Peavey said.
His own tenacity played no small part in the success of his corporation. As he has often said he has a lot of "stickability."
"The real answer is not in a book somewhere," he said. "It comes from within."