Hoover Music Company was established in 1912 by Herbert Lee (H. L.) Hoover and is still under the proprietorship of the same family four generations later! It celebrates 105 years of providing musical instruments, accessories, printed music, repairs and lessons to Southwest Missouri.
H.L. Hoover was the first person to graduate from Drury College with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance. After graduation, H.L. Hoover started Little Hoover’s Big Band, which entertained Southwest Missouri for over twenty years. He also directed the Shriner’s Band, the Drury Band, and, in 1912, started Hoover’s Music on McDaniel Street.
Hoover’s Music sold band and orchestra instruments, guitars, and provided music lessons out of the McDaniel store for 25 years before they moved to South Avenue, where Systematic Savings and Loan is located today. The move to South Street, a prime location for any business on the booming city square, gave Hoover’s Music large window displays, a larger space to operate, and plenty of foot traffic. They added victrolas and radios to their inventory through RCA. That is why Hoover Music Company has one of the original promotional Nipper RCA dogs in the store. Hoover Music Company sold the first acoustic and first electric guitar in Southwest Missouri, and also sold the late Country Music Hall of Famer Porter Wagoner his first guitar.
In 1941, H.L. Hoover passed away and his son, Paul Hoover, took over Hoover’s Music. Shortly after Paul took over the store, there was a nation wide brass shortage toward the end of World War II, and even more so during the Korean War. Since the majority of band instruments are made with brass, Paul had to make changes to survive. He changed the name of his decades-old business to Hoover’s Music and Books, and sold greeting cards, records, appliances, electronics and stringed instruments to make up for the lack of brass instruments available at the time. As soon as the brass shortage was over, Paul bought the first school service vehicle, a 1948-1950 Chevy Panel Van and trailer. He introduced the delivery and repair pick-up system for schools in Southwest Missouri.
In the 1950s, Springfield became a mecca for country music, with the top ranked show, Ozark Jubilee, filmed just one street over from the store. The show starred such greats as Porter Wagoner and Brenda Lee.
In 1967, Paul Hoover did three major things to turn Hoover Music Company into the store it is today. He incorporated the 55 year old family business, changed the name to Hoover Music Company Incorporated, and moved the business to the current location at 440 S. Jefferson Ave. The grand opening of the new store was huge news all over the country. The Springfield papers did several stories on the move, and owners and CEO’s of all the major music companies and manufacturers in the United States wrote Paul congratulatory letters to mark the occasion. People lined Jefferson Street on opening day.
Paul Hoover turned Hoover Music Company into the largest Lowery Piano dealer in the United States. He did this, in-part, by offering a new and exciting way to pay for musical instruments. Paul Hoover introduced the rent-to-own program to Southwest Missouri in the 1950s. The plan allowed students to learn a musical instrument without a huge up-front investment or monetary commitment. Soon after offering this plan on pianos, Paul realized the plan would also work for band and orchestra instruments. Thus, a new method of getting instruments into the hands of beginners was born. Now, almost everyone who begins band or orchestra does so using a payment plan similar to the one started at Hoover Music Company all those years ago. Although, none are identical to the interest-free actual rent-to-own plan offered at Hoover Music Company. “We started it; We perfected it.”
While working hard to ensure that Hoover Music Company offered the best in customer service, product and selection to Southwest Missouri, Paul Hoover also brought top performers to be guest artists for the Springfield Symphony. The “Wall of Fame” in the back hall of Hoover Music Company has some of the signed press photos from such artists, but there are hundreds more in storage. These photos include greats such as Clark Terry, Tommy Dorsey, and Porter Wagoner. Wagoner signed the photo: “My best wishes to Hoover Music – you fellas sell the best guitar in town.”
In 1978, Paul relinquished his duties at Hoover Music Company to his sons Kenneth and James Hoover. Jim is a clarinetist who spent time in the National Guard Band, and has spent his entire life at Hoover Music Company. Kenny was a pianist, and was in the Marines for a time. Kenny passed away in January of 1999.
In the late ‘70s through the ‘90s, Hoover Music Company faced two major challenges. The downtown area became somewhat of a “ghost town” with the development of the Battlefield Mall and the city-wide push to drive business to the newest retail investment, and “big box stores” and national chain Stores moved into the Springfield area.
Hoover Music Company was one of the very few retail stores to remain in the downtown area and survive. Sacrifices had to be made, so Jim cut back on school service routes and the number of employees to focus on in-house service, repairs and the lesson program. Most Springfieldians know Jim Hoover as the sweet, quiet man who cared more about good customer service and quality of products than almost anyone else in town. That is why Hoover Music survived in such tough economic conditions.
Jim knew that to stay in business you have to be willing to adapt to the economic climate. He inherited the business that sold the first victrola, record player, radio, television, and VCR in consumer electronics, but he knew that he could no longer compete with the national chain stores. He closed the electronics department at Hoover Music, and eventually stopped selling records as well. Mail order catalogs, internet shopping and national chains who focus on musical instruments were also a potential challenge to a small music retail business, but Jim found that personal customer service and the ability to try before you buy are services still valued in the music community.
In 2000, James (Brian) Hoover, the current president and fourth-generation Hoover, took over ownership of Hoover Music Company. Brian took over the stringed instrument repair duties from his father as well, and has developed into the most trusted repairman in the area. Throughout the twelve years Brian has controlled the business, he has changed and developed several programs that were much needed in today’s music education environment. Brian saw the need in helping to fund music education in schools, and became a Partner in Education. He revamped the rent-to-own program to be free of interest charges and re-implemented the school service representatives, a program has grown immensely over the past four years.
Brian also saw the value in having vested employees who were very knowledgeable in their field. He added great employee benefits to attract potential long-term employees who would care about Hoover Music and the customers we serve, and who were respected in the musical community for their expertise. Brian re-vamped the lesson program and the clinician program and is proud to say that the group of private educators at Hoover Music Company is unmatched in quality and experience in the Southwest Missouri Area.
10 a.m.–6 p.m.
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Downtown Springfield Association members receive 10% off all merchandise at Hoover—even instruments! Join now.
Hoover Music sold Porter Waggoner his first guitar and was heavily involved in the Ozarks Jubilee!
H.L. Hoover, founder of Hoover Music, was the first student to graduate from Drury University with a degree in piano performance.