Montgomery music business receives national recognition

Michael HowlettStaff Writer

September 7, 2012

Ron Montgomery, a Hillsville native and owner of Kelley’s Music in Roanoke, didn’t give a recent call from Guitar Player magazine much thought. In fact, he told them to call back later, he was busy.

“I thought they were going to try and sell me a magazine. It was later in the evening, about 6 p.m., and I was really busy. I thought, ‘why would Guitar Player magazine want to talk to me,’” said Montgomery, who found out why the prestigious music magazine was calling the next day.

As a result of a Facebook poll, Kelley’s Music had been included on the magazine’s list of America’s top indie guitar shops.

“Guitar Player magazine is the predominant magazine of its kind, and has been doing it longer than anyone. It’s a real honor me and my staff,” said Montgomery, who became partner in the store in 1985, then became the sole owner in 1990.

Guitar Player decided on its list, which includes 38 stores from across the country, by asking friends on its Facebook page for nominations. The list was included in the June issue of the magazine, with a blurb by reporter Bridget Oates that said, “While giant chain store stores and online retailers have changed the business landscape, the most successful independent stores have adapted, evolved, and found their own niches. They can also be community havens, learning centers, and places to hear great music.”

Montgomery said he owes a lot to his customer.

“I’m very thankful. Our customers take good care of us and we do our best to take good care of them. We have the best customers in the world,” he said. “The article appeared about two months ago (in the Roanoke Times), and we people are still talking about it. The outpouring was great. Anybody who says people don’t read newspapers is all wrong.”

Although Kelley’s Music does sell a few stringed instruments other than guitars, it is guitars and their accessories than make up “90 percent” of Montgomery’s business, and it is the groundbreaking creations of Fender and Gibson that are still the ones serious musicians want.

The Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul and Fender Telecaster are still the most popular for a reason, said Montgomery. “The Gibsons and Fenders are the blueprint for almost every solid-body guitar,” he said.

However, Kelley’s Music doesn’t service just serious musicians, but players of all levels, including beginners.

“We have four teachers on hand, and give lessons every day we’re open, Monday through Saturday,” said Montgomery, who advises anyone interested in playing a guitar to give it a shot. “Whether it’s a band, a church, or just a person who wants to play by their self or with people, guitars can give back so much to you.”

Montgomery is the son of Ila Gardner Montgomery and the late Lonnie Montgomery, and the grandson of the Henry and Lucy Montgomery, both deceased, and Roy and Nellie Gardner.