It is with great sadness that Carvin Guitars / Kiesel Guitars announces that its founder, Lowell C. Kiesel, passed away on December 28, 2009 in San Diego at the age of 94.
Mr. Kiesel was born on a farm in Eustis, Nebraska on February 22, 1915. As a young man, he spent time in Wichita, Kansas, where he developed an interest
in musical instruments; specifically, Hawaiian steel guitars, resonators and the newly-emerging electronic aspects of these instruments.
During his time in Kansas in the 1930s, he performed live on local radio stations with his Hawaiian steel guitar. However, like other
innovators in the burgeoning industry of that era, he found that he had an equal passion for building instruments and equipment as he
did playing them, and that passion would become his life's work.
|Lowell Kiesel performing on the radio in 1935
Following his time in the midwest, Mr. Kiesel relocated to Los Angeles, where he took a job with North American Aviation. It was World War II, and Mr. Kiesel was one of many men building aircraft for the war effort; notably, the legendary P-51 Mustang, which is often credited as turning the tide of the war for the Allies. Near the end of the war, in 1944, he married Agnes Dorothea Jorgenson, who would be with him until her passing in 2007.
He founded the L. C. Kiesel Company in 1946, and began winding guitar pickups on an old sewing machine. The company was initially located in Los Angeles,
briefly relocated back to Mr. Kiesel's home state of Nebraska, and then moved back to southern California in 1949, by which time he had added
amplifiers and steel guitars to his lineup of gear. There are still examples of these early Kiesel-badged steel guitars and amplifiers in existence
today, underscoring the quality and durability of Mr. Kiesel's early designs. Originally, Kiesel pickups were sold through a distributor, but
Mr. Kiesel felt he could do a better job by eliminating the middleman and selling his pickups directly to the customer, so an idea that would
last until this day was born. He changed the name of the company to Carvin, after his two eldest sons, Carson and Gavin. In the earliest years
of the company, he advertised in such magazines as Popular Mechanics, and began producing his own mail order catalog in the early 1950s. In the
years that followed, the company expanded from pickups to guitars and basses, amplifiers, pro audio equipment and other musical accessories.
Early Carvin steel guitars, amplifiers and electronics were made by Mr. Kiesel himself, and later by a few employees of the small company. In
addition to his pickups, which were notably used by Semie Moseley in early Mosrite guitars, Mr. Kiesel designed and built many unique instruments,
including an electric upright bass and an electric violin, which Agnes enjoyed playing.
|Lowell Kiesel in 1935
As the decades passed, Carvin blossomed into a world-class manufacturer of musical instruments, amplification and pro audio gear. The company
relocated several times, from Baldwin Park outside of Los Angeles, to Covina, California, to Escondido, California, and finally to its present
location in San Diego. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Kiesel's sons joined the family business, bringing their own engineering and
technical skills to the company, and today, the 3rd and 4th generation of Kiesels are also part of the company. 1970 was when our President, Mark Kiesel, was brought on to take full
control over the Guitar Division. Lowell Kiesel's leadership, technical
expertise and innovative engineering and marketing concepts led the company for decades, and even after handing the reins of the company
over to his sons, he maintained an office in Carvin's San Diego headquarters. The innovative "factory-direct" sales approach adopted by
Mr. Kiesel in the 1940s continues to this day, and is one of the primary reasons for the company's success.
Lowell Kiesel & Mark Kiesel - Carvin 60th Anniversary Celebration, August 2006
Mr. Kiesel was preceded in death by son Gavin in 1989 and wife of 63 years, Agnes, in 2007. Son Mark Kiesel is President of the newly formed Kiesel Guitars, which became
an independent company in 2015, focusing exclusively on guitar and bass design and production. Lowell's grandson Jeff Kiesel is
vice-president of Kiesel Guitars. Both of Jeff's children, Zak and Kaila, are also learning the family business. Zak works in instrument construction and sales and Kaila works in
the pickup winding and assembly department. Mark, Jeff, Zak and Kaila Kiesel will continue to carry on the quality and traditions established by the family
patriarch for many years to come, ensuring that the Kiesel name and Lowell Kiesel's legacy will live on.
Mark, Zak, Jeff & Kaila Kiesel - 2015
Lowell Kiesel will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by the Kiesel family and the entire staff of Kiesel Guitars.