DANBURY, Conn. — Lifelong guitarist Russ Mumma, owner of The Music Guild in Danbury, has seen his share of stars at the Main Street store he opened five decades ago.
Over the years, many music greats have come in to gets instruments repaired or to buy merchandise at the store, which specializes in vintage guitar sales, music instruction and instrument repairs.
Though reticent to drop names, when pressed Mumma told Daily Voice that his customers have included Tracy Chapman, who bought her first guitar there when she was a student at Wooster School.
Bluesman Albert Collins and members of the BB King band have also shopped there. A producer for Eric Clapton, who once lived in Redding, bought a 100-year-old guitar at Music Guild, which Clapton played, said Mumma.
"The producer told me the guitar is what inspired his 'Unplugged' album," Mumma said in a phone interview. Clapton won three Grammy Awards for the 1992 album.
The store at 276 Main St. occupies the same space from its start — a three-story building with a 1,200-square-foot showroom, brimming with vintage and new instruments, recording items and other equipment.
“BB King influenced a lot of blues players and many rock players. He had a huge influence," Mumma said.
"I met him several times in his dressing room when we were producing equipment for him. One time he played the Ives (the Charles Ives Center for the Arts in Danbury) and the percussionist asked me if there were any clubs he could listen to and play music in. I took him to Tuxedo Junction," Mumma said.
Turning the focus to his store, he said, “We sell everything, mainly specialize in vintage instruments. That’s our main focus — and new [instruments] also."
The store has three employees and offers repairs and lessons.
His customers in the music industry have also included John Sebastian, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, Rick Danko from The Band, Gregg Allman and Jose Feliciano. "His bass player for 15 years works at Music Guild," Mumma said of Feliciano.
Mumma is originally from New Jersey and lived in Pennsylvania, where he attended school, and also lived in various places in Connecticut, including Stamford and Westport. Before opening the retail business, he was in a band and gave guitar lessons.
“I had my own band and was asked to join the Ramrods who had a hit record, '(Ghost) Riders in the Sky'," he said.
The Music Guild was one of the stores on U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty's recent walking tour of small businesses in downtown Danbury .
The congresswoman dropped by Mumma's shop last month.
While Esty looked through Mumma's extensive inventory of items at the Music Guild, he invited her to his store's upcoming 50th anniversary bash.
“We have had a lot of celebrities over the years, and have customers from as far as Poland and Korea. It’s been an interesting trip,” Mussa said of his decades in business.