Lawrence Music, Stratocaster celebrate 60 years

Published Jul 13, 2014 at 11:06 am (Updated Jul 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm)

Lawrence Music in Castle Shannon has seen three owners in 60 years, but not a change in name.

“Lawrence Music is its own entity. It’s alive, like a ship on the water and we’re all just passengers on this ship,” owner Brad Johnson said on the decision to keep the Lawrence name after buying the music store in 1989. He bought it off the second owner, Russ Lawrence, no relation to the original owner, Vic Lawrence.

“People jump off into the musical tide, but everyone leaves an impact on the ship. This place will be here for a long time ... it’s touched a lot of people.”

One of those people is 88-year-old jazz guitar legend Joe Negri, who visited on July 12 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of musical wares and lessons at the store by playing for more than a dozen people.

Joining him was a former student of both Negri and Lawrence Music teachers, Anthony Ambroso.

The 23 year-old Upper St. Clair native now lives in Boston and teaches music at Tufts University.

“My first lessons for rock and blues were here at the store,” Ambroso said.

“Then I took lessons with Joe (Negri) because he was always here at the shop, and he lived close by on Bower Hill Road.”

This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Fender American Stratocaster, one of which was given away after Negri’s performance at a retail value of $1,000, though the winner was not present to claim his prize.

The so-called strat is the best selling guitar of all time, Johnson said.

“From rock to jazz, this is guitar is the most popular ... tonally you can get any sound you want. And that’s the bottom line. If there’s a sound you want, you can get it out of a Stratocaster.”

“I like the way they play. They have a neck that’s easy to get your hand around. So for technique, you can bend the strings easily. And the pickups have a good bite to them. A nice, bright twangy sound,” Ambroso said.

Ambroso performs with a few bands in Boston and plans to continue teaching and performing professionally. Negri, meanwhile, continues to record. His latest CD is “Dream Dancing.” He’ll perform at 5 p.m. July 18 at the Omni William Penn, and at various times on July 27 at the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Festival.

As for Lawrence Music, the shop still offers lessons and music literature in addition to their guitars and amps, Johnson said.

“We still have people coming in looking for Vic’s books. Vic (Lawrence) wrote amazing, genius material.”

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