Music has always been foremost in David’s life. He joined his first band, Fairfax, when he was only 15 years old, playing the guitar. He even had an agent and had to pay taxes! His parents, however, were not happy with his extracurricular activities, saying he had to keep his grades up.
In high school, David continued his musical “career” with the band Mantissa Blue, playing funk covers from famous bands including The Commodores, Chaka Khan and Rufus.
After high school, David attended MU studying graphic design, but dropped out after a couple of semesters. Working in the music field was what he really wanted, so he attended a two-week recording engineer workshop in the summer of 1978. He was taught by professionals: producers and engineers who dissected sound from the ground up – from the source to what one hears.
From 1979 to 1981, David interned in Madison, Wisconsin, working in a recording studio. While there, he met touring musicians such as Fleetwood Mac and Elton John.
He then returned to Columbia to work at Roth’s. For his music fix, he started The Numbers, a band that played Buddy Holly songs. Roth’s had become so successful that the family opened three more stores – in Jefferson City, Sedalia and Osage Beach. In 1984, David reluctantly put his musical pursuits on hold and moved to the Lake.
“There’s nothing down here,” he said at the time.
He jumped into the business world where he learned about buying, merchandising and, more importantly, customer service.
He got married, inheriting a stepdaughter and had a son. He designed and helped build a beautiful home on a cliff overlooking the main channel. He decided to build a home studio, saying “I’ll write songs.” David bought a Mackie Mixer, which for the uninformed is a board with all kinds of buttons, knobs and sliders. The board brings together different recorded instruments in one place. The operator can change the volume, dynamics and effects.
There was only one problem with the mixer: all the ugly exposed wires. David remembered watching a cabinet being wired when he was interning in Madison, so he designed and started building a cabinet in his garage. A neighbor, who hardly ever stopped by, showed up while he was working on the console. This neighbor happened to own a countertop company. When David asked him about making a top, the man replied, “How many you gonna make?” And a whole new world opened up.
David called Recording magazine to ask about ad rates. The woman on the phone asked him what he wanted to advertise. When he described his console, she said it sounded interesting. She also said the magazine was doing an article on studio furniture and asked David to send her a photo. The photo appeared at the end of the article with the tagline, “How’s this for a slogan ‘Makes your Mackie 8.bus look like an SSL.'” According to David that translates to “Turns your Ford Escort into a Ferrari.”
After the article came out, the phone started ringing, and in the fall of 1994 Argosy was born. One of Argosy’s first clients was Boyz II Men. The desk they bought was loaded onto a trailer and driven to Pennsylvania. A few weeks later the vocal group was on the cover of EQ (electronic musician) magazine shown seated at an Argosy Console. Although the company was not named, word spread, which led to more clients and additional furniture designs. In its first year, Argosy sold 55 desks.
David launched a website right after the internet came into being. He outsourced the manufacturing, and rented space in the basement of Stonecrest Mall in Osage Beach. With his friend Tim Thompson, who worked for free the first year in exchange for five shares of stock, plus a few people from Roth’s, he began packaging and filling orders. The cabinets were delivered fully assembled. Getting one through the 32-inch basement doorway was a daunting task. One UPS driver came to pick up about 50 boxes the first day of her employment – David said it was also her last day.
In the mid-’90s, the Lake area was exploding with new businesses opening everywhere. Roth’s was competing with the newly opened outlet mall, and eventually the mall won and Roth’s closed in 1997.
Argosy rented a building in Industrial Park in 1996 and began manufacturing in-house. Eventually the company rented several more buildings in the park.
Throughout his journey with Argosy, David says he has had divine intervention. Remember the neighbor who appeared at just the right time? And the phone call inquiring about rates that led to massive exposure?
Now that the business was humming, they needed a forklift. But with a price tag of $30,000 it was out of range. Then someone stopped by with a forklift that had been bought at auction. He sold David half-interest for $500. The propane lift named Stinky is still in service today.
One of the first retailers to buy a desk from Argosy was Chuck Surack, who owns Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The fledgling company couldn’t sell at wholesale price, so Surack bought at retail. Today, Sweetwater Sound is one of Argosy’s biggest retailers.
Through the years, Argosy has had some notable clients, such as Snoop Dogg, Ozzie Osborne and Mary J. Blige. David recalls one time when he was installing a console at a studio in Burbank, California, that was closed for the weekend. He was told Meatloaf would be stopping by for a voiceover and to send him upstairs.
“So, while taking some trash out back, I saw a station wagon pull into the parking lot. A guy who looked like my high school math teacher got out,” David says. “It’s Meatloaf. I had no idea what his (real) name was, so I said ‘Hello, Mr. Meat?’ He just looked at me and grumbled something like ‘I’m here for the thing.’ So now I can say I talked to Meatloaf!”
David got back into playing music, adding an electric bass guitar to his repertoire. He began playing with the band at Osage Hills Church in Osage Beach. He says he has always had faith, just not a lot of church faith. Before playing at the church he called himself a “Chreaster,” going to services only at Christmas and Easter.
He was also asked to fill in for a couple of months at the Main Street Music Show. He ended up staying.