Carl Kamp defined Union Music for a generation

Chris Reddy

I remember, back in the late ’70s, growing up in Leominster and hearing that Jeff Skunk Baxter was going to be giving a demo of the new ARP guitar synths at Union Music in Worcester. A few friends and I took the trip into Worcester and were treated to a great show!

It was also my first time to Union Music. Union Music had a reputation among musicians as being the place to go if you wanted to check out the latest gear or just play some new guitars. Most music stores around that time were small and limited in what they offered, so driving into the city and visiting Union was a treat, if not a necessity.

After leaving the area for a few years, I came back to Union in the early part of the new millennia to check in with the store and found it to be nostalgically the same as I had always remembered. I was now working as a full time musician and with Pulse Magazine and had been asked to put together the first Worcester Music Awards show at Irish Times. I asked for the owner and was led to the back office and given my first introduction to Carl Kamp.

The first thing I noticed was the promo for the Jeff Skunk Baxter show, along with several other vintage signed promo photos from multiple musical artists of every genre. The second thing I noticed was Carl sitting behind his desk with a big smile and guitar cases everywhere. Carl politely got up from his desk, and I proceeded to ask for his support of the WMAs. We talked about the music scene for a while and he pledged his support for the event. Carl and Union Music ended up helping sponsor the event for the next 11 years! That is the essence of Carl Kamp ‑ he truly cares about the music scene and musicians, as well as being a fine musician himself.

Over the years, I got to know Carl well, and I credit him with helping provide excellent repair support for my guitars via Dave Dick, his past guitar tech at Union. Carl was dedicated to his patrons and staff alike and always had a joke and a smile. Union also provides a performance spot for open mics, the Ukulele Club and guitar workshops.

After long contemplation, Carl decided to retire this past summer and sell the business. He and his staff have provided a lifetime of service to musicians throughout the area for more than five decades. New owner Jeff Mararian has taken the reins at Union, and the staff are still providing the same great support. I wish Carl the best in his retirement and will always be thankful for his support of the Central Massachusetts music scene and his help with my own musical endeavors. I wish Jeff and all of the staff an equally successful tenure.

The Kamp family had been running Union for a century. Carl Kamp created Union Music in 1973, as a third-generation owner of the former Union Loan Company, which was established in 1900. Carl built Union into one of the best music stores for retail and instrument repair in Central Massachusetts. He is also a highly respected classical guitar player and a member of the Boston Classical Guitar Society.

Check out Carl’s music and projects at carlkamp.com. Check out the latest updates for Union Music at unionmusic.com.

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