The year was 1928. Calvin Coolidge was president. Prohibition was the law of the land. The stock market was riding high. Radio was a new phenomenon sweeping the country. Talking pictures were about to revolutionize the movie industry. And Herbert “Mac” McClelland founded McClelland Sound.
In the early years, Herbert built his own sound systems. He traveled the Midwest operating his systems for fairs, horse races, senatorial campaigns and every type of event that required sound amplification. Herbert ran his business from his parents’ home until January of 1930, when the Wichita Eagle announced the opening of the Radio Shop, just north of downtown Wichita. It was in 1930 that the slogan “Our Business is Sound” was first used. During World War II, the business changed, becoming primarily about renting and operating sound equipment for others. New equipment couldn’t be purchased, as manufacturing was diverted to the war effort. During the war, his work also related to the war effort; Herbert set up sound systems at Beech aircraft and Boeing to celebrate events, such as war plane dedications, at the manufacturing facilities.
During the 1930s, Herbert built a steady business serving loyal clients he would handle for decades. He provided microphones and speaker systems for meetings at hotels such as the Broadview, the Allis, and the Lassen. His largest and steadiest client was the Forum, where he provided equipment and operated the system for a broad range of events. Herbert worked on an as-need basis, until 1939 when the Forum hired him as their exclusive “go-to” guy.
The 1940s is when Herbert’s business truly became a family endeavor. He had first enlisted his dad for help running sound and carrying equipment. Eventually his wife, Leona, joined the business, too, working in the storefront office at the Forum, after their children were in school. It wasn’t long before the children started getting involved, particularly sons Don, Bob and Richard. At the end of the war, the business moved into a small storefront at the Forum; in 1952, the business was able to move into a larger and even more prominent spot at the Forum.
Through the second half of the 20th century, the business continued to thrive and grow, responding to evolving technologies and consumer demands. In 1953, McClelland Sound became one of the early Muzak franchisees. Though the name Muzak may evoke a feeling of nostalgia, at the time it was a cutting edge business tool, designed to use the power of music to keep employees happy and increase productivity. McClelland Sound continues its role as an independent affiliate of what is known today as Mood Media, providing background music and digital marketing services to offices, consumer outlets, and industrial workplaces.
Herbert and his children worked many events, from circuses to stage shows. The business also enjoyed steady work at Lawrence Stadium, especially for the National Baseball Congress.
While sons Don and Bob went to college and pursued careers in Southern California, Richard continued to work alongside his father after high school. He started at the bottom – doing anything that needed to be done – sweeping, installing sound systems, stringing wire and crawling through attics – and gradually worked his way up. Growing up in the business, Richard developed an ear for good sound and a sixth sense for finding trouble in a sound system.
Richard also met his wife at McClelland Sound. Lois Reinert came to work at the company in 1961. They had an unusual courtship – dates almost always involved operating sound. Lois was at the Forum many times while her date operated the sound. They were married in 1965.
That same year the Forum’s long run as Wichita’s civic arena and convention space would end. The complex was torn down in order to clear the way for a new arts and convention space called Century II. McClelland Sound found a new home close by, across the river from the new facility.
During the 1970s two steady clients, the Allis and Lassen hotels would close, victims of a shift of shopping to Wichita’s suburbs. During this time, the company pursued a large rental business, as well as designing and installing systems. Also during the 1970s the business purchased it’s first computer, designed and programmed by Don. After he built the system, he drove it from California to Wichita.
Richard and his father worked closely together for many years so the transition of Richard to President occurred fairly seamlessly. In time, Mac retired, and turned the business over to his son. In 1977, Richard became president of McClelland Sound. Richard loved what he did, and did it all the time. Fixing equipment, designing and custom-building audio consoles, running the sound for many shows – both symphony and musical theater – at Century II. As the years passed he was not out in the field as much but would assist with big jobs that he helped design. And he was always sought out for his amazing ability to troubleshoot a system.
Richard continued running McClelland Sound, and in 2001 started thinking about retirement. While both his daughters had helped out with the business over the years, neither one lived in Wichita nor was thinking of taking over. But when Richard started seriously thinking about selling the business, his daughter, Janice decided she just couldn’t let that happen. So she moved to Wichita to join the company. As in the previous transition, Janice worked alongside her dad until he was ready to officially retire. That happened in 2007.
Under new leadership, the company embraced the emerging technology of video, and has continued to evolve. Lighting and control systems have joined the areas of expertise provided by McClelland Sound’s dedicated and knowledgeable sales and technical staff.