Listening to the radio on your classic 1957 Chevy Bel-Air some 50 years ago today, the airwaves were abuzz with news. That day, a devastating F3 tornado moved across Springfield, Ill., killing two, injuring 50 and causing some $1 million in damage. In nearby East St. Louis, Ill., a state-record-setting 16.5 inches of rain drenched the town. In sports, the Philadelphia Phillies blanked the Brooklyn Dodgers (3-0) at Shibe Park; the Boston Red Sox crushed the Washington Senators (11-1) at Griffith Stadium. But far away in the quaint San Francisco Bay Area hamlet of Alamo—said to be the only California town named after something in Texas—a tiny miracle was unfolding as Erika Elizabeth Hagberg checked in to planet Earth. That same day, a 33-minute UFO sighting occurred at McChord Air Force base in Washington state, but fearing the public making a connection of this with the Hagberg birth, all records of the Air Force event were immediately sealed by government agents.
Young Erika Hagberg was fascinated by her father, a noted engineer, and knew she would someday be connected to the engineering community. (At the time, she didn't realize that Dad was a structural—and not recording—engineer.) Nor did she realize that she would eventually become known as the pro audio/publishing magnate Erika Lopez.
After a stint working at the Northern California Renaissance Faire, Erika landed her first audio industry job as a cashier at San Francisco's legendary Don Wehr's Music City, where rock stars of the burgeoning hippie music scene shopped during the '60s/'70s. Don Wehr's eventually disappeared as massive audio conglomerates such as Sound Genesis took over San Francisco's hilly landscape, and Erika headed north to greener (well, at least wetter) pastures: She soon landed the gig as acting asst. manager for bulk guitar pick sales at American Music, Seattle's largest independent music store.
While chowing down on ribs at a barbeque hosted by Northshore Marketing's Lew Barrett, Erika was reacquainted with a dashing young JBL sales rep by the name of Ken Lopez, who—uncoincidentally—had managed Don Wehr's. They married, and the soon-to-be-former Miss Hagberg turned her back on untold centuries of Swedish ancestry to become Erika Lopez. Sensing the relatively short future in bulk guitar pick sales, Erika became involved in media, first joining the staff of Neilson/Anklam (run by once Mix marketing manager Ron Neilson) and then moving to ad sales with Recording Engineer/Producer magazine.
Having learned the long-secret insider techniques of squeezing ad dollars out of poor (and near-bankrupt) audio companies, Erika moved to the manufacturing world. As the ad buyer for Soundcraft USA, she mastered the use of the phrase "no, we only buy ads in Mix"—something she had heard countless times during her days at REP. After moving to a similar job at Trident USA, Erika started her own pro audio agency, Audient Marketing, with media gurus Linda Frank and Sue Horwitz (another erstwhile Mix employee).
Longing for the glitz, glamour and day-to-day excitement of manufacturing life, Erika joined Bob Todrank, Tom Stephenson and Joe Perry (another eventual Mix/Electronic Musician employee) at Roland's new pro audio division, where—long before Roland's cool, affordable VS-series DAWs—the team tried to sell clunky, expensive workstations. Seeing a revolution on the horizon, Erika moved on to Apogee Digital, but rather than selling the cool converters everybody wanted, she was in charge of promoting sales of the company's ADAT recorder tapes.
The ADAT gig faded and Erika returned to her ad sales roots, this time teaming with her ex-Roland pal Joe Perry, who was now with Electronic Musician. Selling for a magazine that was both popular and (most importantly) fiscally solvent, Erika had finally found her niche, and some years later reached the pinnacle of the industry, as the associate publisher of Mix—a place where staffers only pull fast ones on fellow workers on rare occasions, like this one.
So now that you're 25 (for the second time), happy birthday, Erika. If you know Erika, give her a call, drop her an e-mail or better yet—buy an ad. Just act nonchalant. Don't mention the BIG 5-0 or tell her where you heard about this. Let's keep this secret, you know...
Mix correspondent George Petersen performs with the (also) near-bankrupt band ARIEL, found at www.jenpet.com.