(originally by and for The Journal)
The next time you listen to a band, you just might be hearing the strumming sounds of guitar strings made by Curt Mangan Fusion Matched Strings.
Curt Mangan, owner of Curt Mangan Fusion Matched Strings, a Cortez-based manufacturing and distribution center, makes 400 boutique single strings and 250 packaged sets of strings for instruments including acoustic, electric, classical and bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, bajo sexto and quinto instruments.
In 2004, Mangan opened the family-operated strings business in California. Two years later, he moved it to Cortez. “There was a little bit of an attraction to the Four Corners area. We finally decided on Cortez, because of the beauty of the area,” Mangan said. “We’ve had really good support from local dealers in the community,” he said.
His wife, Nancy Mangan, handles packaging and shipping and her daughter Samantha Cameron, a 2011 Fort Lewis College graduate, is responsible for Marketing and is the artist representative. She also designed the company website and the graphic designs on the string’s packaging.
Cameron explained how she named the company using the term “fusion matched strings” because “It’s a fusion between family, industry and players.” Most days, Cameron’s office space is shared with their family dogs, Noel, Chewy, Pan and Boo.
To complete the business are four employees who create handmade strings with the aid of winding machines. Mangan oversees the seven machines and tests every batch of wire for strength.
“You have a lot of choices in the type of machine that you use and materials. Our machines are specially made. What sets us apart is that our recipe came from scratch, from trial and error, and me being a guitar player for many years,” Mangan said. “We had to find that sweet spot between the core and wire dimensions to achieve the different feel and tone,” he said.
Each string begins with a core wire of steel in a hex or round shape. It is then wound with nickel, stainless steel, bronze, phosphorous bronze, pure nickel or Monel, an alloy mainly of nickel and copper, that is very resistant to corrosion. The wire, all made in the U.S., is made into different gauges or thicknesses to create different tones.
Artist Signature sets are available from various artists, or customers can create their own signature set in different gauges and personalized with their name on the label.
The popularity of Mangan’s brand label has helped his strings make it on stage played by band members of artists such as Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels Band, which are just a few from a list of about 800 artists.
Mangan has the opportunity to attend some of the concerts to actually hear his strings in use. “It’s very gratifying. We work with some pretty amazing players. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the absolute best musicians in the world,” he said.
“The music industry is a really fun industry to be a part of,” Cameron said. “It’s a privilege to work with so many talented people.” In the past year, Cameron has met Miranda Lambert, Cody Johnson and Lady Antebellum, she said.
Mangan’s love of guitar spans 50 years, in which he worked at music stores or owned them, built and repaired guitars, was director of sales and marketing for Ernie Ball in California, and also taught guitar lessons.
He began playing guitar at age 10 and dreamed of sitting around a campfire and playing the guitar like his idols Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
“It took me many years to try to convince my parents to let me play guitar,” he said. “I told my parents I wanted a 10-speed bicycle, and on the way I said could I have guitar lessons instead. They said ‘OK, but, you’re not getting a 10-speed,’ and I said I understand the deal we just made.”
He smiled reminiscing how he began 10 weeks of guitar lessons at the Natural Music Guild in Loveland when he was 12.
At 14, he became a songwriter. Then, at 17, formed a trio naming their band Forrest. At 22, he started his own record label, Mangatune Records.
After many years of ups and downs in the recording industry, Mangan came to a realization: “With all of the younger ones coming up in the business, sooner or later I was going to be in the way. That’s when I decided to start my own little company.”
Now, Mangan displays his products in more than 1,000 independent shops in Europe and 20 countries including Vienna, Singapore and Australia.
Colorado locations include Denver, Sheridan, Englewood, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Thornton, Parker, Lafayette, Montrose and Cortez. “We are a family-run company, so and we sell only to mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar stores,” Cameron said.
At age 66, Mangan said he still plays guitar. “I try to get in at least half an hour every morning – it never gets boring.”
And Cameron, at 30, said she just recently began playing guitar. “I’m actually learning on FaceTime from an artist in Hollywood, Stephen Brewer with the band Westfield Massacre.”
For product information or to purchase Mangan’s strings online, visit www.curtmangan.com or call 970-564-5935. Mangan strings are available at Rocky Mountain One-Stop at 330 N. Broadway in Cortez; call at 970-565-3795.