Phil Hildrow was the archetypal salesman, charmingly personable, slightly risqué – the loveable rogue, always with a “roll-up” hanging from his lips. During the 1970s, he worked for PACE-MM in Royston who pioneered the “cheap but serviceable” mixing consoles which launched the careers of so many bands on the pub circuits of the UK.
Britain’s dominance in this market led to growing demand for “made in G.B” products across mainland Europe so Phil sensing the untapped potential for sales set off with a demo MM mixer in the boot of his trusty blue Vauxhall Cavalier to make calls on the Music shops on the other side of the Channel and take orders, preferably large ones, prepaid.
This launched Phil’s new love of travel, which along with his love of football and family stayed with him for life. Early in the ‘80s, the music industry innovators around Cambridge turned their attention to developing computers with sometimes fatal business consequences. MM-PACE, then HH. Phil moved from MM to Harrison before settling with C Audio – an offshoot of MM-PACE.
At the end of the ‘80s, he and I (fellow international salesman, Hans Freytag) engineered the buyout of C Audio which over the next half decade they quickly built into the largest European manufacturer of power amplifiers. At the same time they had a side project, manufacturer representative firm TCI which was breaking into the European market with brands including EAW, Samson, Metro & ARX. Managing and growing their established distributor networks to help grow their international presence and allow plenty of opportunity for foreign travel.
By the mid ‘90s Phil and I could see the growing importance of mass production techniques and the introduction of DSP as the Power Amp industry slid into the “dollar a watt” era.
The writing was on the wall for the traditional way, C Audio manufactured their ultra-reliable built-like-a-brick product ranges, however the leading market position they had achieved ensured that C Audio proved an exciting target for two major industry conglomerates featuring many industry name brands but who lacked amplifiers lines.
After the usual corporate negotiations and machinations, C Audio was sold to Harman in 1996 and Phil stayed on – despite yearning for a quieter life – overseeing the Company’s move to a large new factory in St Albans, where the Brand was fully integrated into the Harman Pro-Audio portfolio.
Corporate life wasn’t made for Phil, so he made his exit. After his time at Harman, Phil maintained an interest in St. Neots based company Lightmasters, an Audio Lighting and Video installer into the fitness club and discotheque markets, enjoying his retirement from “front line” sales by concentrating on his family and his ever growing passion for Indian cuisine.
A true ‘character’, Phil made a lasting impression on all. His generosity of spirit (mainly Scotch), good humour and a passion to take care of those around him meant that many in the industry considered him not only as a colleague, but as a lifelong friend.’
Phil will be forever missed by the large number of people whose lives he touched and especially by his close friends and family.
Words: Hans Freytag