PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Kingsmen began as a garage band in Portland in 1959. At a gig in Seaside, they noticed fans playing Rockin’ Robin Roberts version of “Louie, Louie” on the jukebox. They put it in their rotation, it became a huge hit and they began playing bigger venues.

But they needed better equipment.

“They were looking for equipment they couldn’t get anywhere else,” said Biamp CEO Rashid Skaf. “So 46 years ago it was really a rock-and-roll kind of business . We were making amplifiers and mixing boards for bands.”

Now, Biamp is one of the best-kept secrets in Oregon’s Silicon Forest. They’re a world leader in audio-visual technology, creating solutions for companies and governments in 120 countries around the world.

Biamp employees at a trade show, undated (Courtesy: Biamp)
Biamp employees at a trade show, undated (Courtesy: Biamp)

From airports to sports arenas (including the University of Portland Chiles Center), Biamp is integral in everyday life.

“If you’re having a Teams or Zoom call or a Webex call, you’re probably using our technology in the background to make you sound good,” Skaf told KOIN 6 News.

Strategically placed microphones and speakers, cameras that can follow your movements, apps that turn your phone into a microphone, sound that is able to handle large auditoriums with ease.

Five years ago Biamp employed 300 people. Now it’s nearly 1000, with 400 at their Beaverton headquarters and at their manufacturing and distribution centers in Portland.

“In fact, we’ve quadrupled our factory here,” Skaf said.

The pandemic helped grow their business as corporations and governments looked for better ways to connect remotely.

Biamp employees in 1986 (Courtesy: Biamp)
Biamp employees in 1986 (Courtesy: Biamp)

So the next time you hear an airport announcement or attend a sporting event, the technology may have come from Biamp. And it all started with a Portland band and a hit song.

“We’re going to take credit for it,” Skaf said. “I don’t know if we’re responsible for it but we made it sound good, regardless.”

Editor’s note: The information below was added for clarification.

The original touring equipment for the Kingsmen was developed by Sunn Musical Equipment Company of Tualatin, which was founded by Conrad Sundholm.

Sundholm was also the founder of Biamp systems, hiring master engineer Cal Perkins to expand the Biamp product line.

Sundholm’s brother Norman was a member of The Kingsmen.