Founder and President of PAiA Electronics John Stayton Simonton, Jr. died recently at his home in Arcadia, Oklahoma on Friday, Nov. 25 after a yearlong battle with esophageal cancer. He was 62 years old.
Simonton’s work at PAiA gave many musicians their first opportunity to work with synthesizers, guitar effects and recording equipment. Simonton created kits to build modular synthesizers, effects, microphones and more. Many of today’s gear designers and DIY enthusiasts credit PAiA with introducing them to the soldering iron, and several of PAiA’s designs are considered classics.
Many engineers, scientists and technicians were first exposed to their professions through his many trade journal articles. His work with starved tube circuitry produced the TubeHead series of preamplifiers and his most recent project was PAiA’s Theremax theremin.
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii to John and Eva Simonton, Simonton grew up in New Orleans, LA graduating from the Sam Barth School for Boys and the Metairie Park Country Day School. In 1965 while finishing his electrical engineering and psychology degree at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA he met and married Linda Brumfield Simonton.
After completing his degree in 1967, John moved to Oklahoma to work for the first computerized jet engine test facility at Tinker A.F.B.
In 1968, John founded PAiA Electronics, Inc. in Oklahoma City, a company dedicated to providing synthesizer kits to the do-it-yourself electronic musician. John Simonton designed hundreds of products including the Gnome MicroSynthesizer, the SMPL System SMPTE / MIDI / Machine synchronizer and the PAiA Programmable Drum Set, which is credited with being the first commercially available user-programmable percussion box.
A widely read author and contributor in the electronic popular press, John was also the publisher of Polyphony magazine, which was first published in 1975 and later renamed Electronic Musician. Electronic Musician eventually sold to Mix Publications of Berkeley in 1985. John was also the founding partner in High Technology, Inc. the first computer store in Oklahoma in 1976, which became the first wholesale distributor for Apple Computer, Inc. in 1977.
Deeply dedicated to doing what was right, John was a mentor and inspiration to many do-it-yourselfers. He not only encouraged them to pursue avocations and careers in engineering and music, but provided the tools that helped them realize their dreams.
He is survived by wife Linda Simonton, daughter D. Stayton (Staci) Craig, son John S. Simonton III (Trey), granddaughters Nikki Craig and Callie Simonton, and grandson Christopher Kai Simonton.
PAiA also says that the company will continue in the hands of someone who “knows its history and has the inspiration and talent to take it forward as a legacy to John. We can only ask PAiA’s loyal fans and customers to be patient with us as we get our bearings and plan for the future. “