Wally’s Tale of “The Beginnings”

A long long time ago I was speaking to Wally who was visiting me in the original Studio 3 off Selma. One thing I remember that Wally told me was that, when the studio was first built and wired, that there was a terrible hum in the (ancient) recording console. No matter how well they grounded everything, there was still a terrible hum. So Wally knew that old RCA 77s (ribbon mikes) were good as hum finders, so he hooked one up, put on a pair of headphones to monitor the mike’s signal and went hum fishing. He walked all over the control room and studio and finally concluded that the hum came from directly below the console!

So they started digging. The dug down (I forget how many feet) and discovered a huge power line and, even worse, a huge power transformer. Wally “persuaded” the power company to move the transformer somewhere other than under a recording console in his recording studio. Once they did that, the studio was perfectly quiet.

This is the studio where Ampex (with Wally’s coaching and encouragement) delivered the world’s first eight track! Can you imagine? Eight separate tracks! Musicians went crazy. Up to then, there was live to mono, live to stereo 2-track and live to disc. Dave Grusin’s first (at least I think it was his first) album was recorded live direct-to-disc at The Mastering Lab starring Dave and Doug Sax. Dave was the master of passive electronics and Doug was an¬†extraordinary¬†disc mastering engineer. So one night, long ago, Wally Heider’s got an eight track and the world hasn’t been the same since.

The employees were allowed to do “personal sessions” as traffic (bookings) permitted. My first personal session was in Studio 3. There was a hell-raiser producer working in there. My information was that he was through with his sessions. When I came in for my personal session, I discovered that the console had not been “zeroed out.” So I gladly pulled all the patch cords and zeroed out the console in preparation for my session. My session was wonderful and everything was fine until the hell-raiser came back after the weekend and found out that his control room setup had been wiped out. Wally stood by me and it was only for that reason that I was not hired and immediately fired. Lucky me!

Sherman Barrymore Keene

One thought on “Wally’s Tale of “The Beginnings””

  1. Yes, breaking a client’s continuing session setup was a sin. But getting the time to do a personal session was difficult. I sat in on alot of them to learn to do anything that was needed in the studio should a fill-in be needed. It was a fantastic learning ground with you at the helm, Sherman. Thanks, OHM-LAD,great to hear from you ! Ratso

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