All posts by Stephen Barncard

Record Producer. Inventor. Geek. Lover of Rats.

John Mullin’s Amazing Ampex Adventure

Narrative as told by the pioneer audio engineer John T. Mullin:

IN 1944-LIKE THOUSANDS Of other GIs just before D Day-I was in England.Because of my  background in electronics, I was assigned to the Signal Corps, troubleshooting a probem the Army was having with radio receivers that were picking up severe interference from the radar installations that blanketed Britain.

I became so intrigued with what I was doing that I would work until two or three in the morning. I wanted music while I worked. The BBCJack Mullin with the first Ampexes broadcasts filled the bill until midnight, when they left the air. Then, fishing around the dial in search of further entertainment, I soon discovered that the German stations apparently were on the air twenty-four hours a day. They broadcast symphony concerts in the middle of the night-music that was very well played, and obviously by very large orchestras. I had some experience with broadcast music and knew what “canned” music sounded like. The American networks wouldn’t permit the use of recordings in the early 1940s, because they claimed the quality was inferior. You could always spot the surface noise and the relatively short playing time of commercial 78-rpm discs.Even transcriptions had some needle scratch and a limited frequency response. There was none of this in the music coming from Germany. The frequency response was comparable to that of a live broadcast, and a selection might continue for a quarter of an hour or more without interruption.



The First LP Record

An interesting interview with the man responsible for creating the LP record.

see the full article HERE

The following narrative was told by Edward Wallerstein (1891-1970) about the development of the LP record in 1948.

IN 1938 I HAD persuaded William S. Paley, president of the Columbia Broadcasting System, to purchase the old American Record Corporation, which controlled Columbia Records, for the sum of $700,000. On January 1, 1939,this purchase became final, and I found myself president of the newly acquired company. As soon as we had moved from the small place American Records had at Broadway and Fifty-seventh Street to 799 Seventh Avenue, there was discussion of a joint rese arch project with CBS for the purpose of making a longer-playing record. Nine years later this was to culminate in the LP.

see the full article HERE

Anyone work on Aretha’s “Amazing Grace” album?

Aretha Franklin
Amazing Grace is a classic Grammy winning 1972 album by Aretha Franklin.

Aaron Cohen to wallyheider2
show details 18 Jan 2010

Hi Stephen,

I’m writing a book about Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” album, which Ray Thompson engineered for Wally Heider. If you could help me get in touch with anyone from Wally Heider\’s company who participated in this live recording, and would be able to speak about it for the book, I would be most appreciative and overwhelmingly grateful.


—Aaron Cohen
aaronc [at]

Reminder to authors

Please only use returns for separating paragraphs, the software here will display word wrap properly on display; if one puts extra returns at the end-of-lines, the text will look bad and hard to read on the page and I’ll have to go in an fix it. This happens because the fields one enters text into when editing is a different size than displayed.


1 This is an extra long line that goes to the end of the paragraph without extra line breaks.

2 This is an extra long line that has an extra line break entered in the line and I’m sure that
it will look bad when it is published.

Also please note that using returns after a paragraph will improve readability on the page as opposed to a solid long block of text.


stephen barncard

Tenderloin History Museum

Hello. I am curating the development of new Tenderloin History Museum in San Francisco, which will eventually live in the lobby of the Cadillac Hotel in the Tenderloin. As part of this exhibit, we will highlight Wally Heider Recording in SF. I am trying to track down any objects/memorabilia from Wally’s recording period on Hyde St. Perhaps he has family members who would be interested in a museum such as this celebrating his extensive contribution to music in San Francisco and might be able to point me in some directions.
Continue reading Tenderloin History Museum

Stories of Wally Encouraged

Happy New Year,

In 2009 I resolve to continue to improve this site. I have upgraded the blog and will update the gallery software. I haven’t found a “skin” that looks good, shows author comments, and is easy to use yet – but there are hundreds of good Gallery themes out there; I’ll find it. I’ve also heard from a family member and hope to have more contact with her soon.

If you have a story about Wally or the studios, please post!

Please contact me if you need a user/password to post a story about Wally or a user/password to upload some photos and scans of WHR related items. I used to have an auto-enroll form here, but it became a spam magnet, with hundreds ‘signing up’ with automated passwords and no intention of posting anything but advertising.

anyway, thanks for stopping by!

stephen barncard

Wally’s 5 seconds on film

When the Who did their amazing set that night, nobody knew about the smoke bomb inside Keith Moon’s drum set, especially Wally Heider, who up until that time had placed his set of condensers and dynamics on stage as was the norm.

At the very end of the song, Wally steps into history as he avoids running into a dancing Roger Daltry and dodges guitar-shrapnel from Keith Townsend’s antics as he rushes to save his microphones from certain destruction.

VIDEO CLIP: Wally Heider and the Who at Monterey Pop

the future of hyde street studios

It appears the condo project isn’t going to happen for a long while, if ever. The neighborhood is still too funky and the economy is in the shitter. Good news for Hyde Street Studios.


This is an email I just (Mar 15 2008) got from Jeff Cleland at Hyde Street studios, the occupants of the original SF Wally Heider Studios building.

From: “Jeff Cleland”
Subject: the future of hyde street studios

You were sent this because I thought you might have some interest as to what becomes of the building that currently houses Hyde Street Studios, as well as a number of other music related businesses. As you may be aware, the building at 245 Hyde St. was recently sold to a real estate developing firm in Oakland, which has plans to gut the interior of the building, add two additional floors, and turn it into condos.

The San Francisco Planning Department is currently preparing a report on the property that could significantly effect the building’s final outcome. Continue reading the future of hyde street studios

About posting….

I’ve seen this happen a couple of times – a person writes a piece for the blog and it apears password protected. It’s not you — it’s this ambiguious WordPress software. If you are viewing an edit/author page, then you are already ‘connected’ and recognized – you do NOT need to put anything in the PASSWORD field. This is only for private messages, which we don’t want anyway. So please ignore the ‘post password’ field on the WRITE POST page until I can find a way to defeat it.

Go ahead and post right away, however…

It can take up to 12 hours for me to get to authorizing someone’s registration, and I approve each person independently. After I see that the person is ‘real’ or I know who you are, I will go ahead and grant authoring privleges. From then on, you may post away with no more checking. I’ve already avoided a lot o spambots this way.

Also I’ll mention to the lurkers that it is not necessary to register if you don’t plan to post or comment. But it’s always nice if you do.

stephen barncard

Heider’s San Francisco Alumni Meet

Left to right: GD clients Bob Matthews, Betty Cantor-Jackson, and SF staffers Stephen Barncard and Russ Gary.

Some former WHR San Francisco clients and employees gathered for a MIX magazine photo shoot at Hyde Street Recorders at 245 Hyde Street Studio A. The studio, although improved with a vintage Neve console and a couple of iso booths, is otherwise intact after 37 years. This was the first time the four were there at the same time at this location since the 70’s.

Unless something else happens, the studio location is slated for demolition later this year, as the building has new owners and Hyde Street have lost their lease.

More info about the photo shoot and Hyde Street can be found in the October issue of Mix Magazine, and a tiny photo and abbreviated article at

An Interview With Wally, 1978

Reprinted from MIX magazine February 1978

The Story of Wally Heider Recording

by Wally Heider With Terry Stark

WHeider_585 When the words independent recording studios are used, the first name that comes to mind ’ is Wally Heider. Phrases like “institution”, “a legend in his own time”, “the grand old man of recording” invariably follow. Wally is still very active in the recording industry, both as an independent producer-engineer and as consultant to Filmways/Heider Recording, the company he sold to Filmways some nine years ago.

The following are some excerpts from a rap session held in Terry Stark’s office. Terry is the president of Filmways/Heider Recording and started in the recording industry with Wally some eight years ago.

Terry: How did you get started in this business, Wally?

Wally: Well, I was practicing law up in Oregon, but I really didn’t like what I was doing. I came down here to talk to Bill Putnam at United Recording Studios; Bill said he wouldn’t hire anybody from out of town because he was afraid that he’d be responsible for their moving down here and then things wouldn’t work out, but he said that if I wanted to come down he’d be more than happy to talk to me. So I moved my family down here and we rented a house.

I went to work for Bill at United as a part-time apprentice. I had some tapes that I had recorded of Terry Gibb’s band, live. Bill played them back in the studio and when he heard them he said “I’ve got myself a part time apprentice.”

I remember the first thing I did. I was sifting in the traffic office and a tape transfer came in. All. the other engineers were tied up. They said “Here, Heider, make a copy of this tape.” So I punched in and went down to Studio A, which had this great big monster patch panel. I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to patch, never having seen a patch bay. So, I waved down an engineer in the hall and asked him how to patch in for a mono transfer. So he showed me and taught me how to set the levels. I had a little notebook there and I made a note, “Studio A Tape transfer, mono: go from jack out, from 62 to 65” 1 just made myself a mechanical list so if I ever got caught in a tape transfer in Studio A again, I’d know how to do it.

Well, I finally snuck through that one and got back downstairs, punched out, sat down at the desk and surprise, another tape transfer. I thought, “I’ve got it made.” Unfortunately, this one was in Studio B. Son of a gun. Same story. I went out and hung around in the hall until somebody came along that looked like an engineer and I asked him “How do you patch in B?” notebook and made a note there and pretty soon I had myself a bible. The notebook got pretty thick. Eventually, when I did the same thing over and over again, I’d leave my notebook at home. This was back in 1959.

Anyhow, the latter part of, 1960, Les Brown came in to do an album for Steve Allen’s label, Signature. Butch Stone booked the date and he said “I’d like to have Wally Heider with us,” and I went to engineer.

I set the band up, as if they had been on location. Sax, trombone, trumpets, I didn’t split. I wanted head-on sound. I’d never recorded a band like that in the studio before, and it was really tougher to set it up that way. We were on a two track and the balance had to be exactly right, because there was no mixdown.

Normally when you were an apprentice in those days, you’d start out doing narration, then you’d start overdubs and eventually work up to engineer and do full sessions.

Terry: So you went ass-backwards and started out as an engineer. How long were you there as an apprentice? How long was it before you made engineer?

Wally: Oh, Id say about a year or a year and a half. Boy, I was in fat city. Bones Howe was there and Bones was the heavy. I can remember when he asked for a guarantee of two hundred dollars a week and they wouldn’t give it to him so he left.

From there I went to Las Vegas as chief engineer for United. I stayed there for about a year and a half. While I was there, I had my remote equipment leased to United. I had a deal with them that I’d get 40% of the billing or something like that and. they would carry the insurance. Well, Dave Pell and I bad a remote in New. York. I think it was Kay Stevens, live, and somewhere along the line we lost a mike. I asked United to put it through on their insurance and they refused and I ended up paying for the mike myself. Needless to say, we had sort of a hassle over that and that’s when I left United. I’ve still got a wire around somewhere that was sent to Las Vegas saying that Heider was barred from the studio.

Terry: So what did you do when you quit?

Wally: Oh, I hired Rick Foche on a part-time basis and moved to the comer of Lexington and Highland in Hollywood. By this time I had a three track machine and I was doing three to two track transfers. It was a little “Mickey Mouse” room. There was an office across the hall that wasn’t occupied and for an extra twenty-five bucks they told me I could have that.

My first big job was to go to Chicago to record Sinatra, Martin and Davis, live, for a week. I went there alone, no maintenance engineer, just me. I had this big three track upright recorder and I rented another one. Anyhow, they had a thirty five piece band and I was stuck in a hat check room where I couldn’t see anything.

Those tapes never were issued. Sinatra was made president of Reprise and some of the stuff was pretty, well, it was pretty funny. But the band got paid recording scale. I really didn’t know what in the hell I was doing, but I had a lot of fun and the tapes sounded good.

So, this camera store was on the comer of Selma and Cahuenga and I asked the fellow who was in there if I could have just one small corner of it, or at least half the corner. I didn’t lease the whole comer because I wasn’t that sure of things. I had a gal who was head of the office and a bookkeeper and Grover Helsley was the maintenance man. The maintenance room was about 4’ X 6’. You couldn’t get a machine in there and close the door.

We did a lot of vocal overdubs. That’s practically all we did. I remember we had one client come in with a 14 to 16 piece choir. I tell you we had wall to wall people. We set up two mikes with the girls on one and the guys on the other. This was back in 1965. In 1967 we built Studio 3 and then about a year later I sold to Filmways. That was the latter part of 1968.

Terry: Then Studio 4 was built after the San Francisco. studios were built. When did you start putting your first remote truck together?

Wally: Well, you know the first truck was just bought to haul things around. We could squeeze a small board in it if, necessary but we never recorded with that truck unless we were forced to. I had a trailer I used to haul behind by car when I first came down from Oregon and I did a little remote recording in that but that was back in the early days when I was with United. Actually, the first truck we put together was in 1971. When I say the first truck I mean the first truck actually built for remote recording. An awful lot of input by an awful lot of people went into the design of that truck. We had built one in 1970 that didn’t work out too well, so we sold it to one of our competitors in the east. Ray Thompson, who is still the head of Remote Engineering at Filmways and Tom Scott and myself we’re probably the most instrumental in planning the truck. We put together a board that is still there. It’s been update many times since then, but it breaks up in five pieces and we have special packing cases for it, as you know, that the board can be shipped by air anywhere in the world.

The original board was built by API. This was not mixing console. It was made strictly for live, remote recording. I don’t really know how many albums we’ve recorded in that truck, but I would have to say that the majority of the live albums that have been released in the United States have been recorded in our remote facilities. Our second truck was built sometime later.

Terry: What kind of mixing board did you start with?

Wally: The board I brought down from Oregon was a Ross board. It had six pots each side.

Terry: Where did that “gray board” come from?

Wally: Frank DeMedio built that for me. I’ll never forget the first time we used that board. Frank was working on it madly with his partner trying to get it to us for a Columbia session of Stravinsky at the Legion Hall. He finally got the board finished and brought it to us about 7AM on the day of the session. We were sitting around holding our breath waiting for a snap, crackle or pop, but it worked beautifully and we just sailed through the session.

Speaking of the Stravinsky session, John McClure was the A&R man for Columbia Master Works label, and was a very sharp guy. Stravinsky was very weak. They had a doctor there and between sessions Stravinsky would lie down and they would give him some brandy or massage his chest. Someone else would rehearse the orchestra and then Stravinsky would come out with his cane and he would lead the orchestra as much with his cane as with his baton.

McClure was probably the most professional A&R man I have ever seen and the most sympathetic. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone do the things that he did during this Stravinsky session. He would come to him and say “Maestro, about this”. And Stravinsky would say “Oh, yes, E sharp. I remember now, thank you very much.” I can remember Stravinsky being well in a movement, six or seven minutes, and McClure hitting the talkback. It would stop the session and silence would fall over the orchestra. Now here was Stravinsky conducting his own music. Who knew better how it was to be conducted? McClure would say; “Maestro, back to bar 167. Wouldn’t that perhaps sound better just a little bit slower?” Then it really got quiet. Stravinsky would go back through the score and look and say “yes, you are right. We’ll do it again,” Can you believe that? An A&R man being so in tune with the conductor, he could call him on something as basic as tempo and be right. Here you had Stravinsky six or seven minutes into a piece of music and in the condition he was in, you hassled him too many times he would just fold and you’d end up with a conductor laying on a couch and that would be the end of the session. That was classic example of an A&R man really performing perfectly to the Nth degree.

Terry: Man, it sounds like you’ve really had some experiences over the years. Now, tell me, if you had to do all over again, would you?

Wally: This may sound kind of corny, but I consider myself one of the more fortunate people around. I always enjoyed this business, and the people in There are too many of us that are stuck in jobs that hate, thank God I’m not one of them. I’ve been around this business a few years, and if I have my way, I’ll around a lot more.

Terry: Let’s have another beer!

The Making Of The Sound

The Making Of The Sound
By Jim Crockett
inside of the SF EXAMINER November 8,1970

The uninviting black Hyde Street door is lettered very simply: Wally Heider Recordings. Behind it, though, lies a vast, million dollar studio complex, where many of the country’s finest rock and jazz musicians gather to record new albums.

Established less than a year ago by sound engineer Wally Heider, the place is a mixture of feelings, tensions, business and good times. Once an attorney, Heider got into the business over a decade ago when he left the bar to tape records for Elvis Presley – and later, Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, The Supremes and others. Though he spends much of his time in Los Angeles, Heider still manages, once or twice a week, to visit his San Francisco studios and listen to super rock groups like Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival cut their latest records.

Inside Heider’s studio the vibes are good, though sometimes heavy. Jayne Martin, Heider’s twenty-one-year-old receptionist, says she simply sits around all day eating Wheat Thins. But the truth is, she keeps the whole operation – musicians and producers – together. In fact, today she’s scheduling recording times, keeping track of bills, setting up sessions, and so on. In the background, the screaming guitars and roaring drums of Blue Cheer can be heard, as engineer, producer and musicians work over each previously recorded song to balance the sound properly for their next album. Tapes start and stop a hundred times. Over and over again. Yet Jayne and the others, scurrying from room to room, hardly even notice.

Continue reading The Making Of The Sound

Excerpt From “A Minstral’s tale” by Ron Simmonds

Ron Simmonds is a professional trumpet player in England and has quite a history himself. When I was gathering info about Wally for this site about 3 years ago, he wrote me and offered his support. However I have not been able to contact him, through his site or his old email. My apologies, Ron for copying this text, but I think our readers should see this, and I’ll take it down if you want. Stephen Barncard.

Excerpt From “A Minstral’s tale” by Ron Simmonds… (see link below)

Now Wally Heider was in Berlin again. Last time he’d visited he had banged a hole in the lid of the boot of my car. He had come over with the Bee-Gees to record their concert in the Philharmonie, bringing three Ampex 24 track tape ma chines with him. We had fetched one from Tempelhof, put it in the boot, and he had smashed the lid down on one sharp corner.

I left the hole there. I was proud to point out who had made it. By now Wally had the biggest recording company in Los Angeles, and was re sponsible, among oth ers, for all the Buddy Rich and Woody Herman record ings now being made.

He hadn’t changed since Glasgow. Always in a hurry, he could hardly sit still long enough to get served in a restaurant. He had an authorisation from the State Department which allowed him access to all AFN archives. He intended pulling out all the wartime V-Discs he could lay hands on of the great bands. Most of the discs had been made from live broadcasts during the war.

I went with him. It was spooky down in the basement in Clay Allee, where the discs had been stored. Seeing thousands of those wonderful, huge, floppy records which had brought me so much pleasure as a boy on programmes such as Midnight in Munich, and Lunchin’ in Munchen brought shivers up and down my spine.

Wally didn’t have time for nostalgia. He went through the V-Discs like a cy clone, whipping them out, playing a few bars and saving or dis carding. In this way he went through the lot in six or seven hours. I kept him supplied with coffee and ham burgers from the AFN canteen upstairs.

The V-Discs were nearly all badly worn, but Wally enhanced them electronically, and gave me about twenty LP’s he’d made of them for his friends when he came the next time. The performing rights restrictions wouldn’t allow him to sell the records, because he didn’t have the complete line-up on each recording, necessary for the payment of musician royalties. The collection I now have is an amazing bit of big band history.

Wally was by now very fat, had heart problems, and walked with difficulty. This didn’t prevent him from his next, most rewarding coup.

During the war years we cinema-goers had, on rare occasions, been able to see jazz clips, which were usually sandwiched between the main and secondary films. These were shots of big bands like Ellington, Dorsey or Herman, or groups like Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway. Mostly there would be dancers in the clips, because the film-makers couldn’t compre hend that anyone would want to just stare at the musicians. This had always infuriated me.

Wally had discovered an archive of these clips at MGM and had started a nation-wide poll to discover just how many people would be in terested in seeing these films again. He asked every disc jockey in the USA to advertise the project, offering to pay one dollar for each name they could give him. People began writing in by the thousands. Soon, Wally had paid out one million dollars to the jockeys, and had a list of names as thick as a telephone book.

Before he had even had time to start negotiating with MGM he’d received offers of over a million dollars from several record companies, just for the list.

MGM agreed to release the clips, but stipulated that Wally would have to take everything, and sort the stuff out himself. This meant that he came into possession of things like the Our Gang short films and a lot of other stuff, a lot of it utter rubbish, but, once again, of historical value.

Wally began to fit all this on to video tape, to be sold commer cially. When he died around 1989 he was a multi-millionaire. He’d come a long way from being an un successful lawyer in Portland, Oregon.

Written by Ron Simmonds
Ron Simmonds Jazz Professional Site

The Contract

One day in 1970 I took a break from a session and was summoned into an office by Mel Tanner. It was Mel’s office, really, but Wally had put his enormous self behind the desk, in charge. I had been working for almost a year at WHR and Wally considered me his ‘heavy’ for the SF studios. Mel and Wally faced me and Wally shoved a piece of paper in my direction. It was a work contract.

Now you must know that I had never signed any work contract in my life, ever. But I knew enough to read it before I signed. Wally sighed impatiently while I read. The deal was $12/hour if I just charged to their billable time, and not include setups and tear downs. I figured the math in my head and it turned out to be less money for me than if I would have stayed with $10/hour. I said I would like to think about it and started to take the paper away with me. Wally grabbed the contract and tore it into a hundred pieces. I guess that meant I couldn’t take it away….or there were clauses that he didn’t want another lawyer scrutinizing. It was never mentioned again.

Later Mel Tanner came up to me and stated: “I don’t think you’re a company man… how would you like to be paid $10/hour kickback for projects you bring in?” To my mind, I thought that was a great idea, and took the offer, not knowing about the value of health care (which at Filmways, was top notch, Blue Shield) and other benefits.

What I didn’t get about being independent was that I was supposed to get that ON TOP of what I earned from the artist side. I didn’t know how to ask or arrange it. I didn’t have a manager or mentor to tell me about business. Considering the artists I worked with during that period I could have earned THOUSANDS by being more shrewd and being quiet about the kickbacks, but I just didn’t know how it was done.

Stephen Barncard

Hyde Street Studios – history

Last year I rewrote the history section of Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, as major parts were missing from the previous history and some were just plain inaccurate. It’s part of the web site of the studio that now occupies 245 Hyde Street; Hyde Street Studios. Yes, that’s right, the rooms are still in operation today, over 37 years later! The manager, Jeff Cleland, has been there for years and it’s a a joy to know the studio is still operating today.

see the rest of the story at
hyde street studios – history

Wally Heider Recording & The Automatt

From Mix, October 1998
San Francisco Recording, 1970-1984
By Maureen Droney

Short lives, long influences: That’s what these two seminal San Francisco studios had in common. From 1968 to 1980, Wally Heider Recording rocked with the likes of the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Sly & the Family Stone, the Pointer Sisters and Crosby, Stills & Nash—a veritable who’s who of the bands that came to fame in the Summer of Love, at Woodstock and beyond. In 1978, The Automatt picked up the torch, and, until it closed at the end of 1984, hosted a glorious amalgam of funk and rock from Santana, Journey, Jefferson Starship and Huey Lewis & The News to Con Funk Shun, The Whispers, Herbie Hancock and Frankie Beverly & Maze. At both of these studios, it was truly the best of times. Following are a few reminiscences from those who were there.

use this link below for the rest of the article.

Wally Heider Recording & The Automatt