Firsthand Stories

Stories and rememberances written by people who were there.

Ginger Mews

Ginger Mews

Ginger passed away May 19, 2000 at the young age of 59.  (She came to be with us on Christmas Day 1999 with the hope treatment for her cancer would buy some time.)  We later flew to SF and had a wonderful celebration of her life.  There is a memorial bench in Golden Gate Park with her name that reads “for the city she loved, etc.”  I would love to hear any and all stories you might have about Ginger.  We visited every year and spent many hours with her at the Fillmore, Heider Studio (Christmas party), and enjoyed all the stories–Airplane/Starship, Doobie Brothers, Grateful Dead–hope to return again this year–what a wonderful time!  Thank you in advance!  Vicki

Hollywood

WHeider_585When Wally Heider was an assistant engineer at United/Western Studios on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, he was the biggest big band enthusiast on the planet and would take his portable tape recorder to gigs and record the show so the guys in the band could hear their performance. He kept the recordings for his own enjoyment. He made friends in all the big bands of the day, and when bands came to United/Western to record, they would ask for Wally as their engineer. Thus, Wally’s career took off.

Wally opened his first studio, Studio One – an overdub/mixing room, at the corner of Cahuenga and Selma in Hollywood. Remote recording came first, however, and other stories will be told about the company’s remote recording adventures.

Wally later built Studio Three at the same location. The story of Studio Three’s creation goes something like this: Bill Putnam’s Western Studio Three was one the hottest (most single hits) studios in town and Wally wanted that hit sound for his new room. He booked a half hour of time at Western Three, measured the room, copied the surfaces and control room as much as possible, and built his own Studio Three.

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This is part two of this article. To see part one, go to http://wallyheider.com/wordpress/archives/rebel/39/

San Francisco

Russ Gary in Studio C in San Francisco, 1970

Between late 1968 and early 1969 I made several trips to San Francisco to help prepare the studios for opening day.

The original staff members included studio manager Mel Tanner, formerly an engineer at Coast Recorders in San Francisco. Ginger Mews ran the traffic office and Harry Sitam was the tech engineer. George Fernandez joined the group a short time prior to opening day. Although based in Hollywood, Frank DeMedio remained the chief tech engineer.

Wally put me up in the Lafayette Hotel (now the Midori) on Hyde Street, directly across from the studio. Well, the Lafayette was not exactly deluxe accommodations. I only slept in the Lafayette, however, and spent all my time working in the studios. Most weekends I went home to Southern California.

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CLICK THE PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This is a photo of the Wally Heider Recording truck on location during the recording of Boston, Long Beach 77\’.

I was on the sound crew for Boston and I happened to take the photo.  It is fairly low res. but it might be good for this site.  The recording can be heard on Wolfgangsvault.com  It was a memorable experience as we had phantom power problems that day …. we eventually sorted it out and I think the excitement of that show was captured by Wally\’s team as it was.

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One time I was examining a horn miking setup in Studio B (at Ivar) with Wally. He told me the coolest, simplest horn miking technique I have ever heard of. “Sherman,” he said, “we always used to put the horn mike slightly above where the player’s horns were when they were seated. Especially for a live gig.” Why did you put the mikes off-axis? “The horn arrangements were/are very complex. You never knew which horn player was going to play a solo. So we mike them from slightly above so that when they stood to take their solo the would be exactly on-mike and would automatically be raised in the mix for their solo. If you got the mike position just right, you didn’t even have to touch a fader.”

Wally was always sharing secrets like these. He knew SO much! He is the one that should have written a book on how to do sound engineering!

Respectfully,
Sherman Barrymore Keene

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.

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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.


EXAMPLE:

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.

thanks

stephen barncard

I started working at the L.A. studios when the takeover by Filmways was in swing. Having Wally take a back seat was not a good move. There was enough work running the studios, remote recording, Jimmy Hite’s empire in the smaller studios and the now added RCA studios with Grover Helsley scoring in studio A.

As a young lad I started from the bottom as a runner. Tape machines were adrift 24/7 in a sea of studios. Thanks to the great dedicated people I worked with it all worked. The learning environment was incredible, there you had the best remote crew, Biff, Mike and Charles Carver, Ray Thompson, Billy Mays & Billy Youdelman, Paul Sandweiss and all the rest .

Sherman Keene made sure we blossomed into fine studio employees. If you wanted to work yourself up to an engineer “ohm lad” was there.

We had an extensive collection of mics, Mark Bergallia & Phil O ‘Conner ran the inventory. I worked with a lot of very talented people. Tchad Blake, Sean Fullan, Stacy Nakisone helped to swap the 440’s, MM1200’s, outboard gear of all makes, whatever the session needed we got it done.

In 1979 we took delivery of the 1st. Ampex ATR 124, the machine was well received, we had a remote booked and they wanted to use it, so we had to transport it to the remote truck, we put it on the lift gate and while it was going up the gate flexed due to the weight of the machine and it went down on my right foot. Well we took the machine to the shop and checked it out. It was fine, solid. So I started to limp around the next day and Michael Carnavalle a 2nd engineer saw me and coined the name “Ratso Rizzo” since I’m short also.

Soon I moved up to the maintenance dept. and was working with Harold Hill, Tim Boyle, Greg Stephens, Peter Butt, who was also taking out all the capacitors in the signal path on M24 Dolby –A’s to improve its performance. I learned from the best to align and keep the tape machines on line. It was great to work on API’s and discreet Neve consoles.

I remember David Holman using up to 4 – 440 two tracks with VSO’s for slap, on top of the EMT plates and echo chambers under Ivar Street for the ‘Grease’ sessions. Our St.4 was very popular and it was separate from the rest of the studios. We made it a ‘’LEDE’’ room which at the time, was not well received by all. At the time Jim Sieder was involved with it and he did a great job. The room after we finished was handsome and the bottom end was so tight it hit you in the gut and you felt it.

Incidentally , when Tom Dowd booked the room for Kenny Loggins( Keep the Fire) sessions ,he had problems and we moved him to St. C and found that Martoni’s restaurant next store, had been using our power in their kitchen causing spikes & noise problems……..

I must say I gained a lot of experience & knowledge in a short time. It would be normal to work till the wee hours of the morning, then drive to the Santa Monica pier for sunrise.
There’s so many people and stories we haven’t heard from.

Thanks for the memories and it’s great to have a place to revive them.

ratso in studio 4

ratso in studio 4

I left Wally after a “difference of opinion” over the CSNY dates. Wally somehow got a hold of me and
back to 245 I went to do “Nilsson Sings Nueuman”. Barncard had been hired after I left and was on
that session. Allen Zentz was the lead, Pat was tape op, great guy. That album turned out to be one
of the most challenging anyone of us had done: 50 or so multiple overdubs, echo pans, vocal pans in
30 ips delay echo. Turned out it was above Allen’s head, but thanks to Barncard, the four engineers pulled that great record off. Wally fired me after that date; as Wally was tit for tat for me quitting.
I went on to RCA in Hollywood with Harry and did “The Point”, how great to meet with Wally in the
morning after my all night sessions with Harry. We remained friends, but I knew I could never be a
staff engineer and continued my career as a free-lancer.

Maybe some of you remember; a new black Lincoln Continental, two-door, all leather. He let me and mygirlfriend use it when he went to LA for the weekend; what a great slide and what a typical Wally
gesture ( which insured showing up and paying attention, which was also a Wally trait).

I must have been to 245 earlier, only Russ and Ginger would remember. I do know in 1969, I worked on Quicksilver Messenger service “Shady Grove” with Dan Healey, and “Baby’s House” with Steve Miller band with the great Glyn Johns. I did some work with Russ; he taught me the basics, and it helped me become a real engineer. I’d known about “slap back” echo and “re-injection”, but Russ made it a signature with Creedence Clearwater.

Now that I’m logged in, I’ll start gathering my thoughts, It was quite some time ago: I was one of the first employees at 245 Hyde, a young rookie from Seattle. I knew about Wally from his LA operation, but 245 as new to me. I applied at every studio in SF, turned down at all of them. Wally’s studio had a stack of applications a mile high, I pretty much gave up on my career change and was getting ready to head back to Seattle, tail between my legs.

The next day the phone where I was staying rang, it was Mel Tanner; a engineer (I think his name was George Hernandiz (sp?) had hurt his back at a Jefferson Airplane date the night before, Wally took my application from the top of the stack and I was hired, knowing nothing about the big time, but my foot was in the door! More later, M

I’m thinking I joined around November of 1969, Al Schmidt was doing the Airplane, with Pat Ieraci as second.

Studio “C” was the only one open, the rest were being completed. What a exciting time! The staff was me,

Russ Gary, George Herdandiz, Ginger Mews, Mel Tanner.

Stephen:

I’m his nephew.  Otto W. Heider Sr. had two sons: Wally Heider and Otto W. Heider Jr.  Otto Jr. is my father.  I was born in 1951; I remember seeing Wally as a kid.

1. Wally was born May 20, 1922.  His father, Otto W. Heider Sr, was the town lawyer in Sheridan, Oregon.  Otto came from a poor first generation German family (his father was a shoemaker from Bavaria with about nine children from two marriages) and put himself through law school at the University of Oregon as a starving student.  Otto worshiped financial success, and wanted Wally to join his Sheridan law practice.  My father, Otto W. Heider Jr, was born in 1925.  Wally and Otto Jr. did not like each other much, particularly in their later years.

2. Wally graduated from Sheridan High School just prior to World War II, probably 1940.  He attended U of O for a couple of years prior to the War.  I’ve seen pictures of Wally in an army uniform; I suspect he enlisted.  I don’t think he saw combat.

3. Wally graduated from U of O in 1946 or 1947.

4. He passed the Oregon Bar in 1955, and joined Otto Sr. in the Sheridan law practice.  Sheridan is a small town, probably 1400 people at the time, and Wally hated the practice of law, probably also working with his father, who was a bit of the teutonic German father.

5. In a huge family mess, Wally left the Sheridan law practice and moved to LA in late summer of 1959.  Otto W. Heider Sr. owned the building that housed the law firm; last I checked, the windows were still painted “Otto W. Heider & Son”. Otto Sr. wouldn’t speak of Wally for years.

6. Once Wally was successful and written up in Esquire magazine, Otto Sr. was proud of him and happy to speak about him.

7. After Wally left the recording business, he started a “Hindsight Records” company, with, I believe, the goal of releasing previously unreleased recordings.  He had huge rows of vinyl records stored at Otto Sr’s house in Sheridan.  Wally had moved to Portland by then.

7. Wally died in March 1989 of brain cancer.  He is buried in the Heider family plot in Sheridan, Oregon.

Hope that helps fill in the cracks!

Cheers, George

I knew who it was in seconds after I was awakened by Wally’s 2:00 AM phone call. Wally had heard that I had a rara avis series of recordings of the Stan Kenton orchestra, and wanted to come to Rhode Island with his equipment to make copies. He told me that he wanted to record them and make LPs of the material. I resisted. He persisted. We went back and forth. I told him that I did not want to run afoul of both the Kenton family and the copyright laws. He said that he did it all the time. Besides, it would be himself who would have to deal with the Estate and the law, not me. I told him that I did not think that it would be ethical to have him access what I had, given to me in the belief that I would not produce recordings of what I had. I don’t believe we parted friends — only once more after that, had I heard from another friend of Wally’s, that he spoke of the incident and thought that I was being naive, since so many others did not mind assailing the copyright laws. We never had a chance to talk about our differences again…he passed away. Some one, some day, should do more than these sort of recollections…a full blown biography. He forever changed that ways in which “live” and studio recordings were made.

Tony Agostinelli

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