Category Archives: Firsthand Stories

Stories and rememberances written by people who were there.

Thanks Wally, you saved my life

April 10, 2008
Wally Heider saved me from a life of electronic drudgery and obscurity when in 1973 Ken Hopkins and Grey O’Dell hired me to work at the SF studio. I had spent a little time at the 245 Hyde St. address during my school days, assisting an independent mixer and my good friend Neil Schwartz. Neil brought me in for a James Brown date and later we worked with Ty Porter on demos with groups like “CRACKIN”?, “COAL TRAIN”?.

Upon graduating from Heald College, just as I was about to accept my sentence, er, I mean “position”? with a digital safe company in San Jose (bend over sucker), my phone rang with a call that changed my life for good. Ken Hopkins, the Studio manager, asked me if I were interested in joining the Wally Heider Staff. (Duh!) It was at this point I met Wally for the first time and was completely overwhelmed by the force of his personality. What a guy! What a boss!
Continue reading Thanks Wally, you saved my life

Any one from the old days?

My name is Roger Standridge and I worked for Wally Heider from 1966 to 1972. I just saw an article in the LA times about Buddy Miles and the Band of Gypsys live date at the Filmore East. It was New Years Eve 1969-70 and I worked that date. I didn’t mix that one and I forgot who did. We all drank Cold Duck and ate Pizza afterwards.
Looking at the site, the only one I recognize is Ray Thompson. I worked a lot of dates with him! From the dates it looks like he passed away in 1999. Is that true?
I used to have a ton of photos from the old days. I always carried my old Nikon F. Unfortunately they all went away years ago.
It would be good to hear from some of the people who were around in those days.

The Night I met Wally

Three weeks after graduating from San Francisco State College in June of 1977 I found myself working at Filmways/Heider Studios in Hollywood. The job paid minimum wage and in those days you could still rent a place in Hollywood on that salary. Ok, a little overtime was required, but we were all young and eager. We couldn’t get enough of it.

While I was ecstatic much of the time, the place was riddled with contention. There were the Heider people and the Filmways people, each having a different view of how the company should move forward. This small family oriented recording studio was now part of a large corporation and people just didn’t like the shift. We had walls lined with certified gold. Ray Thompson was a legend and each week Ray, Biff Dawes, Dennis May and Paul Sandweiss would storm the studio. They would grab all of the best gear and off they would go to record another great live album.

Continue reading The Night I met Wally

My memory of Wally – Larry Sem

In 1970 I was a DJ at AFN in Berlin Germany. The station had a extensive record library, with AFRTS recordings that dated back to the old radio soap operas. Wally was to record a concert by Creedence Clearwater Revival and he showed up at the station a few days early, so he could go through the library to “document” the recordings that were there. I’m not sure what exactly he was looking for, but he was taking extensive notes, with the help of the music librarian at the station.

When I mentioned to him that I would like to conduct an interview with CCR for my radio show, Wally said something like “meet me at the gate at 7:30 and I’ll see that you get your interview.” I went to the gate with the station engineer, Wolfgang Wunderlich, and Wally met me at the gate, in a panic. He was in a cab or limo, I can’t remember, but he said “jump in.” Once we got in, he asked if we had seen a “big truck.” We said we hadn’t, and then he instructed the drive to drive around the concert hall. Suddenly, he let out a sigh of relief…THERE WAS THE TRUCK. It seems his recording truck was delayed crossing (communist) East Germany on it’s way to Berlin for the concert.

Although he had a lot on his mind that night, he made sure that Wolfgang and I got backstage for the interview. Unfortunately for me, the band had just done an AFN interview in Frankfurt and declined my offer. Wally felt pretty bad about that, but said I was welcome to stay back stage and allowed my to walk around on the stage when the roadies were setting up (although I was asked to get out of the way at one point). When the concert started, Wally gave us a quick tour of the recording truck and then we sat back and watched the concert from back stage! As a wide-eyed young DJ and music lover, I was totally on cloud 9.

I also had the chance to discuss music with him during his time at the station. He was quite a guy, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone since who loved what he did as much as Wally. I’ll always remember how nice he was to me, and the experience of the “lost truck.”

Swingtime Video

Just a quick note. I spent a lot of time with Wally during his last 15 years. I have lots of wonderful stories with him. I’m also the one who did all the engineering, film transfer setups and editing, graphics and final mastering on the complete “Swingtime Video” Series. I accompanied Wally on many of the trips as we gathered the footage for the shows and transfered the films to video. Then we spent many, many hours editing the series. This was done in my studio in Oregon except for one which was edited in San Diego. We both went to Indianapolis then to set up for duplication. Audio was paramount for the series and Wally flew in other trusted audio engineers to double check the tests I made. Such was Wally’s style. Perfection was hardly good enough.

Like most of those I knew who worked with Wally; the pay was awful but the perks were out of this world. Wally, also was directly responsible for me starting my own video studio and gave me some of the most wonderful memories of my life. I’d love to visit with anyone about Wally at anytime and share these memories.

When Wally passed away I received a large number of Swingtime Video copies. I’ve kept them all these years in his memory but, as I’m now getting on in age myself, I suspect I’ll need to pass them on rather than let some probate attorney send them to the landfill.
Virgil Sipes

PS. Wally is buried in a small cemetery in Sheridan, Oregon. I did attended his graveside ceremony and he’s now there with his parents.

When Vinyl Ruled

I just found this site by chance and was surprised to find myself mentioned here in April 2005 with a link to the When Vinyl Ruled 2000-AES historical exhibit I was involved with in Los Angeles back in September 2000. Time certainly does fly, as it is really hard for me to believe that it has been seven years since that event. Although I never met Wally and he had been gone over ten year by the time of this exhibit, I feel that Wally made several significant contributions to the success of this exhibit which I will mention for the benefit of those who did not have the opportunity to visit the exhibit.

First, if you look closely at the picture below you will see a framed picture to the left of the UA console. That picture shows Wes Montgomery sitting and Orrin Keepnews of Riverside Records standing in front of the very same UA console on June 25, 1962 in the backroom of Tsubo a club in Berkeley. Although Wally is not shown in the photograph, Wally’s live recording of this same performance through the UA console shown onto an Ampex 351-2 was released as the Riverside LP “Full House.”

Paul Speaks At When Vinyl Ruled

Elsewhere on this site Dale Manquen eloquently tells the story of his trip with Wally to the 1966 Monterey Jazz festival with the prototype Mincom recorder. Even though I first met Dale in 1975 when I was in his very first professional tape recorder theory and maintenance class and I have heard many of his wonderful stories, the first time I have heard this story is when I visited this website. In 2000 when I was planning the AES exhibit I contacted Dale, asked if would mind providing some of his 3M artifacts for the display, and he told me he would be pleased to do so. Dale brought some photographs and machine prototype assemblies which were of much interest to many visitors.

Now once again if you look closely at the picture you will see three 1/2 inch tape boxes leaning in front of the Ampex 300 door on the lower right. Amazingly enough those three 3-track tapes shown were also recorded by Wally live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, except earlier on September 22-23, 1963. Had I only known in 2000 that Dale had been with Wally at the 1966 Festival I would not only have asked him about his experience, but I also would have made sure that Dale heard playbacks of the tapes that I had. Naturally the tapes sounded fantastic and went over very well with the many exhibit visitors. The artists were Jack and Charlie Teagarden with Pee Wee Russell and two sets by the Harry James Orchestra with vocalist Ruth Price.

Thanks to Stephen for setting up this site, to Dale for sharing so much knowledge with us over the years, and to Wally for helping to make When Vinyl Ruled a success.

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

My First Meeting with Wally

I was working at Filmways/Heider Recording in 1978 as an aspiring engineer. They had us doing everything but what I wanted to do. After 5Pm we all had a chance to answer the phone system. One night this guy calls up for Ray Thompson’s home phone number and I wouldn’t give it out since we were told to not do that. The next day some man stuttering comes up to me and asks if I was the one who took his call. I said yes and he said “Hi I’m Wally Heider! and I owe you one”. Anyway, it was interesting for the short time I was there.

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

How I met Wally

1970; I was working at National Recording in New York. National was in the building torn down to make room for Trump Towers. One day Duke Ellington and his brother Mercer came into the studio to record a few compositions with a new sax player. Johnny Hodges had just died and the poor guy was up against a legend.

The session should have been handled by Frank Kulaga but he was sick that day and I was free. The session went very well and at the end a man approached me and introduced himself as a friend of Wally Heider. He asked if it would be okay to tell Wally about me and the session. Two weeks later Wally enters National, introduced himself to the office staff and asked to speak with me. I was busy recording some tracks with another Jazz great; Chico Hamilton.

My wife Cag was working in the office and quickly pulled Wally into the hall fearing for my potential unemployment. We met at a local restaurant for lunch and after 15 minutes he offered me a job in Los Angeles as a staff engineer working in his newest Studio 4. He said it would be finished in about four months. I agreed to move and thought 4 months was enough time to tie up loose ends and move on. Two weeks later he called a told me he wanted me to report to The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville in two weeks. I reminded him of the 4 month time frame. I asked him to give me some time to think it over. He agreed and called me the following afternoon for my answer. Obviously I agreed. I’ll tell you more in a few days.

All my best to everyone who shared that magical time with that one in a million Wally,

Peter Granet tonmeister2005-AT-netzero-DOT-com

remembering Wally

my name is Jim Simon and i worked a Filmways/Heiders from 1978 till it closed in 1983. at that point Wally was just a figurehead , but the last time i say him was the best time. first a little history.Filmways which claimed bankrupt and reformed as Orion pictures went on to great things but no so for Heiders it was peice mealed .first Hyde street and dose anybody remember the name of the studio supply co was it ASE? was sold of in parts it was ugly. then they find a buyer for all of Hollywood which included cauhunga /RCA studio’s / and what was know as studio 4 the LEDE room/ remotes truck which were two in till it was rolled it was like a studio in a blender it was ugly. so the new studio owner was Janna Feliciano well her management style was different to say the least

Continue reading remembering Wally

Memories of W-W-Wally

I was probably one of Wally’s earliest associates in Los Angeles/Hollywood. In 1959 I was the tech service guy for Ampex in Los Angeles. Late one afternoon I got a call from a guy in Oregon who talked so fast and stuttered so bad that it was difficult to understand him. Eventually I got the drift that he was to record the Terry Gibbs big band that weekend in Hollywood. Wally lived in Oregon and was having someone drive down, pulling his recording equipment in a trailer.

(Later, when we were better acquainted, I learned that in college he had known the son of the man who founded U-Haul. Wally got U-Haul to custom-build a closed trailer to his specs. The entire floor of the trailer was covered by a mattress, soft riding for delicate recording equipment.)

This frantic, stuttering guy wanted to have his Ampex 351-2’s checked over and carefully aligned for the recording sessions. The next day a guy showed up with the equipment. I carefully checked out the Ampexes and put a spit shine on the alignment. It was the beginning of a long-time, supremely interesting relationship with many ups and a few downs. If you knew Wally well, there was never a dull moment in your life.

Continue reading Memories of W-W-Wally

Heider’s LA – mid 70’s

I can remember my first visit to Heider’s LA. It was the early 70’s…watching Joe E. Covington laying down tracks for his Fat Fandango album in Studio 3. Peter Granet was at the board. As a young teen and an aspring drummer…it was a huge thrill to sit behind Joe’s drums and help them get their sound. My uncle was the production coordinator for Grunt Records at the time. That availed me to many visits to Heider’s LA and San Francisco.

A couple of years later, I began working at Heider’s LA answering telephones and helping in the studios whenever I could. Within a few short months, I began assisting on sessions with the likes of Rod Stewart, Angel, Loggins and Messina, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, The Crusaders, Rare Earth, Tony Orlando and Dawn…just to name a few.
Continue reading Heider’s LA – mid 70’s

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!

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