Category Archives: Other Recording Stories

Other Music Business Stories

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.

 

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The First LP Record

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

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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.

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The Making Of The Sound

The Making Of The Sound
By Jim Crockett
FROM CALIFORNIA LIVING MAGAZINE
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.

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albert polisner/ al paul and wally heider

first of all -thank you so much for putting this together. this is a wonderful and lasting tribute to many of the great people that launched the studios in hollywood.

my father, albert william polisner met my mother -jeanne walrath -when she came to hollywood from iowa to record an album in 1958 -she was a coloratura soprano and had tried out for the met opera at the age of 15.

albert (also known around town as al paul) worked with many folks at capitol records, paramount (brian brolin), allen zentz and wally heider. i was between 5 and 8 years old when my dad used to run me around hollywood on errands. after broadcast records closed, my father worked at studio masters on melrose, and later worked from our home -he resold mixing and audio equipment.

my first job was kind of as an internal roadie at pd recording studios in north hollywood (run, i think by john phillips -who had been at capitol).

my father passed away in 1976 (i was 16) and would love to connect with people from the 60’s and 70’s hollywood era that knew him.

i am now 45 years old, and have founded alonovo.com

a business dedicated to informing consumers about socially-responsible business (redirecting consumer spend from entities that mistreat workers, pollute the environment and are profit without regard businesses -to companies that are evolving to embrace reuseable energy, clean manufacturing and workers, human, animal rights.

once again -many thanks for putting this together -i’d be happy to contribute a photo of my dad in front of what was broadcast recorders.

kind regards, george polisner

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.

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Wally Heider Recording & The Automatt

When Vinyl Ruled, 2000-AES

For all those of you that really enjoy “swingin’ vu meters” and did not have the opportunity to visit the “When Vinyl Ruled” exhibit at the 109th AES Convention held in Los Angeles from 2000 Sept 22…25, here is a brief recap of what went on. The event was sponsored by the AES Historical Committee chaired by Jay McKnight, and was organized by Irv Joel and Paul McManus. The core team included Irv Joel, Paul McManus, Jim Webb, Shelley Herman, John Chester, and David Baker.

Paul brought two of his tape recorders: a 288 pound 1963 Ampex Model 300 3-track one-half inch tape recorder, and a 1957 Ampex Model 350 2-track one-quarter inch tape recorder; also 3 Altec 604 speakers, 3 McIntosh tube power amplifiers, and various period piece displays and exhibits. The real star of the show was a 1960 custom built Universal Audio (UA) 12 input by 3 output vacuum tube recording console designed by Bill Putnam, and built in the attic next to the echo chambers of United Recording at 6050 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. This console was the original remote recording console from United (now Ocean Way) and Western (now Cello) studios, which were originally owned, designed and built by Putnam.

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GOOD TIME MUSIC: The Early Days of Kama Sutra

The Kama Sutra/Buddah Records Story
By Bob Hyde
Last update: April 11, 2000

This story is copyright © 1993 by Bob Hyde, and is used by permission of the author.

Charting the history of any record label — much less two or three — is a precarious occupation at best. A hit record makes ordinary people heroes while a stiff causes the arrow of blame to spin madly, looking for a suitable target. Some success in the music business comes from sheer luck; some is the result of hard, diligent work, and some comes from what can only be described as a “genius” for the medium.