Producers and Engineers

Producers and Engineers

Andy V.
Andy V.

October 30th, 2017, 8:50 pm #1

Question for the experts out there: Were there recording producers/engineers in the pre-swing years known for making consistently good records, who always got it right, or were sought out by the artists for their prowess? It seems like the guys in the recording booth were invisible or forgotten but I'm sure there were stand-outs just like any other profession.

The question came to mind listening to this record, which sounds so clear and balanced: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Utn8etRxTh8
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

October 31st, 2017, 5:59 am #2

Among the major record producers in the pre-swing era:

Fred Gaisberg: The person who, more than anyone else, invented the job of "record producer." He was the first person who not only signed artists and made sure they made the best records possible from a technical standpoint, but also deliberately shaped the performances in the studio to maximize the records' sales potential. His best-known artist signing was Enrico Caruso, but he was involved in the British His Master's Voice (HMV) pop records as well.

Frank Walker: Worked for Columbia Records from the 1920's to the 1940's, then took a job at MGM Records after Columbia's then-parent company, CBS, forced him out due to its mandatory retirement policy. Was heavily involved in making field recording trips. His best-known signings were Bessie Smith at Columbia in 1923 and Hank Williams at MGM in 1945.

Ralph Peer: Started at Okeh Records in the early 1920's and, like Walker, pioneered the recording of blues and country music. Formed his own music publishing company, Peer-Southern Music, and when he left Okeh for Victor in 1926 he agreed to produce records for Victor for free in return for publishing rights to original songs recorded by his artists. His best-known signings were Bennie Moten's band and the white country singers Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Peer produced the famous Bristol, Tennessee field sessions in 1927 that are considered the beginning of the country-music industry.

Tommy Rockwell: A key figure in Bixiana because it was he who signed Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer to the Okeh label. The powerful, luminous sound quality of the Bix and Tram sessions for Okeh is a testament to Rockwell's skills in the studio.

Richard M. Jones: Was Okeh's man in Chicago the way Rockwell was in New York. His most famous artist signing was Louis Armstrong, and he also recorded many excellent records with blues singers, often writing songs for these sessions and occasionally playing on them.
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Andrew J. Sammut
Andrew J. Sammut

October 31st, 2017, 2:07 pm #3

This is all very interesting. Thank you for providing this information.
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James E.Parten
James E.Parten

October 31st, 2017, 4:04 pm #4

Among the major record producers in the pre-swing era:

Fred Gaisberg: The person who, more than anyone else, invented the job of "record producer." He was the first person who not only signed artists and made sure they made the best records possible from a technical standpoint, but also deliberately shaped the performances in the studio to maximize the records' sales potential. His best-known artist signing was Enrico Caruso, but he was involved in the British His Master's Voice (HMV) pop records as well.

Frank Walker: Worked for Columbia Records from the 1920's to the 1940's, then took a job at MGM Records after Columbia's then-parent company, CBS, forced him out due to its mandatory retirement policy. Was heavily involved in making field recording trips. His best-known signings were Bessie Smith at Columbia in 1923 and Hank Williams at MGM in 1945.

Ralph Peer: Started at Okeh Records in the early 1920's and, like Walker, pioneered the recording of blues and country music. Formed his own music publishing company, Peer-Southern Music, and when he left Okeh for Victor in 1926 he agreed to produce records for Victor for free in return for publishing rights to original songs recorded by his artists. His best-known signings were Bennie Moten's band and the white country singers Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Peer produced the famous Bristol, Tennessee field sessions in 1927 that are considered the beginning of the country-music industry.

Tommy Rockwell: A key figure in Bixiana because it was he who signed Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer to the Okeh label. The powerful, luminous sound quality of the Bix and Tram sessions for Okeh is a testament to Rockwell's skills in the studio.

Richard M. Jones: Was Okeh's man in Chicago the way Rockwell was in New York. His most famous artist signing was Louis Armstrong, and he also recorded many excellent records with blues singers, often writing songs for these sessions and occasionally playing on them.
There are others in the pre-swing era who could qualify as "producers" n the more modern sense of the term.

Joe Davis provided the entire package for record companies wanting to get in on blues recording.
He published the songs, hired the singers and accompanists, and even provided sound effects, if needed.
As a aide line, he sang heart-on-sleeve ballads for a couple of different labels in the late 1020's/
And his career continued well into the 1950's.

Mayo Williams out of Chicago went from his own Black Patti label (try and find 'em!) to Vocalion, and thence to Decca. Even as late as the late 1940's, he had his own Harlem label, ad was still producing blues and rhythm records.

Besides Ralph Peer, Victor had, at various times, Edward T. King, Nat Shilkret, Leonard Joy and Leroy Shield--all of whom served a function analogous to today's producer.

As far as engineers go, Victor had Raymond Sooy, who was the engineer for the first Victor sessions of the Original Dixieland Jass Band, Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band--and presumably others--out of New York. He was still with Victor as late as 1931, if not later.

And, at OKeh, Charles Hibbard is often credited with making OKeh among the best-sounding acoustical records of the time. He was with the firm at lest through the "Truetone" electrials. I don't know if he stuck with OKeh after they had been bought by Columbia and switched to the Western Electric system of recording.

And, let us not forget Orlando Marsh, whose experiments with elecrrical recording gve us sides by King Oliver, Jelly-Roll Morton and others.

And the list could go on and on and on. . .
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Andrew J. Sammut
Andrew J. Sammut

October 31st, 2017, 8:15 pm #5

Among the major record producers in the pre-swing era:

Fred Gaisberg: The person who, more than anyone else, invented the job of "record producer." He was the first person who not only signed artists and made sure they made the best records possible from a technical standpoint, but also deliberately shaped the performances in the studio to maximize the records' sales potential. His best-known artist signing was Enrico Caruso, but he was involved in the British His Master's Voice (HMV) pop records as well.

Frank Walker: Worked for Columbia Records from the 1920's to the 1940's, then took a job at MGM Records after Columbia's then-parent company, CBS, forced him out due to its mandatory retirement policy. Was heavily involved in making field recording trips. His best-known signings were Bessie Smith at Columbia in 1923 and Hank Williams at MGM in 1945.

Ralph Peer: Started at Okeh Records in the early 1920's and, like Walker, pioneered the recording of blues and country music. Formed his own music publishing company, Peer-Southern Music, and when he left Okeh for Victor in 1926 he agreed to produce records for Victor for free in return for publishing rights to original songs recorded by his artists. His best-known signings were Bennie Moten's band and the white country singers Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Peer produced the famous Bristol, Tennessee field sessions in 1927 that are considered the beginning of the country-music industry.

Tommy Rockwell: A key figure in Bixiana because it was he who signed Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer to the Okeh label. The powerful, luminous sound quality of the Bix and Tram sessions for Okeh is a testament to Rockwell's skills in the studio.

Richard M. Jones: Was Okeh's man in Chicago the way Rockwell was in New York. His most famous artist signing was Louis Armstrong, and he also recorded many excellent records with blues singers, often writing songs for these sessions and occasionally playing on them.
As long as we are discussing this related topic, could someone please explain who and when it was decided which records would get issued for public consumption during the twenties and later? I know many are records are listed as "rejected" or "unissued" but at what stage of the process did this decision take place? Did the recording engineer decide at the date or did the record company's administration review every record?
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

November 1st, 2017, 2:26 pm #6

The process probably varied from label to label, but my understanding of the way it usually worked was that the on-site recording engineer would first inspect the wax or (later) lacquer masters for obvious flaws (like bubbles on the wax surface) that would render a master technically unusable. The producer and the engineer would then decide which "takes" to send to the mastering laboratory for metallurgical processing and the manufacture of test pressings, which would then be played for the producer, the artists and the recording executives, who would have the final decision as to what was issued.

We have a few clues: the rejected take of Frank Trumbauer's "My Pet" survives in a test pressing bearing a note that it has been rejected on the orders of Bob Stephens, Tommy Rockwell's assistant (and later a producer in his own right whose most famous recordings are Count Basie's 1937-1939 sides for Decca) and the notations on Bix's 1925 Rhythm Jugglers date for Gennett that the two songs that weren't issued ("Magic Blues" and "Nobody Knows What It's All About") were rejected for technical (flaws in the wax) rather than musical reasons.
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

November 1st, 2017, 2:26 pm #7

As long as we are discussing this related topic, could someone please explain who and when it was decided which records would get issued for public consumption during the twenties and later? I know many are records are listed as "rejected" or "unissued" but at what stage of the process did this decision take place? Did the recording engineer decide at the date or did the record company's administration review every record?
The process probably varied from label to label, but my understanding of the way it usually worked was that the on-site recording engineer would first inspect the wax or (later) lacquer masters for obvious flaws (like bubbles on the wax surface) that would render a master technically unusable. The producer and the engineer would then decide which "takes" to send to the mastering laboratory for metallurgical processing and the manufacture of test pressings, which would then be played for the producer, the artists and the recording executives, who would have the final decision as to what was issued.

We have a few clues: the rejected take of Frank Trumbauer's "My Pet" survives in a test pressing bearing a note that it has been rejected on the orders of Bob Stephens, Tommy Rockwell's assistant (and later a producer in his own right whose most famous recordings are Count Basie's 1937-1939 sides for Decca) and the notations on Bix's 1925 Rhythm Jugglers date for Gennett that the two songs that weren't issued ("Magic Blues" and "Nobody Knows What It's All About") were rejected for technical (flaws in the wax) rather than musical reasons.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

November 1st, 2017, 3:37 pm #8

As long as we are discussing this related topic, could someone please explain who and when it was decided which records would get issued for public consumption during the twenties and later? I know many are records are listed as "rejected" or "unissued" but at what stage of the process did this decision take place? Did the recording engineer decide at the date or did the record company's administration review every record?
.... "The Recording of “My Gal Sal” by Red Nichols and His Five Pennies."


In a letter dated Aug 10, 1945, Red Nichols wrote to Ralph Venables, “My Gal Sal was never released anywhere - as I never was paid for the recording … I have the only test in my possession.”
Indeed, all takes were rejected by order of Brunswick record producer Jack Kapp, upon mutual agreement between Red Nichols and Jack Kapp. The Brunswick files indicate, “Cancelled.” “B side bad on wear.” “Cancels p. n. C356 for 3855.” p. n. is a ledger entry indication that Br 3455 was scheduled to be released, but was cancelled.

The full article is available inhttp://bixbeiderbecke.com/ArticlesinMagazines2.html

Albert
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

November 2nd, 2017, 3:38 pm #9

I'm not surprised at Red Nichols' bitterness that he was never paid for the version of "My Gal Sal" that wasn't issued. A lot of record contracts in that period said that the artist would only be paid a set fee per "issued" side, and wouldn't get anything for any recording that wasn't actually released.
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