Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Tom Dowd, March 12, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Recording studios in the late 1940s

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Partial Transcript: Okay. This is, uh, Friday, March 12th, uh, 1999.

Segment Synopsis: Dowd talks a bit about Al Schmitt's uncle's studio. He expresses that he doesn't quite remember where it was, but that he does remember Harry Smith's studio being in Steinway Hall in the late 1940s.

Keywords: Audio Engineering Society (AES); Audio engineering; Harry Smith Recording; Musicians' guide; New York (N.Y); Nola Recording; Schmitt, Al; Smith, Harry

Subjects: Acoustical engineering; Audio Engineering Society; New York (N.Y.); Schmitt, Al; Sound engineers

GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.7127, -74.0059
00:02:06 - Fischer Publishing

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Partial Transcript: Oh, that's another outfit you want to check.

Segment Synopsis: Dowd tells the interviewer that she should get in contact with Carl Fischer Publishing House for her interviews. Dowd explains that in the early 1950s Fischer would record demos for the classical musicians working and learning at Carnegie Hall.

Keywords: Broadway Performance; Carl Fischer Publishing House; Carl Fischer Recording Studios; Carnegie Hall; Classical music; Demos; Fischer, Carl; Piano; Recording; Recording studios; Superstitions

Subjects: Carnegie Hall (New York, N.Y.); Sound studios; Sound--Recording and reproducing

GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.7127, -74.0059
00:04:01 - The 1948 musicians' strike

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Partial Transcript: Now there was a little thing that not too many people talk about: there was a musicians' strike.

Segment Synopsis: Dowd talks about the the 1948 strike, and how many recording labels were recording around the clock before the strike officially began on January 1st. He spends some time trying to recall a couple of studios and where they are. He expresses distaste for Gotham Studio because of how it was run.

Keywords: ABC Broadcasting; Disc jockeys; Gotham Recording; Howard, Mary; Labor unions; Mary Howard Recording; Neumann, Georg; Plunkett, Donald; Radio; Radio broadcasting; Radio disc jockeys; Recording label; Recording lathes; Schmitt, Al; Sterling Transcription; Strikes; Striking; Television; Turntables; Unions

Subjects: American Broadcasting Company; Disc jockeys; Labor unions; Neumann, Georg; Phonograph turntables; Radio; Radio broadcasting; Schmitt, Al; Sound studios; Sound-- recording and reproducing; Television

00:07:13 - Getting an Ampex 300 Recorder

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Partial Transcript: Um, just to get back to where we started with this on that 8-track.

Segment Synopsis: Dowd talks about buying one of the first Ampex 300 recorders in order to record 8-track to replace older recorders. He also mentions several other studios and what recorders they used.

Keywords: 8-track; Ampex Electric Corporation; Bing Crosby Enterprises; Decca Records; Fujii, Mort; Mono; Monophonic; Monophonic sound; Recorders, tape (models): Ampex 200; Recorders, tape (models): Ampex 300 monophonic; Voice of America

Subjects: Crosby, Bing; Decca Records (Firm); Sound--Recording and reproducing

00:09:04 - Studios where Dowd worked

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Partial Transcript: Wow, you keep mentioning these new places that I never even knew you worked.

Segment Synopsis: Dowd discusses several different people and studios that he worked with from the late 1940s into the early 1950s.
There is a brief aside where he and the interviewer discuss the destruction of Liederkranz Hall before they return to discussing the studios.

Keywords: Apex Recording; Bell Tone Studio; Carnegie Hall Recording; Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); Columbia Records, Inc.; Decca Records; Demolition; Fine, Bob; Gravity fed recording lathes; Great Northern; Howard, Mary; Liederkranz Hall; Mack, Dick; Majestic Records; Mary Howard Recording; Nola Studio; Nola, Vince; Reade, Duane; Recording lathes; Recording studios; Sterling Transcription; Strike; Studios; Vanderbilt; Vanderbilt Mansion

Subjects: CBS Records (Firm); Carnegie Hall (New York, N.Y.); Columbia Records, Inc.Columbia Broadcasting System, inc.; Decca Records (Firm); Fine, Bob; Sound studios; Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site (Hyde Park, Dutchess County, N.Y.)

GPS: New York (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 40.7127, -74.0059
00:14:51 - Innovation with small studios

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Partial Transcript: Let me give you two other names quick, quick, quick!

Segment Synopsis: Dowd recalls working with Don Plunkett and Irv Joel while doing some work with Atlantic Records. The interviewer expresses that she believed for a while that the smaller studios that were pushing the bounds of innovation. Dowd explains that this was because the smaller studios weren't unionized, thus, they were able to take shortcuts that the larger studios wouldn't be able to. He also expresses that the larger studios weren't able to get newer equipment as easily.

Keywords: Ampex Electric Corporation; Atlantic Records; Audio Engineering Society (AES); Capital Studios; Compression; Compressors; Gates; Gates Console; General Electric (GE); Joel, Irv; Labor unions; Memphis (Tenn.); Memphis Recording Service; Mono; Monophonic; Phillips, Sam; Plunkett, Donald; Radio; Radio broadcasting; Raytheon; Recording industry

Subjects: Atlantic Recording Corporation; Audio Engineering Society; Compression (Audiology); General Electric Company; Memphis (Tenn.); Phillips, Sam, 1923-2003; Raytheon Company; Sound recording industry

GPS: Memphis (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.117365, -89.971068
00:17:36 - On using compressors

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Partial Transcript: Oh, okay. That's something! Did you use compressors from the beginning?

Segment Synopsis: Dowd explains that he typically used compression while mastering, and very rarely ever while recording. He also explains that in the late 1940s and early 1950s there were only 2 ways to record: by cutting directly to a 10-inch disc or by recording on a 16-inch transcription disc that you could make copies of.

Keywords: Carl Fischer Recording Studios; Compressors; Raytheon; Recording; Recording studios; Transcription discs; Wynn Mastering

Subjects: Compression (Audiology); Raytheon Company; Sound recording industry; Sound studios; Sound--recording and reproducing

00:18:41 - Recording radio transcriptions / conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, somewhere I was reading about how they were even recording from the inside out.

Segment Synopsis: Dowd explains how radio transcriptions were recorded: the first disc was recorded from the outside to the inside and the second disc was recorded the opposite way. He compares the playing of the two disks similar to the cigarette burns on film. He explains that this was intended to keep the audio as consistent as possible.

Keywords: Crosby, Bing (Artist); Radio; Radio broadcasting; Radio programming; Radio shows; Radio transcription; Recording; Sound quality

Subjects: Crosby, Bing, 1903-1977; Radio; Radio broadcasting; Radio programs.; Sound--Recording and reproducing