History of CBS Records 30th Street Studio NYC (many pictures)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by DMortensen, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    Here's a quick question for the classical music recording experts:

    When CBS/CRI recorded the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, were the recordings likely done at 30th Street or at the Opera's performance venue?

    Background: I'm doing a spreadsheet of recording dates at 3oth Street, and got thinking about the discussion here that the recording ban was lifted in December 1948, which contradicted my finding of the AFM Reports in the Sony archives not starting until mid-to-late 1949. It occurred to me (after reading the excellent article that Luke posted) that Michael Gray's wonderful classical music discography A Classical Discography would at least give us the classical sessions that were in 30th St during that time period, so I started entering them.

    Wow! After that first December 20 session with Charles Munch conducting Robert Casadesus and the New York Philharmonic, there were
    8 classical sessions in January 1949,
    13 in February,
    12 in March,
    17 in April,
    13 in May,
    7 in June,
    10 in July,
    7 in August,
    3 in September,
    9 in October,
    then 6 more in November until the AFM Report location ambiguity kicks in.

    That's 105 confirmed sessions, which includes many Metropolitan Opera Orchestra sessions, most with Fausto Cleva conducting. If those were actually somewhere else it would not only reduce the number but explain some days when there were two or sometimes three full orchestra sessions on the books. Michael didn't note session times so it's impossible to see how things dovetail, but he did a much more impressive job with the Master/take numbers than I did.

    Those numbers ignore all activity other than classical sessions (since that's the only thing Michael was interested in, although his interest seems to include some Broadway shows), and we must assume that pop and jazz and other recording was being done in similar numbers to take advantage of this cool new space they had available. Right?

    FYI, between Michael's discography and the AFM Reports my spreadsheet of possible and confirmed sessions in 30th St is now just over 1000 sessions. I'm into 1953 in the AFM reports but only 1951 in the classical discography, so there's still a daunting amount of work ahead.

    I hope our upcoming research in NYC will get the ratio of confirmed/unconfirmed sessions much higher than it is now and fill in a lot of the gaps about our understanding of the studio workings.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
  2. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
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  3. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    So apropos of nothing, here are some pictures of the actor Art Carney in 30th St:

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    The crop marks are on the contact sheets, which was what I was shooting then, and must have been put there by Fred. Maybe the pictures were used on an album cover?

    For the benefit of those who are too young to have been there at the time or maybe for our overseas friends, at the time these pictures were taken Carney was the second banana to Jackie Gleason, the star of the top rated CBS (I think) TV show "The Honeymooners", which was about the hapless New York City bus driver Ralph Kramden (Gleason), his long-suffering wife Alice (Audrey Meadows), and their upstairs neighbors and best friends, sewer worker Ed Norton (Carney) and wife Trixie (Joyce Randolph). Ralph's chronic money shortage makes him try numerous get-rich-quick schemes which always end in hilarious failure, dragging wife and friends in and causing short tempered Ralph to blame and abuse Norton.

    Carney was a lovable goof and both were funny physical comics, although there was an undercurrent of meanness in Gleason that became more visible later in his career. Still, the Honeymooners was much watched and well loved while it lasted, and there is today a slightly less than life size bronze statue of bus driver Ralph Kramden outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Eighth Avenue on the West Side of Manhattan. I saw it yesterday, which maybe made me think of posting these Carney pictures from my original foray into the Plaut collection.

    In going through the AFM reports, there are numerous instances of Carney recording in 30th St., doing novelty songs which IIRC relate to being a sewer worker and the like. (I'm not in a position to look right now, though.)

    The songs must have met with some success, though, because for a while he was in there periodically.

    I haven't yet found anything indicating Gleason was ever in 30th St, even though he actually had another career of hiring musicians and arrangers to put together albums that were then released under his name. The music (which I've barely ever heard) seemed to be what seemed like 60's-70's bachelor swinger music, although I could be mistaken about that.

    The pictures in this post are from MSS 52, The Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University, gathered with the help of Richard Boursey and Emily Ferrigno, wonderful librarians.
     
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  4. lukpac

    lukpac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    The "Classic 39" were in fact aired on CBS, although there's a bit more to the history. It appears it got to #2 in the ratings.

    He recorded for Capitol in the '50s and '60s. I'd be surprised if he was ever at 30th Street, unless it was to visit someone else's session.
     
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  5. mdr30

    mdr30 Member

    Location:
    Gothenburg, Sweden
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  6. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    Location:
    The West
    Oh man, what an amazing life that man had. Countless music fans around the world who have never heard of him no doubt have his work burned into their memories. Wish I could've met and talked to him.

    dan c
     
  7. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    That makes me really sad. When he came to our first Fo30St gathering, he was in good spirits but unable to speak because of the condition he had. My understanding was that it was only going to get worse, and I can only imagine how much sadness his family went through.

    He died 6 days ago, no funeral but a celebration of his life soon.

    Thanks for posting this. I'm very sad today, but relieved that his suffering is over.
     
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  8. lukpac

    lukpac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    We all process grief in different ways, so I can't tell anyone else how they should feel, but my feeling is that's the best way to take this news. According to a post on his Facebook page, he had been suffering from Alzheimer's since being diagnosed 10 years ago. Thankfully, his memory, and certainly photographs, will live on.

    A nice anecdote from the aforementioned post:

    "I contacted him out of the blue about 15 years ago and inquired about buying a copy of a photo that was inside a reissued Bob Dylan cd. He said he needed to get a copy of the cd, as he wasn't sure which photograph I was referring to, and that he would call me back after doing so. He called me back, was very accommodating and I bought the photo. He could not have been more kind or helpful."

    And another:

    "I will never forget his kindness when I got my first (and probably only official) promotion at Columbia. He was kind enough to retake my promotional head shot photo. Every time I look at it, it reminds me that I was lucky enough to get the equivalent of my very own album cover shot by the always and forever and wonderful photographic artist Don Hunstein. Later on in time, I saw Don upstate in Sharon, CT at an arts fair and was able to thank him for the gift he never really knew he had given me by retaking that photo over again. He was amazingly talented and apparently, retaking a head shot photo was frowned upon. Thank you again Don for being kind enough to make me look like a rock star that day. I cherish my very own Don Hunstein portrait!"
     
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  9. lukpac

    lukpac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
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  10. lukpac

    lukpac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I should have finished the article before posting:

    "Alongside those who tried to make a few bucks out of Don’s life’s work were others who felt that the importance of his photographs deserved recognition – particularly his colleagues at Columbia. DeeAnne remembers them fondly. “There was a very nice event a couple of years ago when the people from Columbia presented him with an award. 30th Street Studio was a very famous location where many great recordings were done because it was in an old church and had wonderful acoustics. Everyone adored that place. These people started something called the Friends of 30th Street which is an association of all the people who were behind the scenes of the famous albums. They presented their first award to Don because he had made 30th Street what it was. It’s the location of many of these great pictures – pictures he took of artists not while they were recording but between takes and whatever. They gave him a beautiful award engraved in crystal and said that he had made 30th Street ‘live in memory’ because of his pictures. That was nice. A lot of people gathered for that. They came from all over to see him and it made me realise how much he was appreciated by all those people, how loyal they were to him. He had that knack with people, he’s just a nice, funny, smart guy.”"
     
  11. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    Location:
    The West
    Beautiful. Love reading this.

    dan c
     
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  12. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    Here's a few pics from that day:

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    L-R: Me, Don, DeeAnne, MMM.

    Funny, I thought MMM took a bunch of pictures with my camera but these aren't them. They must be in a different ilibrary. Since these are something like VGA size someone else must have taken them and sent them to me.

    Here is the award we gave to Frank Laico the same night via video hookup, which about drove me crazy (the video connection logistics) when I should have been happily in the moment in Manhattan:

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    Don's looked the same but had slightly different wording, I think. I only saw his the once at the presentation, as it was mailed to Battery Studios, where we had that gathering. I'm pretty sure I got a picture of Don's award, but don't seem to have it with me.

    When I saw what DeeAnne had said in that article, it made me feel pretty good. Actually, I'd like to keep giving these awards while there are still people to receive them, but don't want to completely underwrite them myself. I did some poor accounting to figure out what to charge people at the event and way underpriced it and wound up eating almost all the award costs IIRC.

    I sent DeeAnne a couple of pictures today of Don that were in the Plaut archives. The two of them (Don and Fred) went somewhere outside with flowers and took pictures of each other. There were two of Fred and about 6 of Don.

    I'll post them here after I know DeeAnne got them. It seems like she should be the first one to see them.
     
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  13. lukpac

    lukpac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    For my sake, I'm glad you did!

    Also, Dan, I think we now know who to turn to if we need an actor to play Howard Scott.

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  14. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    Yes, mr. hairist, I don't doubt that it was good for the few of you who participated, but it certainly was a problem and distraction for the only person who was putting the electronics and transmission together, along with the meeting and presentation.

    The guy on the Seattle end of it for Frank's presentation had a huge problem getting it together and only succeeded about two minutes before we went live.

    So all bald guys look the same to you, huh?

    Huff, huff, huff, huff.


    :cussing: :wantsome: :wantsome: :doh:


    PS I'm glad I did the video link, too, but don't want to do it again.

    PPS No, I'm not sensitive about losing my hair. It's been that way in varying degrees for a long time. And I don't have to look at it.

    PPPS I knew my barber was old, but didn't realize he cut Howard Scott's hair, too.
     
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  15. lukpac

    lukpac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I'm actually not kidding! I think the resemblance is uncanny.
     
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  16. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    Yeah, that's wishful thinking plus photographic misleading. Still, it's interesting to think that I'm way older in those pictures than Howard was at that time yet I look similar enough to be mistaken for him. :righton:

    That said, I found that library on a hard drive I brought on the trip, so here's Don's award:

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    It's lying on the floor so I could get a picture. It's the same as Frank's except for the name and wording of the one part.

    Here's some more pictures from the event:

    As mentioned earlier, we had Frank on the other end of the video connection at his place near Seattle, and our buddy Bob Smith took care of that end with a connection and camera, and I had a portable web camera (bought on the trip for this purpose) connected to the video on our end so Frank could see people:

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    The list of people in on the video call are listed on the right, while Frank is above with the people on his end and I'm on the bottom with the people on my end in the dark.

    We did pass the mic (going through a little mixer which I also bought on the trip for this purpose) and camera around so people could say hi to Frank and he could say hi back.

    This is Don's book editor, snappy dresser, and really interesting character Leo Sacks on the left talking, and Steve Epstein in the middle, with Vic Anesini half-visible on the right

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    Leo is holding the script to a really nice and thorough dedication and biography he read to Don just before we presented the award.

    Here's a nice shot of Al Q (Quaglieri) talking to Frank, with George Schowerer looking on. I bet you think Al looks just like Howard, too?

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    Hah!

    Finally, and I'll end this post with the picture, here's a delightful shot of Don with Chuck Granata, who we recently saw speaking as an expert in the George Martin PBS series "Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music":

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  17. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    Going through a picture file and found another version of that picture of Miles schooling Red:

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    This one said it was taken by Dennis Stock, so yours must have been by him, too, unless there were multiple photographers present, which wasn't unusual according to pictures I have.

    Although, looking up Dennis Stock, I can't find any pictures of him in the Plaut collection.

    Red must have loved it that there was a photographer documenting this.
     
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  18. crispi

    crispi Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin
    Thank you. Hadn't seen it before. And I was right: that is a fluegelhorn.
     
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  19. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
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  20. W.B.

    W.B. Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    Carney also recorded for Columbia for a few years beginning in 1954; I actually have a 45 of "Song Of The Sewer" (4-40242) and another single, "Santa And The Doodle-Li-Boop" (4-40400). This factor may explain being his being a frequent denizen of 30th Street. The MD (music director) of "Song Of The Sewer" was Sid Feller, many years before he worked with Ray Charles.

    I read somewhere a claim that Gleason recorded his "Melancholy Serenade" (Capitol [ F ]2361) at Columbia's studios, but if he didn't go to 30th, would he have done so at 799 Seventh before shopping the master to Capitol? As for Gleason's "bachelor swinger music," its formula was more of the type that would be adapted and updated by, of all people, Barry White (with a little help from arranger Gene Page) in the 1970's (and in instrumental form, as "The Love Unlimited Orchestra").
     
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  21. lukpac

    lukpac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    At the moment I'm not finding anything specific to Melancholy Serenade. This suggests the subsequent album was cut at Decca though:

    "As popular as he was at the time, Gleason could not find a record label that would invest in his idea. So he rented out a Decca studio and footed the expense himself. What came out of those sessions was the classic Music For Lovers Only. But even after the music was recorded, still no one wanted it. Decca, where he recorded the LP, couldn’t be bothered, but eventually Capital Records agreed to put it out, giving him a $1000 advance in return for the guarantee of some free publicity on his hit variety show."

    Podwit Profile: Jackie Gleason

    Not finding much more than that though.
     
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  22. W.B.

    W.B. Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    Turns out Our Host, on this post, hinted the original 1952-3 "Melancholy Serenade" was indeed recorded at Columbia, given his having done mastering on some Gleason stuff:
    That "different arrangement" stereo version was from his later LP Opiate D'Amour. But given the quote you cited, it would seem Decca had gotten their cold feet due to the massive failure, at the time, of his 1951 versions of "What Is A Boy?" / "What Is A Girl?" that, after he took off, would be reissued a hundred times over by that label. So it seems The Great One cut at two different studios for two different projects before Capitol snapped him up. And again, if he weren't at 30th Street, then Gleason had to have recorded the original "Melancholy Serenade" at 799 Seventh Avenue instead.
     
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  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Music Mastering Your Host

    Where at Columbia he recorded it, I don't know. I do know this: The Columbia matrix slate had giant reverb on it. That means a big room, right?
     
  24. W.B.

    W.B. Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    I.I.N.M., 799 Seventh did have a stairwell that provided the reverb . . . but also, in proximity that would have been closer to Gleason's then-digs at the Park Sheraton at 870 Seventh, than 30th Street . . .
     
  25. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Seattle, WA USA
    Loving the Art Carney/Jackie Gleason discussion. Here's an intricate picture of Ralph Kramden in situ, taken Saturday:

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    In other news:

    We're going to visit DeeAnne Hunstein on Wednesday for lunch and show her this thread and some pictures.

    If you want to pass along good wishes to her about Don this would be a good time to post it. Also, she mentioned that Rolling Stone has an obit, and here it is:

    Don Hunstein, 'Freewheelin' Bob Dylan' Photographer, Dead at 88
     
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