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

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

  1. yasujiro

    yasujiro Forum Resident

    Looks like a pair of M49 works in spaced omni setting for over all (the playback and the studio ambience) sound with a U47 as vocal mic for Rose.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
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  2. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Alas, Dan, those photos are at Studio A, not 30th Street. Note specifically the movable panels on the walls. Here's Dylan around the same period:


    I would date those photos to around 1962, although that's an educated guess.

    As far as overdubbing goes, assuming that's what they were doing, yes, there would be bleed, but bleed was certainly not a huge concern at the time. Even several years later for Company the overdub for The Ladies That Lunch was done with speakers instead of headphones.
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  3. ad180

    ad180 Forum Resident

    It appears to be a U67, not a U47.
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  4. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
  5. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    Nice catch on that pic of Rose, Brigitta, and Robert not being 30th St., Luke. I'm afraid I skimmed over where they were and was more concerned who they were and what they were doing. I'll try to do better....

    Regardless, if Brigitta was acting as a Producer in that picture, it seems to have not been released, nor anything else in which she performed that duty.

    I did find an announcement in Billboard that she was going to be a producer, but it wasn't till 1978.


    Fred was long gone from CBS by then, but if it was in 1978 it's easy to imagine him coming to take pics of his wife. Who knows?

    I've not been able to find anything else indicating that she actually produced anything.
  6. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    Here's another one. I've been looking for things that might be interesting to post here, and found this page that Michael Gray sent some time ago.


    It's titled "30th St. Night Shift Schedule for Control Engineers", as you can see, and runs from June till the end of December. No indicator of what year, although there is one or two things that will give us an idea.

    First, there's only three different sets of initials on it: FL, FP, and HC. It's easy to assume that FL and FP are Frank Laico and Fred Plaut. I assume that HC is Harold Chapman, before he left to run the Hollywood studio. Any ideas when that was? Early '60's?

    And looking through my Columbia/CBS people spreadsheet (which is now up to 367 names!), the only people with initials HC were:

    Howard Chinn, Head of Audio Engineering sometime early on;
    Hugh Conway, Mastering Engineer in the 50's but unlikely to be doing jobs that Frank and Fred did (same with Howard Chinn);
    Hal Cook in Sales at some point, also unlikely;
    Henry Cosby, Producer, also unlikely;
    and that's it.

    The only other thing is if those dates line up with something, but I don't know how to approach that except completely randomly looking at calendars.
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  7. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    Forgot to note that IF this is before the early '60's, they were already routinely calling them "Control Engineers" and not "Control Men", the term that Howard Scott said in the Glenn Gould On The Record film and which Frank Laico used when we talked.

    That seems interesting.
  8. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    I can't speak for everyone else, but I'm all for any studio photos from Plaut, regardless of if they were at 30th Street or elsewhere.

    As far as Vera Zorina/Brigitta Lieberson goes, however, there's no question those photos are from the early '60s, not the late '70s. Besides the fact that some visual changes were seen in Studio A in the mid-'60s compared to those photos, 799 Seventh Ave was vacated by Columbia in 1966.

    She did narrate a piece done at Manhattan Center in 1961; is it possible her narration was overdubbed in the studio? If not, presumably it was something similar.

    New York Philharmonic

    I'd say it's extremely likely HC is Harold Chapman. Hollywood was under construction in the spring of 1960, and offhand I think it was in operation by some point in 1961. So he presumably went to Hollywood somewhere in there.

    It's not clear if those dates were Sunday to Saturday or something else. If they were Sunday to Saturday, it could be 1951, 1956, or 1962. My hunch would be 1956, but who knows. And if they refer to other days of the week, who knows.
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  9. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    My guess is they'd be Monday-Sunday, since they'd have to be at work to see the schedule's first day and know they're it.

    There was a similar thing with late night scheduling for specific times. Even though it's technically a new day after midnight, midnight-starting sessions were always part of the previous calendar day so the crew could know they are working "later tonight" and stay up late rather than being "surprised" when a session is on tomorrow's calendar and they see it when arriving for work the next day, thus missing that session.

    Did that make any sense?
  10. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Then we’d be looking at 1957.
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  11. vanhooserd

    vanhooserd Forum Resident

    Fascinating to me as well.
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  12. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    I've been going through more of Al Q's voluminous Flickr photos, and just found this one:


    He says it's from the 1980 book "The Team Behind Your Favorite Record" by Virginia Phelps Clemens, which has lots of studio photos but apparently only this one from Columbia.

    Frank Laico on the right.

    It must be in the late '70's; anybody recognize the producer?
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  13. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    Note that I edited Frank's name into the post above.

    Writing a few posts above about the Columbia employee spreadsheet that I've been working on reminded me that I haven't been working on it, and Al Q had lots more pics of Columbia people (not just 30th St people), so I've been gathering their photos and descriptions instead of posting here.

    There's at least 70 people to add to the spreadsheet, now. I've decided that limiting it to the recording people does not do justice to the people who were also necessary to get the music to the point we can listen to it. So the floodgates are open to get more of a picture of this huge company as it evolved over the years. (I don't think I'll feel obligated to somehow replicate the entire company, since that would be a hugely impossible task.)
  14. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Another from the same session:


    And Frank's arm:


    And in the background:


    No Frank, but shots of the studio and control room:


    It seems like it must be Studio B at 49 E 52nd Street, but I'm not 100% certain.
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  15. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Bit from Don Puluse here:

    "Also, 30th Street has its own story; that’s got its own history. CBS found this old church
    and went in, had so much success that they said, “That sound cannot be changed; don’t
    even clean the floors.” When I worked there I had to wear my junk clothes, because just
    rolling cables would get you filthy. We had draperies that could be placed around, but
    nothing was done to the structure at all.

    I did Chicago, “Color My World,” at 30th Street. I did a lot of live stuff there; we used
    to do the King Biscuit Flour Hour. Also at 30th Street, I did Laura Nero, “I Am The
    Blues.” It’s a great studio and not easy to deal with, especially using contemporary
    techniques where you’re multi-miking. It’s okay to set up a string section, put up a cou-
    ple of mics, and get a good-sounding string section. But even at that, you had to turn off
    the HVAC when you were recording anything that was at all sensitive. I did some
    recording with Glenn Gould in that studio, where you can hear his squeaky piano
    bench, the chair his father used, I guess. You can hear in almost every recording an
    occasional squeak from that seat. And all the Broadway shows—I did a few of those
    there. It was great space for that."

    https://pearl-hifi.com/06_Lit_Archi...y of Legendary_Engineers_and_Vintage_Gear.pdf

    And some more. This from Steve Epstein:

    "Columbia basically had remote kits, and they consisted mostly of the AKG C 12s. I
    think we had 30 or 40 of them; we had virgin capsules that were never used. It was
    unbelievable. By the way, when Columbia, in the late ’80s, sold their remote kit, they
    put their mics on sale, and two people I know got most of the mics. You know how
    much they sold each of those C 12s for? Twenty-five dollars. When I tell people this,
    they’re amazed—yeah, I could retire on that. So anyway, they had the C 12s, and we
    were using 67s and 87s for microphones. But at that time, in 1973/74/75, the recording
    console was homebrewed, built on the eighth floor of 49 East 52nd Street, and prior to
    that, 799 7th Avenue. So, the consoles had rotary pots.

    30th Street Studio, where I did a lot of recordings back in the ’70s, The Church—that
    was a sacred territory as far as I’m concerned. Then, some jerk at CBS decided to sell
    and make a quick buck. It was incredible real estate, let alone anything else, but they
    tore it down. A tragedy. Nevertheless, the main console in that room—until the very
    end, when they got an MCI board—was a home-built rotary pot console from Colum-
    bia Records. Eric Porterfield—he was the guy, he was the brains behind that. Frank
    Laico did a bunch of recordings there, pop stuff mostly.

    We had Ampex 8-tracks there, dinosaurs, clunky machines. Sixteen-track MM-1000,
    2-inch tape, and of course the 1/4-inch machines. Mostly Ampex 440s. Prior to that,
    they had the 300 series. So that’s the production end of things. Post-production, we had
    Pultecs all over the place. We also had Tube-Techs. Pultecs had this wonderful tube
    sound, a broad pattern. We were using some Fairchild equipment. I was introduced
    to the early parametric equalizers. There was a company called SAE, which made a
    parametric. There was a company called Orban, which was the next one. We were
    using all of that stuff, and then George Massenburg came out with his parametric,
    and so we were using that a lot. And the EMT plates—we had like 20 EMT plates in
    this room. Could you imagine those gigantic plates? Some of them were kept up; some
    of them weren’t. They had to be tuned, but they weren’t always. There were remotes—
    the plates were kept in this room downstairs, and there were remotes for some of them,
    a remote to adjust the decay with a little meter. This is bringing back memories.

    When I started, all the post-production was done at 49 East 52nd Street on the fourth
    floor. All of the editing and mixdown rooms were there. The speakers we used were
    KLH 6s, believe it or not. We were blowing tweeters every other day. And they were
    atop the old Altec Lansing H7s, which were the most piercing, horrible-sounding speak-
    ers, which we never used for classical, but they were these big pieces of furniture that
    we’d put the KLH 6 on. So we used the KLH 6s, which was actually pretty good for me
    because I was using AR3as at home. I was an AR3a person.
    I remember Buddy Graham; he was one of the greatest engineers of all time. He started
    off as a mail boy in 1945. Does Fred Plaut ring a bell? He was the de facto engineer back
    then, the classical guy—Broadway shows and everything—but he was a great photog-
    rapher as well. He was spending more and more time taking pictures at the sessions, and
    George Szell, who was a tough conductor, started getting a little bit annoyed with Fred
    focusing more on his picture-taking than his engineering. This was the Cleveland
    Orchestra, and Fred was a great engineer. So, Buddy was Fred’s assistant, running
    the tapes at that time, and George Szell asked Buddy if he would engineer, and
    Buddy did. Everything worked out fine—there was no antipathy between everyone,
    but Buddy’s first recording was Beethoven’s 9th with the Cleveland Orchestra. A gigan-
    tic piece like that, 3-track is probably what they did...

    So when I started working, Buddy had been working since something like 1960 as an
    actual recording engineer, and I worked with him when I started in 1973 all the way
    through his retirement in about ’91. He subsequently passed away, but I remember two
    crucial moments in my career as a producer.

    We always used the multi C 12 pickup for a live orchestra. We couldn’t use C 12s on
    30th Street because of the RF—it’s near the Empire State Building—so we ended up
    using 87s or 67s there. Anyway, so we’re doing an orchestra, and we went from the
    old C 12s to three 414s. So we went from all of the C12s—each microphone being its
    own entity in the sound picture and ambience—to using the 414s, a curtain of three
    414s and 84s for the string spots and for other spots as well. Maybe 87s/67s for the
    brass horns, and then it just wasn’t making it, the sound wasn’t working out. So we said,
    “Should we dare put the 414s in omni?” We never would think of doing that. So we
    ended up doing it, and it actually sounded a lot better. I was doing it not so long ago,
    and it still doesn’t sound that good, frankly, but nevertheless it was an improvement,
    and that was breaking a big tradition that was going on at Columbia Records back then,
    using omnis instead of cardioids.

    Eventually, Buddy and I went to do a recording in Vienna—Mahler’s 4th Symphony, the
    Vienna Philharmonic. And we wanted to go with a tree. We’d never used a tree before,
    but we decided, “Let’s use it.” We used the Schoeps for that first recording—Schoeps
    MP2 capsules and outriggers—and we started balancing the first time we worked there,
    and it was sounding terrible. So we moved the mics—with a tree it’s up or down, basi-
    cally—we moved them up and down, and it still wasn’t sounding good. I said, “We’re
    screwed. We’re not getting the sound, and this is the last time we’re going to be here,
    most likely.” So, we’re trying to figure out what to do, and as we’re thinking, the
    orchestra’s playing and warming up, and I’m thinking “Oh, that doesn’t sound that
    bad.” And at that point, I realized you shouldn’t jump to any conclusions until you
    hear an orchestra or performing ensemble that has warmed up for at least eight or ten
    minutes. Sometimes you don’t have that luxury. Most of the time you have to get bal-
    anced as the orchestra is warming up. But the thing is, even if an orchestra or an ensem-
    ble plays in one venue for their whole lives, there’s still time that it takes for the sound
    to become burnished. And then we maybe make one modification, and we get a great
    sound, and we’re all pretty happy with that. And what I’m using now is either tree
    configuration, depending on the acoustics of the hall, or only two microphones or a
    curtain of three mics, or omni-directionals. There are spots, always spots, but we try as
    a challenge not to ever resort—or rarely resort—to the spots in the mix. The only way
    we can do this is, the union rules now allow us to balance at rehearsals, and if the
    rehearsal is going to be in the same venue as the recording session, as long as you
    don’t roll tape, you can hone and refine with your microphones to get the optimum

    Alas, his recollection about the consoles is incorrect.

    Jim Reeves:

    "I loved working in the Church on 30th Street. One of the stories with the Church was,
    we recorded Bobby Vinton at Studio B on 52nd Street. But somehow we ended up at
    the Church to overdub the vocals on this one song, “Just a Little Loving Early in the
    Morning”—a Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil song, beautiful song. And I’d been out to Bobby’s
    house several times. He was really gracious, and he would stop parties with Alan Klein
    and Cousin Brucie and people like that and say, “This is my engineer! He’s more of a
    producer than my producer!” It was really great. He had a beautiful jukebox in the
    basement, and he had lots of babies—he had a lot of children. He was very Catholic,
    and his wife was very lovely. So here we are at the Church to do vocals for this thing.
    And he started singing “Just a Little Loving Early in the Morning,” and he just did
    not sound like he was interested in any loving at all! He was kind of mumbling, and
    I said, “Bob .. .” I said, “Do you drink?” And he said, “Well, a little bit.” I said, “How
    about. ..,” and he said, “Well, I got a little Dubonnet in my trunk in my car.” So we
    went outside, and we climbed over all these cars packed into this parking lot and got out
    the bottle of Dubonnet. We started walking back, and I said, “Wait a minute—go
    ahead. I’ll meet you back at the studio.” And I ran off to the newsstand at the corner
    and bought a Playboy magazine. Came back to the studio, had a couple of drinks of
    Dubonnet. I took the centerfold and taped it to the back of the Neumann. And that’s
    how we did the lead vocal to “Just a Little Loving Early in the Morning.” And I have to
    say, it was a better performance than we were getting before."

    There's more Columbia stuff there as well, but that seemed to be everything with 30th Street.
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  16. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    We now have the first page of that July 1979 Studio Sound article about Columbia studios!


    !!! Isn't that cool?!!!!

    Lots of good discussion info in it. And I quoted Luke to show that he was right about Malcolm Addey being the author.

    40 EMT plates!!!!

    And I have to tell you how we now have it.

    My buddy Gary Louie, who has posted here, asked our friend and noted packrat Rick Chinn if he had it. Rick looked and couldn't find it, so he asked Mastering Engineer Goran Finberg in Sweden if he did. Goran found it and scanned it for us! And he confirmed there is no editorial content on page 43, so now this is apparently the only online location in the world to have the entire article.
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  17. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    That sounds like a lot, but when you have 2 studios and 13 remix rooms, it's not all that many...less than 3 per room.

    Also note the information about G, the old radio studio.
  18. vanhooserd

    vanhooserd Forum Resident

    I found the beginning confusing. He's talking about 'Black Rock' and how CBS Radio space there was converted to CBS Recording Studios. Or is he talking about the 49 East 52nd St. building, which also housed CBS Radio at one time?
  19. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    It seems like the writing is a bit mixed up, but 49 East 52nd Street had previously been the home to the radio studios and was converted to recording studios.

    As a tangent, one wonders what the fate of 30th Street would have been if CBS had already sold Columbia to Sony.
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  20. vanhooserd

    vanhooserd Forum Resident

    Maybe those music-loving folks at Sony would have held on to it? I know this is wandering off-topic, but were there ever Columbia Recording Studios in Black Rock?
  21. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    I've only heard of it being offices, although there was a pretty decent restaurant on the ground floor IIRC. My wife and I had a memorable and enjoyable dinner there during an AES convention with the heads of Bag End speakers.
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  22. GLouie

    GLouie Well-Known Member

    At least Addey's estimate of 30th St's size is more accurate ("100ft by 50ft"). 100ft cubed is no longer mentioned. I think we came up with about 96 x 57 with the old control room gone. Interesting if Abbey Road has 2X the height.
    DMortensen likes this.
  23. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    It appears Studio One is 40' high. We know 30th Street was 47' to the peak of the ceiling, so even though the ceiling sloped to the walls, it's odd that he stated Studio One had "probably twice the height".
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  24. DMortensen

    DMortensen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Seattle, WA USA
    In other news, as a result of my presentation on 30th St at the last NYC AES Convention, combined with my eagerness to see the revival of the Historical Track (series of presentations based around a theme, in this case, Audio History), I am now Chair (of a committee of one) of the Historical Track and will in the next couple months be planning for a series of presentations by various presently-unknown people at the Convention in October.

    At this point, the only two for-sure presentations are one by Tom Fine on the Commercialization of Stereophonic Sound, and a slight revision/expansion/editing of my 30th St one.

    Suggestions are welcome!
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  25. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    Fabulous - congrats, Dan!

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