Friday, 29 August 2014

The Man Who Impacted The King of Pop (Part 3)

Recording Engineer Extraordinaire over Four Decades

A career that has impacted Jazz, Pop,Blue, R&B and Soul to the Signature Sound of Michael Jackson.

 Bruce also collaborated with another person who gave creative support to Calvin in the early years. This was Al Smith, the leader of the house band at VeeJay from 1954 to 1959. Al was responsible for rehearsing and preparing VeeJay acts for recording sessions; on many occasions he held rehearsals at his home. Under the leadership of bassist Al Smith a powerful and dynamic studio band was established in 1954 which created many of the early hits, such as “At My Front Door” by The El Dorados, released in1955, which made it to R&B and Soul number 2 on the Billboard chart single listing. This single became the first entry into the national Pop charts for the label.

The rhythm section usually had a main core consisting of veteran Chicago musician Quinn B. Wilson (bass), William “Lefty”Bates (guitar), with Paul Gusman, Vernel Fournier, and Alrock “Al” Duncan sharing drum duties. The piano parts were mainly handled by Horace Palm and Norman Simmons, with James “Red” Hollway playing the tenor saxophone and McKinley “Mac” Easton on baritone saxophone. Al and his musicians participated on approximately one fifth of the recordings released by VeeJay from 1954 to 1959. The recordings were always conducted at the Universal Studios on Chicago North Side.

The studio band did between three and six sessions in a day. Al Smith and his band were so excellent that several other local labels hired them to improve the quality of their recordings, including labels such as Chance, Parrot and United/States. These are now-defunct labels that once operated in Chicago during the 1950s.

Carl Davis. The master mind behind Brunswick Records
great successes during the 1960s and 1970s
Bruce Swedien was the main recording engineer on most of the singles and albums released by Brunswick Records. With the talents of Bruce Swedien as engineer and Carl Davis as producer, with arrangers and producers Willie Henderson, Sonny Sanders and Tom Tom Washington, Brunswick Records sold millions of records between the late nineteen sixties and the early nineteen seventies. In the late ’60s, Swedien became a freelance recording engineer so that he could do more album projects and work on film soundtracks. It was in this way that he began working for producer Carl Davis, head of the Chicago branch of New York-based Brunswick Records. While there he engineered hits by The Lost Generation (“Sly, Slick & the Wicked,” a number 14 R&B hit in the summer of 1970 which features some startling pre-sampling effects),The Chi-Lites (“Have You Seen Her,” number one R&B and Soul  for two weeks, number three pop, late 1971; “Oh Girl,” number one R&Band Soul and also  two weeks, at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles Chart (Pop Singles Chart) , summer 1972; “A Letter to Myself,” number three R&B and Soul , early 1973; “Stoned out of Mind,” number two R&B and Soul  summer 1973), All the remaining hits were listed on Billboard Singles Chart listings. Swedien had great success while conducting sound engineer for Jackie Wilson,Barbara Acklin , and other Brunswick acts.

                                   Researched and compiled by               
                                   Mr K Tomlin Music Historian                   
                                  ©RCM Music/Signaturesoundsonline2013-2014

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About Me

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Old Harlow, Essex, United Kingdom
Kevin Tomlin has over 34 years of teaching experience in Jamaica, England and America, including 15 years teaching music history of black origin and visual art in South Florida, U.S.A., through Arts in Education. Tomlin created special training programmes and workshops for music teachers in South Florida schools, using music history as the foundation, to build exciting programmes of study and support materials for education professionals. Since 2000, he’s taught music history, geography, religious education, history, visual arts and performing arts at schools in Hertfordshire and Essex, at both primary and secondary levels. He conducts research and provides consultancy services for multi-media organisations, schools, recording artists, cultural and faith-based groups and entertainment professionals.

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