Tag Archives: November Music et al

Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

From Instagram. Rudyvangelderstudio. “Before acquiring the famous Scully lathe, Rudy Van Gelder used a Fairchild 523 lathe for mastering.”
November 2, 1924 – August 25, 2016

 Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

The genesis for this site began with a request. I was training to be a docent at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and the group leader asked if anyone was interested in doing a presentation on protest music of the 1960s.

Hubris overflowing, I confidently volunteered. 

As I began to gather information, I quickly found myself spiraling down the proverbial rabbit hole. Not only did I “discover” that protest music had been around long before the 60s, but that it was still around.

The next thing I discovered was that to understand protest music, we have to place it in context. What were times in which the artist wrote the lyrics?

Soon, that expansion led to another realization: that as traditional as  protest music was, other art forms also have had their revolutions.

 Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

Rudy Van Gelder

According to Steve Huey’s bio of Rudy Van Gelder at the All Music site, “Rudy Van Gelder was, quite simply, the greatest recording engineer in jazz history. He was responsible for just about every session on the Blue Note label from 1953 to 1967 (among thousands of others), encompassing some of jazz’s most groundbreaking and enduring classics.”

 Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

Hackensack, NJ

 Recording Engineer Rudy Van GelderLiving in northern NJ, I was surprised to find that part of that musical revolution happened in my own backyard.

During the counter-cultural decade, jazz musicians were also experimenting with their music and that experimentation coincided with technological advances to record with a quality theretofore unavailable.

Rudy Van Gelder was born on November 2, 1924 in Jersey City.  He trained as an optometrist, but always loved sound and as a youth had developed an interest in microphones and electronics. 

Here’s an Instagram screen-grab of a post by rudyvangelerstudio:

While he was still a practicing optometrist his parents built a home in Hackensack, NJ. He asked if their plans could include a recording studio.

They said yes and he recorded there until the completion of Van Gelder Studios in nearby Englewood Cliffs in July 1959. There were over 367 recording sessions in Hackensack alone.

 Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder


Van Gelder was extremely attentive to the recording process. Some might said to a fault.  And jazz was his domain. According to a 2012 article in JazzWax by Benny Goldson, “Rudy’s many accomplishments and contributions include inventing techniques for capturing sound naturally in an age when most recording equipment wasn’t up to the job, the creative placement of microphones, the early use of magnetic recording tape, a recording process that wasn’t easily duplicated by other engineers, and turning his name into a brand that has been synonymous with jazz itself ever since.”

And Van Gelder’s answer to Goldson’s first question may be all we need to know: “Some people think I’m a producer. I’m not. I’m a recording engineer. I don’t hire the musicians nor do I come up with concepts for albums or how well musicians are playing. I’m there to capture the music at the time it’s being created. This requires me to concentrate on the technical aspects of the recordings, which means the equipment and how the finished product is going to sound.”

 Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

Englewood Cliffs, NJ

 Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

After those years of part-time recording in Hackensack, Van Gelder decided to become a full time audio engineer in 1959. He constructed the now famous Van Gelder Studios (also his home):  445 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

The Usonian movement in architecture inspired Van Gelder’s vision of the studio. Both utilitarian (simple building materials) and affordable (keep in mind that Van Gelder was still a practicing optometrist to make ends meet). Frank Lloyd Wright was a proponent of the Usonian approach and Van Gelder found David Henken, also a proponent of the vision, to design the building. 

Van Gelder, in his way, described it simply as, “The five walls allow the sound to move up into the rafters and back down without being trapped or muffled.”

In 2001, Ira Gitler wrote in a Jazz Time article: I opened my notes to The Space Book by Booker Ervin with: In the high-domed, wooden-beamed, brick-tiled, spare modernity of Rudy Van Gelder’s studio, one can get a feeling akin to religion.” Rudy didn’t say anything at the time bot in 2000 he straightened me out.  “The wooden beams are in the roof,” he explained, “and the walls are not tiles but masonry.” Duly noted, but “it remains a non-sectarian non-organized religion temple of music in which the sound and the spirit can seemingly soar unimpeded.”

Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

Perform, don’t touch

Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder
photo by Douglas Raddick

Van Gelder was fastidious in his approach–only he could touch equipment; he always wore gloves when touching equipment; he set up mics; no food; no smoking.

He rarely spoke specifically about the various techniques he learned to get “his sound.”

To musicians, not generally known for being fastidiousness, Van Gelder’s approach  might sound too Puritan, a recipe for failure, but they, loved the Van Gelder sound and flocked to Englewood Cliffs.

Between the studio’s opening on July 20, 1959 to its closing on February 28, 2011, Van Gelder had over 1300 recording sessions.

He also was always looking for audio advances. While he may have started with aluminum lacquer-coated discs that were then reproduced on 78-rpm singles, he was one of the first audio engineers to switch to recording tape because of its flexibility and lower cost.

Today’s audiophiles might be shocked (and disappointed) to hear that in 1989 he went digital. Why? 

If you just listen once to what it can do within my environment here, you would never want to record analogue again – and I didn’t,” he said to the trade press at the time. (Telegraph article)

Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

Credits Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

One can only imagine the months of music Rudy Van Gelder recorded and left behind. If All Music’s credit list is complete, then it is an astounding legacy. 

Some would say that of the thousands of hours, you only need to listen to one album: John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

When asked, Van Gelder said, “The most momentous recording of the 1960s for me was John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. It was hypnotic. It was exciting. It was different.

Yet it took nearly 40 years for him to realize that. “I came to that realization only when I remastered the album for its digital reissue in 2002. You have to understand, I was busy making sure that the work was recorded perfectly. It wasn’t until I was working on updating the original master that I listened intently to the music.”

Rudy Van Gelder died on August 25, 2016 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. He died in his home–down the hall from his studio. (NPR obituary)

Recording Engineer Rudy Van Gelder

November 1 Music et al

November 1 Music et al

Technological Milestone

November 1, 1954: jointly produced by Texas Instruments and TV accessory manufacturer IDEA (Industrial Development Engineering Associates) Corp, the TR-1 was the first consumer device to employ transistors went on sale at a price of $49.95 (less battery). One year after the release of the TR-1, sales approached the 100,000 mark.

Measuring 5×3×1.25 inches and weighing 12.5 ounces, the Regency TR-1 was designed to receive AM broadcasts only. It kicked off a worldwide demand for small and portable electronic products. (see Dec 23)

November 1 Music et al


November 1 Music et al
Allen Ginsberg, far left, reading in San Francisco on Nov. 20, 1955, and center center, in NYC’s Washington Square Park on Aug. 28, 1966.

November 1, 1956, Lawrence Ferlinghetti published Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. (see Howl judgement for more)

November 1 Music et al

Beatles in trouble

November 1, 1960: furious that The Beatles had made a verbal agreement to play at rival Peter Eckhorn’s Top Ten Club, Kaiserkeller owner Bruno Koschmider terminated their contract. Despite this, they continued to perform at the club for another three weeks. An additonal reason why Koschmider wanted them out: at 17 years of age, George Harrison was too young to be working in the club. Eckhorn’s statement read: I the undersigned hereby give notice to Mr George Harrison and to Beatles’ Band to leave [the Club] on November 30th, 1960. The notice is given to the above by order of the Public Authorities who have discovered that Mr George Harrison is only 17 (seventeen) years of age. (see Nov 20)

November 1 Music et al

News Music/Bob Marley

November 1, 1964: Bob Marley’s Wailers’s first single, ‘Simmer Down‘, reached Number 1 in Jamaica’s JBC Radio Chart.

November 1 Music et al
News Music/Buffy Sainte-Marie

In 1964 Buffy Sainte-Marie’s first album released. It’s My Way (see Dec 22)

November 1 Music et al

“Wild Thing”

November 1, 1965, Jordan Christopher & The Wild Ones release “Wild Thing.”  Written by Chip Taylor (born James Wesley Voight, brother of actor Jon Voight; uncle, therefore, of Angelina Jolie).  (see July 25, 1966)

“Wonderwall Music”

November 1, 1968: George Harrison became the first member of The Beatles to release a solo project, an LP called “Wonderwall Music.”

Paul McCartney’s January 1967 The Family Way soundtrack recording is sometimes considered to be the first Beatles solo album, but most critics consider Wonderwall Music to be the first, because it was released under George Harrison’s name while The Family Way was credited to George Martin.

The songs, recorded in December 1967 in England, and January 1968 in Bombay, India were virtually all instrumental, except for some non-English vocals and a slowed-down spoken word track. “Wonderwall Music” is notable for being the first official LP release on Apple Records. (see Wonderwall for expanded story; next Beatles, see Nov 8)

Abbey Road

November 1 – December 26, 1969: Abbey Road  the Billboard #1 Album. The Beatles’ Let It Be album will be released on May 8, 1970 and be the Billboard #1 album from June 13 – July 10, 1970. Let It Be was actually recorded in before Abbey Road in February 1968, January – February 1969. Since most of Let It Be was recorded in January 1969, before the recording and release of the  album Abbey Road, some critics argue that Abbey Road should be considered the group’s final album and Let It Be the penultimate. (see November 26)

Elvis Presley

November 1 – 7, 1969: after seven years off the top of the charts, Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” is #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It will be his last #1 during his lifetime. (see December 21, 1971)

November 1 Music et al

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

In late 1966, Verve Records released Richie Haven’s Mixed Bag.

Now it was the autumn of 1967. New York City’s WNEW-FM was evolving.  I was discovering the difference between the little records with little holes and the big records with little holes and also discovering ‘NEW.

It had become a daily part of my listening life.

Among the many new artists I heard was Richie Havens. Not rock, but a different folk, if that was it. I bought Mixed Bag on November 1, 1967. I know that because in my compulsive way of documenting things, I always put the date of purchase on my albums.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag


I suppose the first thing I noticed was his voice. Deep, sincere, and somehow personal. My stereo system was not that. It was a record player that did best with ’45s despite my figuring out how to hook up a couple of external speakers (set inside purloined wooden milk crates).

I delivered the afternoon paper to a young couple and that fall they asked me if I’d like to babysit. They promised all I’d have to do was sit  since the baby would be asleep by the time I arrived.

They also offered the use of their actual and very nice stereo system.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag


So an evening a week I’d walk down the block with a text book and Mixed Bag under my arm. Chips were on their kitchen table, sodas in the ‘fridge, a dial phone on the wall, and that stereo system in the living room

I was hooked on all, but will admit that I spent more time with the soda, chips, phone, and system than the text.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

High Flyin’ Bird

In my chronic full-fevered teenage angst was the feeling that the world was against me. When I heard Richie sing that he had those sit-down-can–can’t-cry-Oh-Lord-gonna-die-blues, I knew what he meant.

Of course, this white privileged suburban kid had no idea what he meant–but rectitude trumped reality.

And hearing Richie say that he couldn’t make it anymore added to my sophomoric certainty.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

Morning, Morning

My preferred musical pigeon hole was rock and roll, but I was also in love with Joyce Capone and our phone calls were filled with sincere sentimentalities.

My English teachers had taught me to look beyond the text and see meanings in structure and symbolism. Listening to “Morning, Morning”  I discovered how the song’s lyrics brought me from that morning to the late night when:

Starshine, starshine 
Chills the moon upon my cheek 
Starshine, starshine 
Darling kiss me as I leave

Darling kiss me as I leave? When please!

Richie Havens Mixed Bag


Surprisingly, this lifetime Catholic school kid didn’t get Adam. This kid thought it was just some guy Adam having a hard time. Progress is not continuous.

As for “Follow” I’m not sure I understood it any more than Adam, but the melody’s beauty mesmerized me. The song is a great example for the album’s title of Mixed Bag. 

The musicians (and my my my what great musicians they are–see below), are all there. No one is hidden, but no one stars. Richie’s voice could have done the job solo–remember he did grow up doing doo-wop on Brooklyn street corners.

Such beauty throughout.

Let the river rock you like a cradle
Climb to the treetops, child, if you’re able
Let your hands tie a knot across the table.
Come and touch the things you cannot feel.

Then don’t mind me ‘cos I ain’t nothin’ but a dream.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

33s not 45s

Follow  completed Side 1. Those were the days of sides and album-listeners knew each side’s progress. We knew when to sit, when to flip.

Lingering in the mood of Follow, I’d make that phone call.

Three Day Eternity opened Side 2. Richie’s voice continued to caress and with that phone call just ended I listened, “As we both walk and we laugh.”

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

Sandy > Handsome Johnny

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

I liked singing along to Sandy.  I knew no Sandy and I had no voice, but I imagined I could harmonize with Richie.

I didn’t know who Danny Glover was. I did know that I was beginning to think the Vietnam War was a mistake and using that aforementioned realization of structure, realized while listening to Richie and Danny’s composition that American wars were not individual occurrences, but a pattern. A seemingly conscious pattern on the part of leaders.

And I was always embarrassed to find myself not listening at exactly the time that Richie said I wasn’t.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

San Francisco Bay Blues

I was unfamiliar with jazz. I had no idea that the Vatican of jazz–Van Gelder Studios–was only four miles away and that I’d passed the Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced building dozen of times.

San Francisco Bay Blues was one of my first jazz songs–in the sense that while I’d likely heard jazz before, those songs hadn’t been part of my listening. Someone else was listening and I was a bystander.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

Good artists copy; great artists steal

I’d have to say that Richie Havens neither copied nor stole. Of course on Mixed Bag the last two songs, Just Like a Woman and Elenor Rigby are someone else’s, just as six of the previous eight songs were.

Somehow, though, Richie’s Havens-ness transformed songs, metamorphosed them to something new (ironically the title of his second album).

To listen to Richie do Dylan’s Just Like a Woman or McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby  is to discover beauty anew.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag


Besides Dylan and McCartney, who else inspired Richie Havens?

  • Billy Edd Wheeler composed High Flyin’ Bird.  Wikipedia says Of the many songs he wrote, perhaps songs  “Jackson”  — a Grammy award winner for Johnny Cash and June Carter — is his best know.  that more than 160 artists have covered his songs.
  • Gorden Lightfoot composed I Can’t Make It Anymore.  If you know the music of the 60s and 70s, Lightfoot’s name is well-known. His hits include: “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970), “Sundown” (1974); “Carefree Highway” (1974), “Rainy Day People” (1975), and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976).
  • Tuli Kepferberg wrote “Morning, Morning.” While Tuli may not be as well-known a name, his band, The Fugs, is. It is said that Tuli’s jump from the Manhattan Bridge inspired Alan Ginsbert’s Howl character who ““who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer.”
  • Jerry Merrick wrote Follow. His name is not as well-known, because along the way Merrick decided to emphasize family over music and according to his , “sequestered in his remote Florida retreat where he and his wofe of 35 years devoted themselves to raising three daughters and as son” . Having said that, others as well known as Havens have covered his songs. Others such as Jerry Jeff Walked, Kenny Rankin, and B J Thomas.
  • Jean Pierre Cousineau wrote Sandy.  I cannot find much about Cousineau. He may have been Canadian only recently died on May 19, 2018.  He may also have been a cinematographer for the 1989 movie The Tell Tale Heart.
Richie Havens Mixed Bag
Jesse Fuller with his fotdella

Finally, Jesse Fuller wrote San Francisco Bay Blues. It is his best-known song. He was already 70 when Haven’s recorded it in 1966. He performed as a one-man band and invented the fotdella–a foot-operated string bass musical instrument–to help his street performances.

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

Session musicians

Richie Havens Mixed Bag

For those of us who grew up staring at both sides of an album’s cardboard cover, the musicians who backed Haven’s on Mixed Bag are familiar ones.

Paul Harris was a keyboardist on many 1960s, 70s, and 80s albums including some by  Stephen Stills, B. B. King, Judy Collins, Al Kooper,  Eric Andersen, Rick Derringer, Nick Drake, John Sebastian, John Mellencamp, Joe Walsh, Seals & Crofts, Bob Seger and Dan Fogelberg.

In the 1970s he was a member of Stephen Stills’ band Manassas and later the Souther Hillman Furay Band. [AllMusic credit listing]

Harvey Brooks is an equally present bassist during that time.  Bruce Eder in AllMusic states: New York-born musician Harvey Brooks has played on enough seminal recordings for any three careers, and, apart from being one of the more renowned bass players in popular music and jazz over the last four decades of the 20th century, was also folk-rock’s first electric bass player of any major note. 

You’ll need a comfortable chair to peruse his credit list.

Born in Paterson, NJ, Bill LaVorgna on drums has an impressive credit list as well.  He became best know as the musical director for Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli.  He died on July 31, 2007.

Howard Collins was another lifetime sessions musician whose path crossed many artists and places. He died on July 10, 2015.

Joe Price only played on one song (Adamcredit list) and I cannot find very much about his life other than AllMusic’s .  Thank you AGAIN All Music.

Though Paul ‘Dino’ Williams only played on one song (Follow), he had a long relationship playing alongside Richie for years, including on the stage at Woodstock.

Finally, I have to point out two other names. Felix Pappalardi and Bruce Langhorne.

Pappalardi is the better-known name because of his association with Cream and Mountain, but the musician Langhorne–Mr Tambourine Man–is a jewel awaiting discovery. Please do so!

And listen to Mixed Bag today!

Richie Havens Mixed Bag