|Radio recorders and AFRS during WWII
By Ivan Saddler
It was 1942, I think. I was attending
Specialists School at what was then known as Cal Aggie.
The school now called UC Davis had been converted to a Signal Corps
training center. We were
being trained to repair the then in use radios and other electronic
equipment.. One day we
received an announcement that a new organization was being formed in the
Los Angeles area and needed people who in civilian life had been occupied
in the radio broadcasting industry. That
caught my eye because that is what I was doing before volunteering.
Soon I was on my way to Hollywood.
The outfit being organized was to be known as Armed Forces Radio
Service. The outfit was
located at Sunset and Western Avenues. The place was known as Fox Studios. and yes, movies were still being made there.
It was also headquarters of the Army First Motion Picture Unit
under the direction of Frank Capra. AFRS
was being headed by a former advertising executive named Col. Thomas H. A.
Lewis. He was also Loretta Young’s husband.
It soon became evident that ours was a
waiting game. Crews were
assembling without knowing where they were going.
We were to ship out to our destination with our equipment.
We were to be a complete radio station with studio stuff and
transmitters. That was the
rub. Personnel were easily assembled, but equipment even with Army
priorities, was hard to come by. Thus
we grunts played a waiting game.
We played poker, drove trucks and
half-tracks, and smelled war gasses.
We even set up a temporary station at Camp Young, where soldiers
were being trained for the invasion of North Africa.
Those things were not enough to keep us busy.
Some wag suggested that we record the history of AFRS.
That’s all it took to get the creative juices flowing.
The script as finished was called “AFRS, An Histerical
History.” I wonder whether
a copy yet exists. I believe
the script was written by Hy Averback with lots of help.
Who would do the narration, play the parts
and do sound effects was never in question.
Nor for that matter was where to do the show.
Radio Recorders was the organization which did most of AFRS
recording. They were then
located a few blocks from the Fox Studios on Western Avenue.
Our contact was a very competent guy named Eddie DellaPina..
He arranged for this motley crew of broadcasters to record the
The script started something like this.
“AFRS started when Bob LeMond and (name not remembered) were in a bar
discussing--What were you discussing? Tits.
Dropping tits...” At
that point Rudy Rubin and I each dropped a Los Angeles telephone directory
from about three feet to the floor. The
show got funnier as it continued.
The only time I remember the recording being
played was at the infamous last meeting of the original crews. It was at Brittingham’s restaurant the night before we were
shipping out to Angel Island to go to our destinations in the Pacific and
China Burma India.
While I have emphasized the funny side of
Radio Recorders, they were the backbone of the early success of AFRS.
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from being musical legends, what do Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Louis
Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Pat Boone, Bing Crosby and Igor Stravinsky have in
common? To find the answer you must travel to the corner of Santa
Monica Boulevard and Orange Drive in Hollywood and visit the studio in
which these epochal figures recorded some of their most memorable work.
study history is one thing. To be part of it,
is quite another. That's what Paul Schwartz discovered when he opened
Studio 56 on the site originally occupied by Radio
Recorders, one of the oldest recording facilities in Los Angeles.
Founded in 1933, Radio Recorders had already
achieved prominence in the field of broadcast radio, when it also
became the home of some of popular music's greatest hits. "Jailhouse
Rock", "All Shook Up", "Loving You" and
"Teddy Bear" are just a few of the block-busters that Elvis
recorded at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., now the
headquarters of Studio 56. The building itself is a virtual time capsule.
"You Send Me", " Mac The Knife", " Loveletters In
The Sand", "Peter Gunn" and "Purple People Eater"
are some of the memories captured within its walls.
more fully understand the scope of Radio Recorders'
operation in the 50's, consider the career of Don Thompson, one of the
many electronic pioneers who worked there. Thompson, who engineered Bing
Crosby's two biggest hits, "White Christmas" and "Sweet
Leilani", also assembled 8000 radio programs, recorded close to 15,
000 radio and television commercials, and still found time to mix records
for artists like Sam Cooke ("You Send Me") and David Rose
("Swingin' Shepard Blues") during his tenure at Radio
growth of the company at 7000 Santa Monica
Blvd. can be traced through its most significant business deals. In
October 1959, MP-TV Services, an affiliate of Radio
Recorders acquired the rights to sound effect, jingle and commercial
aid libraries of Standard Radio Transcription, Inc. The move solidified Radio
Recorders' claim to being "The complete headquarters for
programming ideas and production sound services."
In July 1960 Radio Recorders merged with
Universal Recorders to become Radio Universal Recorders, Inc. The
extensive facilities of each company were combined to constitute the
largest recording studio in America. The new company offered state of the
art technology for recording tape and disc, both stereo and mono, editing
and mastering, pressing, magnetic film recording, dubbing, slide films and
complete sound on film service. Simultaneously, the company opened the
largest, most modernly equipped studio of its day at Sunset Boulevard and
Highland Avenue at a cost of a then staggering $1million.
In April 1963, Radio Universal became a division of EMC Corporation, at
St. Paul, Minnesota based firm specializing in industrial and educational
communications and magnetic tape duplication. EMC continued the division
until 1977 when it sold the Radio Universal assets, abandoned its
headquarters at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., and,
two years later, returned to Minnesota entirely.
ongoing tradition of the building at 7000 Santa
Monica Blvd. is now in the hands of Paul Schwartz and his staff at
Studio 56 who have already achieved distinction by recording the tracks
for Evelyn King's Number One Urban Contemporary hit, "Flirt",
produced by Leon Sylvers. The future of the studio is destined to reflect
its colorful past-a-past that is perhaps best appreciated by some of those
that worked for, or near, Radio Universal.
Thorne Nogar, who started in maintenance for the company in 1950,
ultimately became director of recording, engineering all the Elvis
sessions from 1955-61. Noar recalls the summer of 1957 when Elvis, his
band and the Jordanaires were in Radio Recorders
to cut " The Christmas Album": "We were having an awful
heat wave at the time and Elvis and the band would come into the studio
just dripping with sweat. They were obviously having a tough time getting
into the holiday spirit. I couldn't blame them. After a couple of days
getting nowhere, Elvis had an inspiration. 'Somebody get a Christmas tree
in here, 'he said, and before you knew it there was a fifteen foot tree in
the middle of the studio decorated with presents wrapped beneath it. We
started cutting immediately and had that record in no time."
Jim Malloy, who also started in maintenance for Radio
Recorders and assisted Nogar on the Elvis records before moving to RCA
and winning a Grammy on his very first nomination for "Charade":
"What I remember most about those days were the technical
innovations. We made the first stereo album in the United States, 'Louis
Armstrong Plays King Oliver', in 1957. In '58 we had the first two track
and 3 track Ampex tape machines. Warren Dave and I also made the first
stereo 8 track cassettes by hand at Radio
producer and motion picture consultant Bones Howe: "I got my first
job at Radio Recorders when Harry Bryant (a
founder of the studio) finally hired me as a second engineer. I had
badgered him incessantly and he finally gave in, even though he thought
that a graduate of Georgia Tech, which I was, should be able to get a
better job. I started for $72 a week and my first couple of sessions were
with Thorny (Nogar) and Jim Malloy doing Elvis' "Teddy Bear" and
"All Shook Up". Some start, huh?"
and Anita Shulkin owned Lou's Quickie Grill located next door to 7000 and
remember a constant parade of stars, who stopped in for a cup of coffee or
the special of the day. Said Lou, "Everybody who was recording there
(RR) stopped by. Mel Blanc, Jack Benny, Bill Cosby, James Garner, Herb
Alpert, Lawrence Welk, Ronald Reagan, Martin Sheen, and on and on."
Anita added, a "We also had hundreds of groups in here, but we never
knew their names. And you know about Elvis, right? He never came in here,
but we knew when he was recording because you'd see five or six black
limousines come by in a row and ten or fifteen minutes later they'd call
and order boxes of food to be delivered. It was amazing."
56 has inherited one of the most venerable legacies in the history
of recording. Paul Schwartz and his staff see that past serving as
prologue to an equally distinguished and memorable future.
Excellence, Inc. has long been a pioneer in new media, first in recording
and then in duplication. DE was one of the first companies to develop
language teaching tapes and other media materials for major book
publishers, and we were also among the first duplicators of open-reel
tapes, cassettes, computer diskettes and videotapes. We now offer
CD/CD-ROM and Laser Videodisc manufacture—as well as DVD authoring,
mastering, replication and packaging.
excellence in duplication and packaging, we're known for producing
award-winning animated and live-action films, slide shows and filmstrips,
multilingual videos, recorded books, CD-ROM soundtracks, and thousands of
tape programs designed to motivate, educate, and entertain.
Founded in 1954
as the Educational, Musical, and Cultural Recordings Corporation (before
long shortened to EMC), our corporate charter proclaimed the affordable
new medium of prerecorded tapes and envisioned the creation and marketing
of a catalog of programs. Among EMC's first releases was The Living
Heritage Library (dramatizations and readings from the literature of
ancient Greece and Rome, England, and the U.S.), a series of language
teaching tapes, a Music Education Library and other offerings. EMC's early
years proved difficult, however. A Custom Recordings Division was formed
in November of 1955, but few clients had budgets big enough to develop
EMC's ideas about the potential of tape recording into published programs.
Improvement In Fortunes
The future got
brighter in 1959 when Houghton Mifflin, a major textbook publisher,
commissioned EMC to produce their first foreign language tape program.
Soon other publishers became EMC clients, too—along with a growing
number of sales and training firms, music companies, religious and
governmental organizations who grasped the potential of sound recordings.
In 1961 EMC built
new offices and studios in downtown St. Paul, expanding its duplicating
and packaging operations. In 1963 EMC acquired the historic Universal and
Radio Recorders complex in Hollywood, consolidating its seven separate
locations into a single facility at 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard which
continued operations until the end of 1977. Elvis Presley, Nelson Riddle,
Andre Previn, Spike Jones and the City Slickers, Jack Benny, Connie
Francis and Stan Freberg were among the top entertainers booked in our
California studios. Numerous episodes of The CBS Mystery Theater were
recorded there. Many film, television and radio producers still sing the
praises of the vast music and sound effects libraries created in these
studios during their heyday, as well as the two live echo chambers housed
in a separate building which were connected to the studio patchbay via
lines running under the street. EMC also established another Hollywood
unit, The Film Designers Division, to create animated and live-action
motion pictures, filmstrips and slide shows for a broader group of clients
including the U.S. Navy, the Southern Baptist Convention, and Subaru of
America, plus many ad agencies, television production companies and
pioneering in reel-to-reel duplication, EMC was among the first U.S.
high-speed duplicators of custom loaded audio cassettes. Continued
improvements in tape formulations and recording and duplication equipment
were augmented by such EMC innovations as direct label imprinting on
plastic using offset metal plates, a range of 17 stock cassette colors,
imprinted location diagrams, imaginative new forms of tape packaging and
the introduction of new services including creating music soundtracks,
books, manuals and the like.
Building, New Technologies
In 1982 EMC
constructed new studios and manufacturing facilities in St. Paul, later
expanded to 68,000 square feet, to include cleanroom duplication of
5.25" and 3.5" computer diskettes and NTSC, PAL and SECAM
videocassettes. Direct label imprinting was introduced for disks and
video. Video editing, audio for video services and product distribution,
as well as ongoing improvements in studio and duplication technology,
support our ongoing customer service commitment.
Identity, Same Commitment to Customers
In 1996 EMC
adopted a new name—Digital Excellence, Inc.—for its custom division.
In 1997, this division became a separate operating entity. Today DE's
soundtracks are produced using our Pro Tools 24 and Sonic Solutions
digital audio workstations. The same high standards of customer satisfaction,
creativity and state-of-the-art media reproduction distinguish DE's work
for customers from coast to coast. We offer you the same creativity,
innovation, and reliable manufacturing quality that's helped us make media
Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
(Watson & Best)
08/23/1957 at Radio Recorders,
Loves To Cha Cha Cha
01/07/1959 at Radio Recorders,
by: René Hall
Were Made For Me
11/26/57 at Radio Recorders,
All Of My Life
Recorded February 1958 at Radio Recorders,
Producer(s): Bumps Blackwell
Made For Me, You Send Me, Summertime
Date: June 1, 1957
Studio: Radio Recorders
Musicians: Cliff White -guitar, Rene Hall -rhythm guitar, Ted Brinson
-bass, Earl Palmer -drums, Lee Gotch -background vocals, Pied Pipers
Information: It started at 1:30pm
Kisses, All Of My Life, Win Your Love For Me
Date: June 6, 1957
Studio: Radio Recorders
Musicians: Cliff White -guitar, Rene Hall -Rhythm Guitar, Charles
Blackwell -drums, Adolphus Alsbrook -bass, Jack Costanzo -percussion
Information: session sheet signed by Lou Adler
Michael Dumas, Pride Hutchison and Paul Schwartz
from being musical legends, what do Elvis
Presley, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Pat Boone, Bing Crosby
in common? To find the answer
you must travel to the corner of
Santa Monica Blvd.
and visit the studio in which these epochal figures recorded some of their
most memorable work.
study history is one thing. To be a part of it is quite another.
That is what Paul Schwartz discovered when he opened Studio
the site originally occupied by Radio Recorders,
the oldest recording facilities in
. Founded in 1933, Radio
Recorders had already achieved prominence in the field of broadcast radio,
when it also became the home of some of popular music's greatest hits. "Jailhouse
Up", "Loving You",
just a few of the blockbusters that Elvis recorded at
7000 Santa Monica Blvd.
, now the home of Studio
The building itself is a virtual time capsule.
Christmas", "You Send Me", "Mac The Knife",
"Love Letters In The Sand", "Peter Gunn"
some of the memories captured within its walls.
Booker T Jones lll
Boyz ll Men
LL Cool J
Kenneth Crouch Van
Tim McGraw Kenny
Stevie Wonder Montell
Keith Sweat Dionne
R. Kelly Coolio
Gladys Knight Bone
Thugs N' Harmony
Magic Johnson George
Jessica Simpson Jo
Snoop Dogg Christina