[Jeff Blackwell is the lucky guy who was recently bestowed an incredible collection of lost recordings from the Old South Jamboree from 1973 to 1976.The recordings include performances from many local Louisiana acts of the era, but the Old South Jamboree’s roster also included true luminaries of country music, including: George Jones, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Ernest Tubb, and Porter Wagoner. Jeff took on the daunting task of archiving these 16 reels of history to the digital world, and his PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 had a hand in it! I called Jeff and got the word from the horse’s mouth on this once-in-a-lifetime story. WBRZ recently aired a piece on this tale as well, embedded below—note StudioLive front-and-center in the video—but I HAD to talk to Jeff about some of the nittier, grittier details of this fascinating project.]
Hey Jeff! First, can I get some background on yourself and your work in audio?
Jeff: “I was a DJ at WYNK-FM back in the day—they are still on the air today. Back then, we used to sign on at 5 a.m. and sign off at midnight, it wasn’t a 24-hour station. We’d turn the transmitter on every morning before the show. They would pay me 45 cents an hour plus all the records I could eat!”
How did you come across the tapes?
Jeff: “Well, Going back in time… back in the 70s, WYNK would broadcast the shows from the Old South Jamboree every Saturday night. There were a few shows like that back in the day, like Louisana Hayride, which goes back to the 50s. That’s where Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, all the old greats got their start to the music biz. Anyhow, another guy who worked at WYNK, Page Dew, knew a guy who had been recording these Old South Jamboree shows at home on a consumer reel-to-reel deck—a total of about sixteen reels.”
How was the condition and quality of the original recordings?
Jeff: “Well, most were quarter-track recorded at 1 7/8 ips. Doesn’t provide a heckuva lot of bandwidth! When quality is at stake, faster tape speed is preferred to create more bandwidth, but that didn’t happen here. Not only did I have limited bandwidth to work with, but these songs were recorded off the air from a mono FM radio broadcast. Next, add that the band was recorded with only three mics, and their signal was being transmitted by a Marti transmitter (used for remote broadcasts back in the day), sent to an FM station, and then recorded by a listener at home at only 1 7/8 ips!”
“So, It was a really challenge to get quality out of that source. But when you hear it, it puts you in a very different frame of mind. It takes a listener back to a different era, when one speaker getting music out of the air was enough, regardless of how it sounded! When I heard the first reel I was transported back in time.”
Any way we can track down the guy who provided the tapes? Are there any more?
Jeff: “He’s long gone. I talked to Page, who lives in Colorado, and asked him that. He said that this guy and these tapes are dated from early 1973 to 1976. He said it was an old listener, and apparently someone at the station gave him the reels to record these shows—tape was six or seven bucks per reel back then.”
What hardware did you use to transfer and restore the recordings?
Jeff: “I used the StudioLive 164.2’sEQ on these recordings because I really love the Fat Channel. I was first on the list when I heard the StudioLive was coming out. Once I got my hands on it I was like ‘Cool!’ It’s my main console, everything goes through it to get into the computer.”
“My wife found the reel-to-reel I used, a Pioneer quad, at a garage sale. Got it for 50 bucks. The material recorded at 1 7/8 ips would only play at 3 ¾ ips on this tape machine, so it was still twice as fast as real time. Of course I couldn’t EQ that, so I had to pitch it down in software and then run it through the StudioLive. There were 3 reels recorded at 7.5 ips that I could process through the StudioLive directly before taking it to software for fine-tuning, pitch correction, and noise reduction.”
Will the recordings be made publicly available? Or is releasing all these old songs form these artists a licensing nightmare?
Jeff: “Exactly. Contracts were looser back then. I gotta tell ya, over 90-95 percent of this music was performed by local artists. Some are way out of tune, some can’t hit notes, and of course the mix was awful by today’s standards. I need to be careful about the copyright issues. Several friends of mine have asked for copies, there were a couple of artists who were pretty popular in the day who are now gone, singing some of their hits.”
Thanks, Jeff. Anything else to add about the StudioLive?
Jeff: “I don’t use it as a typical recording or musician-guy. Most of my use has been for advertising and corporate events. I learned early on that if I was gonna work with bands, I had to work with no budgets and weird hours! I figured that wasn’t for me.”
“Since I’ve had the StudioLive, I’ve recorded Scott Innes, whose voice credits include Scooby Doo and Shaggy, who lives in Baton Rouge. I’ve also done quite a bit of work with Warner Bros. using the StudioLive.”
“Another thing I use it for is the Louisiana State Medical Society Annual House Delegates meeting. I use the StudioLive’s noise gates on their mics—it’s a big live room, and there’s a lot of interaction going on. So, I don’t have to worry about running gain on my mics. I love it. It has that finesse I need to mute a mic when not in use, but when the person starts talking it breaks the gate… good to go! I also rent a StudioLive 24.4.2 for the annual Acadian Ambulance Service Paramedic of the Year award program. More like a theatrical event with lots of wireless mics, skits and over 80 sound cues!”
[International Sales Director of Mystery Mark Williams reports from the inner sanctum of La Gruta! Fortunately for us, his 6G geniusphone prototype was able to acquire adequate reception to get these photos out from deep within a quarter-mile of Mexican bedrock.]
“I had lunch today at La Gruta with one of our Mexican distributors. The restaurant is inside a volcanic cave that was used by the Mayans and also played a part in the Mexican Revolution. It was established in 1906. There’s nothing like an interesting lunch environment after a week of presentations, demos, clinics, foiled assassination attempts, and meetings.”
The hits (and laughs) keep on rolling with this team. Here are more of their StudioLive-produced acoustic (and one kinda-acoustic) videos from Leo Moracchioli and friends. Great stuff!
Acoustic cover of Alter Bridge – Blackbird:
Acoustic (kinda) cover of Black Sabbath – Paranoid:
Metal guitar sound test:
Baton Rouge residents: PreSonus is partnering with The Blood Center for a blood drive on Tuesday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. There is currently a national shortage of blood, and sadly, deposits made to a blood bank do not accrue interest—so the Red Cross needs all the help they can get! Just a pint of blood can save up to three lives!
Please Click HERE to ensure you are eligible to donate. It is important to eat a good breakfast before donating blood and be sure to bring your photo ID!
The blood mobile will be located behind the Bon Carre buildling, near the PreSonus Audio Electronics entrance.
7257 Florida Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm a time slot, and here’s some handy tips from the Red Cross for a successful donation.
Generous souls not suffering from trypanophobia will walk away with a bandage on their arm, a song in their heart, and a killer PreSonuSphere T-shirt!
[This just in from Anna Bevins, PreSonus Executive Assistant and Director of Good News]
PreSonus is proud to be sponsoring an event on May 17th @ The Texas Club beginning at 8 p.m. to support local veterans. Chris LeBlanc is one of the main artists performing, and we are supporting him for this event. There will be live music, auctions, food, drinks, and fun! See the flyer below for additional info.
We hope you’ll help PreSonus in supporting this great cause, and we hope to see all of you there!
Get advanced tickets from The Texas Club or Zeagler Music!
So, it turns out that the oldest known melody is really very pretty.
Here is Hurrian Hymn no.6 – c.1400 B.C.
Check out this incredible early footage of The Beach Boys that was just discovered. This early arrangement of “I Get Around” shows a few rough spots, but the genius of Brian Wilson’s songwriting was clearly there from the get-go. Happy Friday!
[This just in from Mauricio Yáñez Polloni, of our distributor partner, Croma Limitada.]
The guy at the StudioLives in these pictures is Mauricio Romero, my friend, who has lived for 10 years on Rapa Nui! He did all the audio production for the Tapati, an annual festival that lasts for 10 days! Tapati was first performed during the first ten days of February, 1975. The festival began as a one among islanders, but now is an instance to share culture with tourists visiting around that time of year.
Two linked StudioLive 16.4.2s were the heart of the sound of this important event, running the live sound and recording the bands simultaneously. The show was recorded in Capture and then edited, mixed, and mastered in Studio One 2.5.
Mauricio Romero is the founder of the most important sound company of the island, Matau Producciones. He also has produced many albums with ethnic music of Rapa Nui.
This year, Matau Producciones did all sound and lighting for Tapati as well. Saludos!
From CowProd over on YouTube. Rage Against the Machine playing Zed’s Records in 1992 before they made it huge…
[This just in from Steve E., winner of the 2012 Dream Rig for your Dream Gig Sweepstakes!]
I wanted to send you a picture of me and the gear and I wanted to thank all of the companies involved in hooking me up with all of this awesome equipment!
So far, I have tracked my dad and I on mandolin and acoustic guitar respectively just using the Kiwi into the ADL 700 with excellent results. Hopefully soon, I will have an heirloom double album of my dad and I playing traditional old time music on one disc and a re-mastered version of my dad and grandfather paying the same exact tunes back in 1967 from a reel to reel tape. This equipment couldn’t have come at a better time! I I also have recorded my daughter Isabella singing into the same combo and I am totally blown away with the details you can bring out with the onboard compressor and EQ settings. By the way, all of the awesome artwork behind me on the walls is hers, too.
The possibilities are endless! When I combine the ADL 700 with the Kiwi and its 9 polar patterns it is just mind boggling! In addition to this, the ability to switch the EQ in before the compressor is a really awesome feature, along with being able to bypass either one or both at the flick of a switch. This truly is a match made in heaven…
I have also ran the new Monoprice guitar into the ADL 700 instrument input and achieved an excellent funky single-coil blues sound along with pumping the gain up a bit and getting some smooth crunch and creamy sustain. I can’t wait to track some bass through it!
My next major project is to record a full-length album with my friend Keith for our band Letchwurth (this is the dream band I selected when I entered the contest.) This equipment will take our recordings to an entirely new level—just as long as I can bring my recording and mixing skills up to the same level, ha! We cannot wait to start tracking with the new equipment. This setup blows away everything we had before! Also with the new Pro SoundCloud account we will be able to post everything up for everyone to hear. Look out for Letchwurth “Ringworm Eraser” in the future…
Before I won the contest, I had a few cheaper dynamic mics and one condenser along with the Focusrite liquid Saffire 56 preamp/firewire interface you see on the bottom of the ADL. In addition to this, I only had headphones to mix and monitor with, so with the KRK VXT4’s and 12S sub have been able to mix and monitor the right way. This speaker combo is absolutely perfect for my small home-office and I am totally amazed at the detailed sound-field that these speakers deliver. I am now able to hear details that I never even knew were there, even with headphones! Of course, I couldn’t have hooked it all up without all of the cables and accessories from Monoprice. My setup is now complete! What else could I need?
Thanks again to everyone involved with putting this equipment into my lap and allowing me to step beyond the next level with my recording capabilities!
I am truly thankful and view it as a sign to capture high quality recordings with my friends and family for many years to come.