Producer's Personal Style FORUM: Archive - After July 12, 2003: Producer's Personal Style
Top of pageBottom of page   By Nish ( on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 03:54 pm:

To all the producers in the house (laypeople can render opinions to, i fully intend to).

I usually look at Smokey Robinson and Norman Whitfield as sterling examples of two basic producers. The egalitarian "do your own thing, I have my own plan, but I value your (singer/instrumentalist) input" producers (Smokey) and the more paternalistic "this is my way, just carry it out the way I tell you" type of producer. As the record shows, they both had good success with their respective styles.

1. Do you fit one of these molds?
2. Do you switch these modes?
3. Do you think one fosters the creative process better?
4. If you have switched between the two, which one worked better
5. Who are some producers you would place in the egalitarian camp? The paternalistic camp?
6. Is there a middle point between the two?

Top of pageBottom of page   By TonyRussi ( on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 04:10 pm:

Well Nish, the best example I know of for the "paternalistic" would be Phil Spector.He would let the vocalist do their "soulin" the last few bars.The vocalist I know that worked with Phil said that he was very good to work with in the studio.From what Mary Wells told me about working with Smokey, you are "right on" with your discription.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 06:00 pm:

The word "producer" is a misnomer, as the record producer's job is analagous to that of a director in the motion picture business.

The producer's job is to complete a finished piece of product "by any means necessary".
They are responsible, (or should be) for all aspects including picking the songs, sometimes writing the songs and in the case of the current trend, "doing the beats" ie, the backing track.

There are too many people out there who call themselves a producer who do not deserve this prestigious title.
Their greatest attribute is ordering pizza or saying"sounds good" or lets try it one more time, and thats about the extent of it.

What I like to do is first really get to know the person who i am going to work with, be very familiar with their past work, if any and develop a cameraderie.

I like to be well rehearsed before going in to record, as not to waste preciouss studio time.

Keeping a light hearted tension free ego free atmosphere is paramount to the creative process.

I will not stand for smoking, of any kind or unnecessary visitors.

Top of pageBottom of page   By dvdmike ( on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 06:16 pm:

Gee Bobby, you're a mean guy! :)

Top of pageBottom of page   By Des ( on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 08:06 pm:

Hey,Nish - I'd bet a number of posts may say "Well,all your points are used from time to time according to the Artist and their sensibilities/abilities etc etc"......
How about widening the thread to request juicy gossip involving studio conflict due to truculent/useless/talentless artists (maybe) some of our contributors have come across.
BTW,the Phil Spector post is wide open for a joke but I'm afraid he may invite me out for a drink and then "all back to my place" --- "Eh,no thanks Phil....gotta go and meet Kobe at his hotel...."
Tasteles??? --- sorry

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 09:02 pm:

My favorite producers ( outside of Philly and in no particular order)

Quincey Jones
Phil Spector
Arif Mardin
David Foster
Lieber & Stoller
Norman Whitfield

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Friday, July 25, 2003 - 09:10 pm:

I'm not a mean guy.
I must have a smoke free and drug free environment when I work in the studio.

I do not like visitors when I work in the studio.
Think of it like a brain surgeon doing a critical operation and all of a sudden his homies pop in to check him out. Same thing..different biz.

I do not like phone calls unless it directly involves the session.

When we work..we work.

I have also been known to light candles during vocal and mixing sessions

Top of pageBottom of page   By dvdmike ( on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 10:52 am:

Bobby, I was just kidding. Chill, bro!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 11:30 am:


But it is a fact a lot of the newer "producers" are known to abuse the privelege of having an all inclusive budget and charge non pertinant items (such as hookers, weed,expensive food,limos)to their RECORDING fund.
True, there usually is a provision for T&E but not T&A!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By dvdmike ( on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 08:32 pm:

By the way Bobby, here's a bit of trivia. The Toys recorded "A Lover's Question" four days after your session for "1-2-3" by Len Barry. Also at Bell Sound.

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 09:01 pm:

Hey Folks:
One of my favorite producers is Carl Davis, who produced everyone from Gene Chandler ("Duke Of Earl") to the legendary Jackie Wilson.

His way of producing was similar to Bobby Eli's - the first thing is to see whether producer and artist will get along. That was Carl's concern when he met JW. The second is he studied the artist's singing style. Next, he and the artist would go through demos and find songs. Once the songs were selected, Carl would make an acetate and the singer would study the song on their own.

In the meantime, Carl would meet with his arranger and go over the songs, from key signatures to other embellishments. Then the singer would come into the studio and cut the song with the rhythm section. Then the arranger would listen to the playback and score the parts for strings & horns, which were overdubbed later.

One rule Carl had was the singer had to have the song memorized - no reading off of lead sheets. He wanted the singer to sound like he or she were performing live on stage. Sometimes he would be in the studio with the singer to guide them along.

As for the rhythm section, he encouraged them to come up with ideas if the original plan(s) weren't working. For example, Jackie Wilson's "Higher & Higher" was originally meant to be a mid-tempo ballad but when it wasn't jelling with the musicians, James Jamerson started "doodling" with the bass-line until he came up with what became the now-classic intro to the song. When "Pistol" Allen jumped in with the backbeat, Carl immediately had the band switch gears and the rest is music history.

This is what made his work tremendous.

As for myself, I have the following rules -
1) The arrangements and rehearsal of rhythm section must be complete prior to recording.
2) The singer has to have the lyrics committed to memory (see Carl Davis!).
3) I only allow three takes per song - if it can't be nailed by take 3 then the song is scrapped and dealt with later.
4) Professional dress is a must (even I wear a suit to the session). Record the song as if you are on stage performing in front of an audience. Professional dress places you in that frame of mind.
5) Cell phones and pagers are turned off.
6) Eat & drink before recording. Schedule a break during the session so that folks can breathe.
7) Absolutely no smoking or boozing.
8) Drugs are OUT of the question - light up a joint during the session and a replacement will be called!
9) Have a goal of recording a certain number of songs per session (usually I require three songs for a three hour session).
10) Have the engineer & assistant set everything up before the band/artist walks in.
11) Be there for guidance and suggestions.
12) Enjoy the process & have fun!

Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By LTLFTC ( on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 09:38 pm:

And NOBODY that isn't absolutely essential in the control room when its time to mix!

Steve K

Top of pageBottom of page   By This Is So Amusing ( on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 10:17 pm:

LMAO! KevGo couldn't have produced 80 percent of the classic artists he says he loves so much. Marvin Gaye would have told him where he could stick his "no weed" policy in a New York minute. Who would you have call to replace him?

Top of pageBottom of page   By dvdmike ( on Saturday, July 26, 2003 - 10:23 pm:

I've been a guest at many recording sessions, but I always knew that I was only a visitor, a spectator and that it was essential for me to keep my mouth shut, be as quiet as a church mouse and speak only when I was spoken to first. And never, but never make any suggestions about anything. Some producers like an audience and some don't. There are just certain people who prefer a closed session and I never take that sort of thing personally. While I consider it an honor when a producer invites me to a session, I understand it is not essential that I, a non-participant be there.

Top of pageBottom of page   By SisDetroit ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 09:00 am:

KevGo - #4 Professional Dress - Are you speaking of stage uniforms such as baggies or blue jeans, heels, stockings and the like? If I had to do a recording session, I would want to record in my most comfortable outfit, to be loose and free to give you the best that I got. You wouldn't want me to be all stiff and starchy would you? :o)

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 10:42 am:

So amusing,

The rules Kev and I set forth are our rules and pertain to the way a professional session is to be conducted.

In most cases, the end result of a session conducted with the help of a "substance" will eventually have to be scrapped or redone due to the distorted judgement call based on an altered state.

Studio time is too valuable for it to be wasted and only about twenty percent or less of all sessions recorded ever see the light of day.

One of the reasons that we had so many hits in during the Philly years is that the creators who figured prominantly produced them with a clear mind.

By the way, look what happened to Marvin in the end??

Thanks for the info.
That time period in NYC was a thriving, bustling era.
You would always see musicians with their axes everywhere on their way to the next session.

Besids Bell Sound there was in the Hotel American on 47th st,where Phil Spector would record when in NYC and also where all of the Kirschner related songs such as Hey Girl by Freddie Scott was recorded, usually engineered by Brooks Arthur with his distinctive use of tape delay, there was Stea- Phillips in the Hotel Taft which was the home of the Four Seasons records, Olmstead Studios, with their engineer Bill Mc Meeken who also worked at Mirasound for a spell,
Allegro, in the basement of 1650 Broadway where the Chiffons recorded all their stuff( if you crank up the volume at the end of hes so fine you can hear the 8th avenue subway going by)
Associated, where everyone recorded their demos and so many more which prospered during the halcyon years of NYC music.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 10:47 am:

It was the Hotel America. That is where I lived while working in NYC. Bobby Blue Bland came into Mira to record. I noticed his bus so I went down to the studio and introduced myself.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 11:03 am:

Wow Ralph thats amazing!!
That hotel wasnt exactly the Plaza!!!

I wonder why hotels were the attraction for recording studios??
Maybe it was because of the in house hookers, ya think??

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 11:06 am:

Yeah Bobby, the Ritz it wasn't. But it was clean and the rates were reasonable. Maybe hotels held a certain allure because the studios were in the basement. A good deal for all concerned maybe? House hookers??? There were house hookers??? Damn....

Top of pageBottom of page   By Julian ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 12:56 pm:

Didn't the Tempts and Marvin Gaye find Whitfield a great producer, but difficult to deal with? Did Is this why they stopped working with him?

Top of pageBottom of page   By Fred ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 01:16 pm:

I put the question of why studios were often found in hotels to Jerry Ragovoy this morning. He told me that a number of the studios occupied old ballrooms because the high ceilings provided excellent ambience and could accommodate large orchestras in the era before multitracking.

One of the great producer stories of all time involves Jerry. Jerry received a phone call asking him if he could take an opening for a recording session that Frank Sinatra had just cancelled for the next day. The main problem was that the 47 piece orchestra was already booked, and could he use them? He agreed and spent the next 24 hours writing orchestrations and finished just before the session started. The result was Lorraine Ellison's classic "Stay With Me."

Having been privileged to watch Jerry in the studio, I am reminded there is one aspect of a producer's style that has yet to be mentioned in this thread; the relationship between the producer and the engineer. For guys like Jerry and Tom Dowd (two of the best in anyone's book), there was no gap because what they wanted to hear went directly from their head to the board. For other producers, I will simply repeat what Jerry has said; "I would rather have a great engineer and a lousy board than a lousy engineer and a great board."

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 03:11 pm:

I definitely concur with the last line in your previous post.

Too many people, especially novices in the biz are gear freaks and have to have the latest this or that, whatever the latest catch phrase is , as in Pro Tools or whatever is next.
But a great engineer can "make a silk purse out of a sows ear" so to speak.
I have worked in s**thole studios at times, but with the knowledge and accumen of specific engineers, the end result was spectacular.
I am not impressed by aesthetics at all, just give me a great "pilot" and a great vibe, anytime.

Take Hitsville, as an example.
With all due respect to Mike mc Clain,
the console looked as though it was made in sheet metal shop in high school but there were great engineers who knew how to "work the room"

Most of the rural studios were aesthetically and technically shoddy but the people involved knew the formula to make it work.

So yes, give me a great engineer vs. a great board any day!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By Nish ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 06:06 pm:

I'm glad I started this thread, it's educational! Keep talking!

Top of pageBottom of page   By dvdmike ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 07:22 pm:

I've seen pictures of Fine Sound and you can tell by the high ceiling and the decor that it was inside of a hotel ballroom. I've heard a lot about Mirasound. A number of producers and artists have said that it was a hole in the wall, but it served the purpose. I believe Gerry Goffin and Carole King did most of their Dimension stuff at Mirasound and The Cookies cut "He's So Fine" and "One Fine Day" there, but moved to Associated a few years later to cut "Sweet Talkin' Guy". Phil Spector used Mirasound and Bell Sound, Leiber & Stoller did a lot of sessions at Bell Sound as did Bert Berns in his pre-Atlantic days, then while at Atlantic, he used their facilities, which by that time had moved on Broadway from their old location on 56th Street above Patsy's Restaurant. Columbia had two studios, the location inside their office building on 52nd & Broadway and the sonically better studio on 30th Street. Decca had a studio that many of their own artists used, as well as some Kapp artists. Jackie Wilson, Sammy Davis, Jr. & Bill Haley & His Comets did a lot of things at The Pythian Temple. There was even a demo studio called Nola that was inside of a penthouse and RCA's studios at 30 Rock and Webster Hall. NYC so many studios, it wasn't funny.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 07:28 pm:

Wow Dvdmike. I didn't know One Fine Day was recorded at Mira. Without a doubt, one of the best, and my all time favorite girl group rcordings.

Top of pageBottom of page   By dvdmike ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 07:34 pm:

Ralph, I'm pretty certain it was cut there, but I'm not 100% sure. But I hope someone will have more definite information on that.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 07:36 pm:

that's ok. It won't change how I feel about the song.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:13 am:

Nola studios was in the penthose floor of the Steinway piano building on w. 57th between 6th and 7th, closer to 6th.
I recorded most of the vocals to the Ronnie Dyson Phase Two album there as well as a project for Triple Play.
The piano that Errol Garner wrote Misty on was there.
The studio had a lot of character and it was shaped somewhat like an octagon.
I have some nice pictures taken there.

The owner at the time was a bit frivilous and it could have been run better.
The only thing that kinda bothered me about the place was the glass enclosed control room.

By the way, it was the Chiffons who recorded the afforementioned songs.

I would have to say that Bell Sound was THE premier studio at the time with Eddie Smith as engineer.

The control room had a "visitors lounge" just above it reachable by a metal staircase and it had a monitor which you could switch on and off.

Personally, for me that still would be distracting if I were a producer at that time .

BTW, in those days the "union man" would come around to check cards and to make sure that no one was overdubbing for it was against union rules, so you had to record everything live and sneak your overdubs in late at night or behind locked doors!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:25 pm:

The old Mirasound Studio here in NYC is now a nightclub - Le Bar Bat.
If you walk inside, you will see the record jackets of all the music that came out of that space.
Le Bar Bat also has an "industry night" where label execs come together & check out unsigned talent live onstage.
As for Bell Sound, Jackie Wilson cut many of his early 1960s sides in that famous studio - all onto 4-track tape. "Baby Workout", "Danny Boy" and "Soul Galore" were all recorded there.

When I say "professional dress" in the studio I mean no jeans, sneakers, boots, sweatshirts, halter tops, "gear" or anything that looks sloppy & too casual. A dress shirt/blouse (open collar) and slacks are fine. Even a short sleeve shirt or turtleneck is alright. When an artist records in clothing that is similar to their stage wear it makes a world of difference - the presentation is more precise and focused.

To This Is So Amazing:
You'd be surprised how many producers/managers had a no-drugs policy. Joe & Silvia Robinson fired the original members of the Moments (the singers on "Not On The Outstide") because they were caught using drugs. In their place came Al Goodman, Billy Brown and later Harry Ray.

Would YOU want to waste a recording session you paid for on someone so unfocused because they were high on the gig? BTW when Marvin Gaye used pot openly, it was during the recording of "What's Going On" and he was the producer.

Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By STUBASS ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:29 pm:


Top of pageBottom of page   By SisDetroit ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:32 pm:

I'm too busy thinking about my baby "Marvin", ain't got time for nothing else. I would have loved to have been his valet. :o)

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 12:50 pm:

Didn't Marvin Gaye wear a suit and tie to his recording sessions during the 1960s?
Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:13 pm:

I witnessed an incident at Atlantic studios in the early eighties where a certain producer who was recording somewhat of a future dance hit was being carried out of the studio because of a heroin od. He miracupously survived.

I once was producing a certain singer (group member) who had recently left his former label and was recording his first album for the next label who signed them.

When I entered the studio he prodeeded to say pointing to the large mound of cocaine in an container on the piano....

"Hey Eli, go on and have yourself a hit on some of this blow, its the bomb!!!

Obviously I did not partake of his generous offer.

When he got on mike to try to sing, he got beligerant with the engineer and said...
"mot*******er, i dont need this s**t...I can but you and this mot*******in studio and your mama"!!!

Unfortunately this gentleman passed on several years ago.

C'est lavie!!!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:22 pm:

Eli & Company:
I'm often reminded of professionalism when I hear this man's name mentioned - the late Tom Dowd.

Several years ago, an Atlantic artist was cutting an album at their now-legendary 1841 Broadway studio(s) and this guy was showing off his new revolver to everyone there. Tom got up and asked the artist to hand over the gun. He then proceeded to take the bullets out of the revolver, handed it back to the singer and told him never to be caught dead in his studio ever again with a weapon.

And folks wonder why we producers are so strict in the studio.....

Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:31 pm:

I believe that the old Atlantic studio is now an animal shelter!!!


The Tokens, who produced the Chiffons records recorded all of the Chiffons and their other sessions at Allegro Studios which was in the basement of 1650 Broadway.

In fact, Laurie Records did a ton of sessions there, according to writings of Bob and Gene Schwartz who owned the label.
Universal honcho Doug Morris worked with them at that time as well!!

Hank Medress, along with dave Appel later recorded Tony Orlando at Olmstead Studios, at least the earlier things.

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:39 pm:

Doug Morris co-wrote "Sweet Talkin' Guy" for the Chiffons.

Tommy James & the Shondells also recorded at Allegro Studios except for their first hit, "Hanky Panky" (which was cut in Tommy's hometown).

Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:40 pm:

I don't want to bust any bubbles here, but Marvin generally came into the studio wearing sweat pants and sweat shirt. Remember, he also fancied himself somewhat of a jock. As far as the reefer thing, you just would have to have known Marvin.

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:41 pm:

I remember when Atlantic Studios moved out of 1841 Broadway (I worked at the Brunswick Records office which was a couple floors above Atlantic). It was a sad day for all of the music lovers in the building.
Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:44 pm:

Thanks for the clarification. I guess the photos I saw of him at the Hitsville studio during the 1960s were misleading.
Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 01:47 pm:

Yes Kevin, those early photos could be somewhat misleading. Generally eveyone came to the studio dressed comfortably.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Scratcher ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 02:44 pm:

Didn't Shorty Long bring a bottle to his recording sessions? The few sessions I've been at marijuana and cocaine was as commonplace as coke and sandwiches.

And Eli somebody once wrote that inside Philadelphia International Records the smell of marijuna and incense permeated the air. I read that Leon Huff played the piano with a joint hanging from his mouth at practice and songwriting sessions. I assume the atmosphere at Sigma Sound was drug free however.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 02:58 pm:

Personally, I never had any problems with a little weed or taste at sessions as long as it didn't interfere with creativity. My brother and Frank Wilson ( if I may tell tales out of school ) would fire up a fair amount of reefer and then work their asses off. So it depends on the individuals and what they know they are able to do. Harry Balk would come into the mixing rooms at times when we would be working and say " Has someone been smoking shoe laces in here? ".

Top of pageBottom of page   By dvdmike ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 05:02 pm:

I read somewhere that Dion & The Belmonts cut some of their Laurie material at Bell Sound

Top of pageBottom of page   By SisDetroit ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 05:25 pm:

In the 60's smoking genuine weed was no big deal. Ninty-five percent of the musicians/artist/producers did it. the sun flower and love children did it. The hippies did it. It was the norm. Anything beyond weed, and beyond 1970 is behond me. In the early-mid 70's I went with a close friend to a manager/producers home, who quietly placed white powder on the cocktail table. This was the first time I had seen anything other than weed. Noticing that I just sat there, he nodded at me and quietly said "Go ahead and enjoy." I was too afraid to open my mouth, I just shook my head "no." My friend said "She don't indulge." I couldn't wait to get out of there. I never hung with my long time friend again.

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 05:27 pm:

That may be the case - I have to check my Dion boxed set when I get home.
It would be no surprise since Bell Sound was probably the busiest and most popular studio labels used here in NYC, especially those who didn't have their own in-house facility like the majors did.
Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 05:32 pm:

I always credit Curtis Mayfield for scaring me away from drugs.

I was six years old when I first heard "Freddie's Dead" and this lyric did it for me:

Everybody misused him,
Ripped him off & abused him.
Another junkie plan - pushing dope for the man.
A terrible blow but that's how it go,
On Freddie's own corner,
Now if you wanna be a junkie,
Remember - Freddie's dead

(C)1972 Curtom Music

You didn't have to tell me what beind dead meant when I was six years old.

Thank you, Curtis.

Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By SisDetroit ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 06:29 pm:

LOL - You are right KevGo. I remember that song. I just wish more people would have taken heed at those words.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 07:51 pm:

I remeber a conversation with Harry Balk once regarding his concern for many of the musicians he had dealt with since they were young kids beginning to lose it with drug use. He was deeply disturbed by this.

Top of pageBottom of page   By SisDetroit ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 07:56 pm:

Ralph - It is unbelievable. I just can't understand why they even tried it the first time. Prior to Viet Nam, we may have been uneducated on drugs, but during the 60's we began to learn what drugs can do to a person. I just never figured why anyone would want to do it the first time. As time went on and we became more aware of what drugs will do, it seemed the number addicts began to grow.

I just wish Marvin and David had just been satisfied with marijuna, rather than upgrading to strong drugs.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 07:59 pm:

I know Sis. I had a hard time understanding a lot of it myself because I was seeing friends of my own getting messed up. Fortunately I didn't take that road.

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