Open House and Interview with Danny White and Ken Broad
Sixteen Ton Studio adds Norman Petty Room, 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty
“The kinds of things that Norman Petty brought to music were recognized by Paul McCartney with what he says…the technique and the quality that came along with the recording of Buddy Holly in his time.” – Ken Broad – Curator of the Norman Petty Recording Studio
Sixteen Ton Studios on Historic Music Row held an Open House to show off The Norman Petty Room, know as Studio Two which features some of the most important vintage gear that has been brought up to spec by Danny White.
Buddy Holly Gold Record recorded at Norman Petty Studio, photo – Brad Hardisty
Norman Petty’s Studio in Clovis, New Mexico is well known as the place where Buddy Holly recorded most of his classic hits as well as music by Roy Orbison, The Fireballs, Buddy Knox, Waylon Jennings and scores of other Artists.
Danny White at vintage 1969 API Console at Norman Petty Room, Sixteen Ton Studio, Nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
At the center of the room is an API board custom built in 1969 by API founder Saul Walker for Chet Atkins and was used in a mix/overdub room at RCA Studio B in Nashville during that time. The console had been out of service for 35 years before being restored along with the original late 50’s early 60’s gear from Norman Petty’s Studio by Sixteen Ton Studio Owner/Manager, Danny White.
The original Altec, Fairchild and Pultec tube rack gear used by Norman Petty during the early Rock and Roll era has been restored and can be used in conjunction with the vintage API board or anything else at Sixteen Ton Studio.
Norman Petty’s Ampex 401 now at Norman Petty Studio, Nashville, TN, Sixteen Ton Studio, photo – Brad Hardisty
During the Open House an example of the original Buddy Holly mix of “That’ll Be The Day” was played on the exact machine it was recorded on – the original Ampex 401 ¼ inch mono tape deck owned by Norman Petty.
Ken Broad and Lyle Walker who worked with Norman Petty and are Curators of The Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico worked with Sixteen Ton Studios to bring the gear to Nashville were on hand to demonstrate and answer questions.
Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: It looks like all the vintage gear in this room is operational.
Scully, Ampex, Fairchild, Altec and Pultec vintage gear, restored at Norman Petty Studio at Sixteen Ton Studio, Nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
Danny White, Studio Owner/ Manager: Both the Ampex 300 and Scully 4 track are ready. You could come here and record an entire record with this console recorded to tape, mix it to tape and press it to vinyl without touching a computer. So, the answer to your question is both. The vintage stuff can be used as an outboard piece of gear or as a standalone.
BH: Does the Ampex work as well as the Scully?
DW: Oh yeah. Everything is running.
BH: Did you have the head re-lapped and all of that?
Original Ampex 401 used for early Buddy Holly material restored at Norman Petty Studio, Nashville, TN pphoto – Brad Hardisty
DW: Heads re-lapped. Electronics completely recapped and re-tubed. The heads on the Scully 280, everything in here is operational, even this is Norman Petty’s original Ampex 401. This is the “Buddy Holly” machine that had tracks recorded to tape.
BH: It’s a mono machine?
DW: It’s Mono.
BH: The API board: did you find this from a collector?
Danny White shows features of 1969 API Consolte originally built for Chet Atkins at RCA Studio B, nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
DW: No. I bought this from my very good friend, Dave Copp who is a Producer here in town and he got it from a guy out in Hollywood, California that had ended up with it many years ago. It was ordered by Chet Atkins during 1968-69 [RCA Studio B] eras and it was finished later on in 69-70. It was installed in Studio B. What they called Studio D which was a small room right across from the main tracking room.
BH: It was a mixing room?
DW: Mixing room and overdubs. But, they also tracked…now my friend Tom Pick brought these Monitors in because whenever they closed RCA in 77 he was the Chief Engineer and he got these Monitors and a bunch of the other gear out of there.
BH: Are they Altecs?
DW: Altec 604 E Super Duplex and that’s what is in them now.
BH: You matched what was in them originally?
DW: They are the same speakers that were in RCA Studio B. I had them re-coned.
BH: That’s really cool.
vintage Ampex 4 track, Norman Petty Studio at Sixteen Ton, nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
DW: This is the RCA set-up right here. But, the cool thing is that you can have this in conjunction with the Norman Petty gear so, anyway, you got the best of both [50’s and 60’s analog] worlds.
BH: was the API board made out in California at that time?
DW: This was made in Farmingdale, New York. This is the one of the oldest intact API’s in existence. This was a very early console.
BH: It’s got Automated Processes Incorporated right across the top.
DW: That’s it. You have the original 512’s, original 550’s not 550 a or b and you have the big meter 525 compressors. Everything in this console is still the way…in fact it has the master control from RCA Studio B and the monitor control.
BH: It’s amazing how the API design was kept almost the same this whole time. This looks almost identical to the API lunch box modules.
BH: Have you done any recording on it yet?
DW: We actually ran this API Console, for a little while as a side car in Studio A while we were building this room. It sounded amazing. But, we haven’t done anything in this room. This is our Open House. We will do some more tuning and we will get ready to record toward the end of the year.
BH: What about The McIntosh tube power amps?
DW: They all came from Clovis, New Mexico.
BH: Is that a 50 watt?
DW: The original is Norman Petty’s and that is a 50 Watt. It’s a McIntosh 50W2. That’s his original amp that he used for all the Buddy Holly stuff as well as, Buddy Knox or Roy Orbison. He was the first one to work with Roy as well. The 70 Watt amp is a 60’s amp that Norman went to and that is mono also. We are running mono in here today but obviously we will have stereo. We decided to run mono just because of the open house.
BH: That is a tracking room right off of here.
Sixteen Tow Studio, main room, converted house on Music Row, Nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
DW: Yes, these are all tracking rooms. Studio 1 is over there and this is Studio Two or The Petty Room. But, all these rooms are independent. We have an independent headphone system for this room and that room but, we can also tie both the rooms together through the patch bay. So, if you want to get a mix going on in here and you want to go through the Altecs and you wonder what they would sound like through the $20,000 ATC’s then we go in that room and patch them in and pull them up and see what they sound like. We can A/B them and you can put them through the compression rack over there or vice a versa and that’s kind of nice. But, Ken and his partner Lyle have been the reason why this has happened. I just got it and put it together.
BH: It’s great that you have some of Norman Petty’s original staff here today.
DW: Ken Broad and Lyle Walker came in from Clovis, New Mexico.
BH: Tell me a little about Norman Petty’s legacy.
Ken Broad: Well, we like to make a point that Norman Petty is one of the greatest engineers of all time. Not only that, but, Producer, Songwriter and we’re lookin’ forward to letting that be more known here in Nashville for people to come and visit. We want to keep his legacy available to the public. Musicians for their appreciation of it and also for just a tribute to him for what he contributed to music. He turned things around in ‘57 with the way he recorded Buddy Holly.
BH: He brought High Fidelity Recording to Rock and Roll.
Ken Broad, Norman Petty curator, demonstrating Scully 4 track, nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
KB: The kinds of things that Norman Petty brought to music were recognized by Paul McCartney with what he says…the technique and the quality that came along with the recording of Buddy Holly in his time. He didn’t record by the clock. He didn’t believe that creativity came by the clock. He recorded by the hour to keep his Artists relaxed and comfortable so that they could contribute with their very best in the expertise with which they are recognized and he had a respect for the Artist. However, he was a great deal older than some of those that he recorded in ’57, ’58,
BH: How old was he at that time?
Ken Broad turning up vintage Altecs playing location recoding form the ’50s of Tommy Dorsey Big Band, Nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
KB: Well, he was older than Buddy Holly by about seven years which wasn’t very much. He was in his 30’s when he worked with Buddy Holly. He recognized the talent in them and there were 12 major hits that came out of the Norman Petty Studio on West 7th Street in 15 months time which was pretty phenomenal. They were coming out on the Coral and Brunswick labels as well when Decca didn’t take him [Buddy Holly] on with “That’ll Be The Day.” After Buddy Holly was dropped by Decca he came back and with the recommendation of a disc jockey in Lubbock, Texas he came out to no-man’s land in Clovis, New Mexico and matched with somebody who could really take his music and work together. He and Buddy Holly worked together. They collaborated on a lot of the songs that they did and look where they went.
Danny White: I want to add something to that just to go along with Ken. There are two big bangs in Rock and Roll as far as I’m concerned. The minute that Elvis Presley walked through the door at Sam Phillip’s Studio and the minute Buddy Holly walked through the door at Norman Petty’s studio. You look at those two things and right down the street here just one block is where Buddy Holly recorded for Decca and he was dropped off of Decca. How fast? Less than a year.
Ken Broad next to original Norman Petty Ampex 401 now in Nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
Ken: Oh, Yeah. In months and then he was done. But, he went to Norman and without that work he did in Clovis…no Beatles like they were, no Rolling Stones like they were. I mean the early Beatles; the early Stones were heavily influenced by the work of Buddy Holly.
BH: The difference between Elvis and Buddy was Elvis was a great interpreter but Buddy Holly was a singer/songwriter like Little Richard. He did his own stuff.
Danny: Right. So, you look at the first Beatles, “Listen To Me”, “Words Of Love”. I think one of the first Rolling Stones releases was “Not Fade Away.” So, that all came out of Clovis, New Mexico so that is pretty interesting to think about.
Ken: These many years later, 50 some years later the interest is still strong in that music. It is much stronger in England than any other place that I know of. The people have held high the banner of Buddy Holly.
BH: I think that is true of all early Rock and Roll, Gene Vincent on down to Eddie Cochran.
Danny: Eddie Cochran yeah!
Vintage Seeburg jukebox fille dwith Norman Petty recordings at Sixteen Ton Studios, Nashville, TN, photo – Brad Hardisty
Ken: We do tours of the old studio in Clovis, New Mexico at 1313 West 7th on the original gear that was used in that studio and there are people that come every several months. Groups that want to measure the studio because they want to re-create one in London or some part of England so they can have a studio like Norman Petty.
- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN thenashvillebridgeathotmaildotcom