Meeting Topic: Motown: In the Studio Where it Happened!
Moderator Name: Greg Dixon
Speaker Name: Bob Olhsson and John Windt, - Former Motown Engineers
Other business or activities at the meeting: Upcoming March meeting on Diversity and Inclusion with Dr. Angela Dane.
Meeting Location: Seattle, WA, via zoom
The PNW Section's February 2021 Zoom meeting brought veteran engineer Bob Olhsson, talking about his years working at Motown in Detroit, MI USA in the 1960s. Olhsson spoke to about 149 participants (about 79 being AES members) from his current home in Nashville, TN, USA. As a surprise extra, he was joined by longtime friend and also past Motown engineer, John Windt.
Working from a set of still photos of the studio and a loose outline moderated by PNW's Rick Chinn, Bob and John chatted for about 2.5 hours on the history of Motown and audio gear, founder Berry Gordy, the 1960s record business and Detroit, and more.
Afterwards, attendees were invited to go live, introduce themselves, and chat with Bob and John.
Media from the meeting will be available from the PNW Section website in the Archive section:
Bob Olhsson spent 7 years at Motown. While he was there, he recorded and mastered nearly 100 top ten singles including 42 Number Ones. One of only two people to hold every recording engineering position in the company, he worked on Stevie Wonder's first productions and Motown's first successful rock act, Rare Earth.
Leaving Motown for the San Francisco Bay Area in 1972, he landed at KPFA Radio, Berkeley/San Francisco where he mixed dozens of live jazz, folk and classical broadcasts, from Van Morrison to Weather Report. Later he was at the Quicksilver Messenger Service, Marin County/San Francisco and built and then managed a 24 track recording studio for the Quicksilver Messenger Service band for over a decade. This included co-producing their last album for Capitol Records. Next, he went to Hearts of Space Records, San Francisco where he digitally mastered most of the label's catalog of ambient, electronic and world music. A number of these titles were acclaimed as audiophile reference recordings. At AW Audio, Marin County/San Francisco he built the first Pro Tools motion picture post audio system in Northern California and worked as an editor at AW Audio. AW projects were mixed at Skywalker Ranch. Going freelance in San Francisco, he worked on projects for the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Band, Graham Nash, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Percy Mayfield, Ron Thompson, Harmonia Mundi Records and many others.
In 2001 Bob moved to Nashville. There he worked on projects for Keb' Mo', Orleans, Funk Brothers, Ray Manzarek, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ian McLagan, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Beth Neilson Chapman, Freedy Johnston, BR 549, Fisk Jubilee Singers, Tim O'Brien, Karen Parks, Old Crow Medicine Show, Suzy Bogguss, Bettye Lavette, many others.
John Windt built and/or installed all or most of the recording gear in Motown over much of its life. John was also the first person to identify the "Pin 1 Problem," in which an audio device's connector shields are connected to a circuit ground and only resistively connected to chassis ground, which allows hum or buzz to enter the audio circuitry. This problem caused years of grief for the audio community until John recognized it, and Neil Muncy crusaded to make the community aware of the simple fix that eliminated it. Thanks to their efforts, the problem is seldom seen today.