Meeting Topic: Bill Putnam — His Work and His Legacy
Speaker Name: Bob Bushnell and Jerry Ferree
Meeting Location: Shoreline Community College, Shoreline WA
The PNW Section managed to schedule two meetings in October 2011, since that was the way the stars aligned.
Our October 4th meeting was an insider's look at the recording business in its heyday: 1950 to 1975 by two fellows who were there to be a part of it, Bob Bushnell and Jerry Ferree. They both worked their way up from the bottom, working alongside an industry giant: Bill Putnam. Bob and Jerry wrote a book on the subject, "From Downbeat to Vinyl: Bill Putnam's Legacy to the Recording Industry." They shared some of these tales as well as other stories about this time in the industry.
Putnam was an engineer's engineer, skilled in acoustics, electronics, and an accomplished mixing engineer as well. He started Universal Recording in Chicago, and then moved to the west coast where he started United Recording in Hollywood. Along the way, because the specialized electronics needed by studios weren't generally available, he started a company to design and manufacture those products. That company eventually became known as UREI: United Recording Electronics Inc. UREI goodness is still sought after half a century later.
Bob Bushnell spoke first, telling how, as a young man he went to a meeting of the Chicago Audio and Acoustical Group at Universal Recording. He introduced himself to Bill Putnam and asked to work. He was told to come in the evening, which Bob didn't realize was when R&B sessions were usually done! There he saw his first echo chamber, a real, hard plaster room with a mike and speaker inside, dehumidified with silica gel.
Bob felt that Bill Putnam was a great mixer, worked well with the musicians and producers, and was a talented electronics designer.
Mr. Bushnell also had stories about Putnam moving the business to Los Angeles as United Recording and later buying the nearby Western Recording, as well as the formation of UREI. Bob had to wear many hats, from managing the studio tie lines to disc mastering, sessions and special projects demanding lots of overnighters. Putnam was good at delegating work - "just get it done."
Bob went into some detail about disk mastering the Westrex 45/45 stereo LP system and processing vinyl records.
Next Jerry Ferree spoke.
First, he had to comment on the classic dual phone-plug patch cord on hand and its constant use during this time. He also talked extensively about disk mastering on various lathes, including the advance ball on a Fairchild, 2/3 speed mastering, groove pitch and depth adjustments. He spoke of the teamwork and spirit at the studio.
A break was held, where copies of the book were available, as well as some snacks.
Door prizes were:
-CD by jazz artist Gretchen Parlato, courtesy Rick Chinn, won by Christopher Deckard
-Fluke items, courtesy Fluke/Rick Rodriguez: Volt Light won by Mike Matesky; Meterman DMM won by Steve Turnidge
-A copy of Bob and Jerry's book, "From Downbeat to Vinyl: Bill Putnam's Legacy to the Recording Industry" won by Colin Isler
Continuing after the break, Bob and Jerry recounted some of the recording equipment they used, and other recollections like Putnam's preference for Hubbell twist-lock connectors on his microphones, the artists they recorded, using 35mm recorders, and film soundtrack work. Bob would eventually form Bushnell Electronics to make custom recording consoles.
Today, Bob and Jerry are happily retired to Montana and Oregon, respectively.
Written By: Gary Louie and Rick Chinn