From 1977 to 1981, I had the privilege of working at one of the world’s great studios, Hollywood’s United/Western. United/Western was part of Bill Putnam’s United Recording Corporation, along with U.R.E.I., Teletronix, and San Francisco’s Coast Recorders.
United and Western…Chuck Britz and Bones Howe
Putnam had founded United Recording at 6050 Sunset Blvd. in 1957 and eventually built 5 rooms there, including the legendary “Studio A”. Before long, he also took over Western Recorders at 6000 Sunset. At one time Western had 8 rooms including the large, spectacular Studio 1 and the famous Studio 3, home to countless rock hits. (For a more complete history of Mr. Putnam’s career, visit http://www.uaudio.com/history/BPsr.html)
It would be impossible to name all the famous artists who recorded at United/Western, but among the best known are Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and The Papas, Rick Nelson, Johnny Mathis, Johnny Rivers, Herb Alpert, Barbra Streisand, and Sammy Davis Jr. Mr. Putnam personally lent his talent on many sesions with Ray Charles, Sinatra, and Crosby.
Studio 3 was home to two other famous engineers, Bones Howe and Chuck Britz (who I had the great pleasure of working with).
Never a dull moment
Working at United/Western was an experience like no other. Every day, some of the most talented people in the industry walked through our doors. In 1977 we had five 24-track rooms and often, they’d all be running at the same time. We might have Santana tracking an album in Studio 1, Ringo Starr doing a TV special in 2, and Jonothan Winters doing comedy skits in 3. The excitement was intense, along with the pressure — and we loved every minute of it. At the helm were the wonderful Joan and Jerry Barnes. Beautiful Joanie was a blast and Texas Jerry with his pipe was a quiet patriarch, whom we deeply admired.
URC community…and the Newsletters
There was a lot of interaction between the studios and U.R.E.I., which kept us supplied with 1176LN’s, LA2A’s, power amps, graphic equalizers, “Little Dippers”, and other nice toys. We had picnics, baseballs games, and dinner cruises together. URC felt like family.
One day in 1977, Joanie asked me to write a studio column for our monthly URC newsletter, and I happily accepted. The newsletter was edited by Ethyl Morris, whose husband Bud was an executive at U.R.E.I. I enjoyed writing about the stars we recorded, and all the great sessions. Ethyl and I were chatting once about the history of United/Western, and bless her heart, she gave me a stack of the older newsletters to take home.
These United Newsletters are a real gold mine of memories and photos from those glory days at United/Western and Coast — the mid 60’s and early 70’s. Studio folks from that era will see familiar names and faces like Hal Blaine, Bones Howe, Henry Lewy, Herb Alpert, Perry Botkin Jr, Dean Martin, Lee Hazelwood, Billy Strange, Frank de Medio, Chuck Britz, and of course,“Bill” Putnam himself. Though many stories focus on corporate issues and staff news, others offer a fun, revealing look at an era when great musicians stood or sat near microphones, and 8 tracks were usually enough!
The 20 quarterly issues (each 4-16 pages long) are presented in PDF format. Here’s an index of all the issues, along with links to each one. I hope you enjoy them. The URC Newsletter index.
(Special thanks to Phill Sawyer, who contributed 4 of the newsletters. Phill was at United/Western in the 60’s. He worked closely with Bill Putnam and engineered some amazing sessions. Check out his stories about those great days at http://precambrianmusic.com/history1.htm.)