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Exclusive interview with Gold Star Recording Studio genius David Gold

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JJ Rocks Article # 252: Exclusive interview with Gold Star Recording Studio genius David Gold

One of the greatest honors of my life was being a producer at Gold Star Recording Studios in Hollywood, California. It was one of the most influential and successful commercial recording studios in the world.

It was a thrill producing and arranging music in the same room where some of the greatest musical artist in history recorded their songs. And now I’m fortunate enough to have an exclusive interview with David Gold, the man who was responsible for all the groundbreaking electronic sonic wonders that came from Gold Star Studios.

The studio was renowned for its unique custom-designed recording equipment, which was designed and built by David Gold, as well as its famed echo chambers. According to Mr. Gold (and Wikipedia), who designed the chambers after years of research and experimentation, they were built in an area of about 20' x 20' and were complementary trapezoids 18 feet (5.5 m) long. The walls were thick, specially-formulated cement plaster on heavy isolation forms. Entry into the chambers was through a series of 2' by 2' doors, and the opening was only about 20 inches wide and high.

Between 1950 and 1984 Gold Star created more Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) "Songs of the Century”, and Grammy Hall of Fame winners than any other independent studio in America.

So that’s just a little information about this incredible studio that is the best I have ever worked at. So let’s get to the exclusive interview with a man that I consider a true recording studio genius, David Gold!

JJ Rocks: How did Gold Star Studios get started and who were some of the first artist to record there?”

David Gold: Remember that Gold Star opened in 1950. Most of the people who used our services at that time were song writers, publishers, agencies etc.

Early notables would be Gogy Grant, Artie Wayne or The Hi Lo's to name a few. Many of our early clients would become celebs.
I was at Cedars Sinia Hospital, just visiting, and a man came up to me and said, are you David Gold? I said yes, should I know you? He lifted his cap and I did recognize him. It was Nino Tempo. You may remember that he worked with Phil Spector. His sister is April Stevens. But I don't know if you even ever heard of any of these people. I haven't seen Nino for 35 years myself.

JJ Rocks: Who were some of the first well known celebrities that recorded hit songs at gold star?

David Gold: Over the years it seems like we had more celebrities come through Gold Star than I could have ever imagined. They were not only music people, also TV actors and actresses as well. Even One of our Presidents. I have just given the Ronald Reagan Library the portable recorder I used to record his interviews for GE Theater. As for some sort of list I will include a copy from our PR. You can not imagine what it feels like to a child going to the movies and seeing people who were celebrities who I would never hope to meet and then to grow up and actually meet and work with them, wow. In the early forties I sold 78 RPM records by Johnny Mercer (President of Capitol Records) and then worked with him in the seventies. It is like a fairy tale. Back to your question "early celebs".

I suppose Jimi Hendrix would be one, Dick Dale would be another. Strangely Randy California would record many years later( His Mother and Father were close childhood friends).
Bobby Troup author of "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" was an early client at Gold Star. I wonder if he ever realized that GS, located on Santa Monica Blvd., was on Route 66.

(* indicates National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) "Songs of the Century") La Bamba _ Ritchie Valens* (first Spanish language Rock & Roll hit record) Oh, Donna _ Ritchie Valens* (first ‘flanged’ or automatically double tracked hit record) I Got You Babe _ Sonny & Cher* (first Sonny & Cher hit) To Know Him is to Love Him _ The Teddy Bears (first Phil Spector hit) Inna Gada da Vida _ Iron Butterfly (first platinum album) If I Were a Carpenter _ Bobby Darin (Bobby Darin’s comeback hit) This Guy's in Love with You _ Herb Alpert & Bert Bacharach (Herb Alpert’s first hit as a vocalist) Grazing' in the Grass _ Hugh Masakela (first American hit by African group) Tequila _ The Champs* (co produced and co arranged by Stan Ross) All I Really Want to Do _ Cher (Cher’s first solo hit) Utee _ Rosa Lee Brooks (Jimi Hendrix’ first recorded guitar solo) He's a Rebel _ The Crystals (first "Wall of Sound") The Birds and the Bees _ Jules Aiken (first ‘chorused’ guitar on a hit record) That's All I Know_ Art Garfunkle (Art Garfunkel’s first solo hit) Zip A Dee Do Dah _ Bobb E. Soxx & The Blue Jeans (first distorted lead guitar on a hit record) The Big Hurt _ Toni Fisher (first phase_shifting or ‘phasing’ effect) The Happy Whistler _ Don Robertson (improvised on the spot by Stan’s innovative volume control technique) Jungle Hop _ Don & Dewey (first electronically distorted guitar) The Runaways _ The Runaways _ (First album by all_female Rock & Roll band) I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times _ The Beach Boys (first use of Theramin on a pop record) .

I also created the effect and in some respects the idea that culminated in the creation of "Alvin & The Chipmunks", which is why the ‘father’ was named ‘David’; In the fifties Gold Star was almost entirely a demo studio. Most of what we recorded was demos of what song writers were trying to sell to publishers, artists and record companies, only we tried to make them sound like finished records. We recorded spots for radio, vocal coaches brought their students in to make auditions, which is how Gogie was discovered. Stan took her to MCA where she got her start. We did some master recording for small labels and our reputation grew and grew. We did a lot of Rhythm and Blues for small labels as well. By the 60's we were a state of the art studio, but we never forgot where our roots were and our motto was to do the best we could for everyone without regard of who they were or were not.

JJ Rocks: Could you just give us an idea of the kind of equipment (boards, effects, ect.) that was used at Gold star and how did it changed from your first sessions to your last?

David Gold: In 1950 when we began, several weeks before opening we were given notice that the console which we purchased was not to be as the bankrupt corp. from which we purchased it was not allowed to sell the assets. I had no alternative but to construct our own and frankly I didn't know where to start. I threw together a two input mixer which we nicknamed Humphry which it was. We used this simple device for several years with great success. Then I started designing a series of consoles. Each one reflected the changes in the work we were doing as well as the advancing technology, Number three was donated to The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame last year by Herb Alpert, who purchased it from us when we re placed it with our first Transistor board, Herb Wanted to use it in his new studio because he felt it had a warmness that new tech did not. To some extent I agree with him.

Several Boards followed. All were state of the art, but with one problem. They were designed to reflect the desires of our in-house engineers. Visiting engineers found it difficult to grasp and learn the boards and required in house second engineers. The business was changing. We were the last studio to employ our own engineers. We were forced to purchase a Trident for studio B in 83.

So there you have it from a $50.00 first console to a $150,000.00 TRIDENT which in my opinion was a very good unit. We started with a very simple recording lathe and a small tape recorder which I built from scratch. We progressed from there to two Scully lathes Ampex 350's Scully 4 and 8 track machines, and finely to a Neumann Lathe and several 16 and 24 track machines, all kinds of microphones, speakers and our world famous echo chambers. By 84 it was obvious that the industry was changing so quickly that the fun years were over. I am glad that I was able to experience a time that will never return.

JJ Rocks: When I was a producer at your studio what kind of board was I and engineer Ed Epstein using?

David Gold: The board that you recorded on, if it was in studio A, was the board that used OPamps. If I come across any pictures I will send them on.

JJ Rocks: I remember as a kid I would be glued to the TV every time
‘Shindig” would come on. Could you tell us a little about Gold Star’s involvement with that famous and groundbreaking television show?

David Gold: My friend, Ray Pohlman was musical director on the show. He was a fine Jazz musician and a member of the Wrecking Crew. Jack Good was the producer. Ray brought Jack in to see our studio as it was where most of the talent on Shindig came from. Jack liked the relaxed feeling of Gold Star and decided to do the tracking in studio A. Most of what you saw on TV was prerecorded in studio A. The performers in most cases merely mouthed the singing. Surprise??? We did have one problem and that was that our engineers became second engineers to the staff of the rival union. We were IBEW. But we got along fine and when no one was looking our guys took the controls. That's it in a nutshell. When Gold Star closed Ray and I took an office together and did early computer consulting. It gave us time to develop some equipment ideas. We worked together for several years. He and his wife built a second home in New Mexico where he had a heart attack and died. He was not yet 60.

JJ Rocks: With the incredible amount of independent bands out there recording in their own small studios and flooding the internet, and with records companies loosing 20% a year in sales, do you think the record companies will one day disappear and be taken over the independent music industry?

David Gold: It is difficult to give a simple answer. The music business as I knew it does not exist anymore. Its demise started when artists began writing and publishing their own songs, good and bad. They thus eliminated an entire part of the industry. At about the same time the home studio became possible (Good and Bad). The problem was that experienced people who had filled these jobs were no longer available and it was left to novices. Then came selling on the internet.

While it is true that this gave many artists a chance to get their product out to the public it changed the industry completely. Again I don't know if this is good or bad. My personal feeling, and it may be prejudice, is that we ruined a wonderful industry with a lot of mediocre products and an audience brought up to accept it as state of the art. My generation grew up with just radio and invented all the devices you have now and think it was always here and take it for granted. My question is "What are you going to leave your children and grandchildren??"
David, I want to thank you for giving me a chance to talk with someone who will live forever in the halls of recording studio greatness. Let’s stay in touch! Peace from Paradise,

JJ Rocks - The Spotlight Zone