A Little Record Plant History

Two weeks ago at the NAMM TEC Awards, the two men who gave me my first job in the world of recording were honored with a lifetime achievement award. Chris Stone and Gary Kellgren built the Record Plant (Click on the link above to watch the video).

It was a dream come true for a 21 year old kid from Lawrence, Kansas. The day I started work, I looked on the daily schedule and saw that the Eagles were in Studio C, Stevie Wonder was in Studio B and Dave Mason was in Studio A.

I ran into John Lennon and Keith Moon in the game room and we chatted about the Japanese Fighting fish in the salt water tank. I was screaming in my head that I was talking about fish with a Beatle and a Who member. Stevie Wonder would play air hockey...and win. Frank Zappa would drink coffee by the gallon and work till the sun came up. Al Kooper would keep us all in stitches laughing.

Chris and Gary also knew how to hire a great staff. From the runners to the assistant engineers to the technical staff, sales and accounting people...they looked for the best. Where they really shined were in their choices of studio managers.

Rose Mann, Michelle Zarin and Nina Bombardier all ran a tight ship, keeping us all scheduled, sane and healthy. At any given moment they handled daily crisis, minute details and big egos with grace and style. All of them were tough as nails, brilliant negotiators and psychologists and worked their asses off. They also shared their insights and knowledge and kicked our butts when we got out of hand. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

Chris and Gary built a family AND a very successful business. It could be crazy and exhausting at times, infuriating at others, but it was exciting as hell.

There is one memory that really gave me my respect and gratitude to Chris and Gary. It had nothing to do with music or entertainment. It had to do with humanity.

My best friend from Kansas and I had always wanted to start a band in Los Angeles. He had just completed a world tour with Neil Sedaka, after never having traveled more than about 100 miles outside of our small town. When the tour was completed, I had been working at the Record Plant for about 2 months. He was staying in a small apartment with my sister and I and we were making big plans for the future. As it was, he had to go back to Kansas to pick up his stuff and move out to L.A. One night he flew out and the next morning I got a call that he had been killed with another young musician friend in an auto accident on the way back to Lawrence.

I was devastated...and broke. Apparently, someone at the studio, I assume it was either Rose or Michelle Zarin at that time, had heard about this and told me that Gary wanted to see me. I was nervous, as I had heard that he could be tough on the newbies if we messed up.

I found Gary in the hallway and he handed me an envelope saying that this was from Chris and him. It was a plane ticket to Kansas to attend Jody's memorial service. Chris told me to take the time I needed.

This gesture meant the world to me and I will always remember it.

Thank you Chris, Gary, Gloria, Marta, Devon & the Record Plant family. You're the best.