|Front door, Record Plant, Sausalito, CA|
Record Plant Studios (also known as just "The Record Plant") were three famous recording studios which were started and run by Gary Kellgren (who was the creative engineer, producer & studio designer) and Chris Stone (a National Sales Rep for Revlon Cosmetics).
Two 24 track rooms and a jacuzzi!
The first opening of the Record Plant was in New York City at 321 West 44th Street map, in 1968. The next year, they opened a studio in Los Angeles and then in 1972, the studio also opened up in Sausalito, California.
The first album recorded at the Record Plant in New York was Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in 1968.
Kellgren died in 1977, and in the 1980s, the New York and Sausalito studios ended up under different ownership and management. The New York studio closed in 1987 and the Sausalito studio closed in 2008. The Los Angeles studio continues in business as "The Record Plant".
The Sausalito studio featured "API boards, 3M 24-track and 2-track machines, with extra Ampex 2-tracks and 4-tracks. Dolby M-16 or M-16-8X units provide noise reduction with UREI LA3A and 1176 limiters, Eventide phasers, Pultec equalizers, Cooper Time Cube, United Audio's Little Dipper and Westlake monitors."(1)
|Record Plant, Studio B, Sausalito, CA|
On October 28, 1972, Kellgren and Stone opened the Northern California location in Sausalito, throwing a Halloween party to celebrate Studio A going on line. Ginger Mews, ex-manager of Wally Heider Studios, was named studio manager of Sausalito Music Factory, doing business as Record Plant, and construction continued on the similarly equipped Studio B with completion expected in February 1973. The 10,700-square-foot (990 m2) building was a former office suite covered with diagonal redwood siding in an industrial park near Sausalito's harbor facilities. Kellgren worked with Hidley to design Studio A and Studio B to have the same size and the same "dead" acoustics, and both were fitted with Hidley-designed Westlake monitors. Studio A was decorated with a sunburst pattern on the wall and white fabric draped from the ceiling. Studio B was more vibrant to the eye, having multi-colored fabric layers on the ceiling and swirls of color on the walls. Kellgren and Stone sent party invitations out on slabs of redwood, and among the guests were John Lennon and Yoko Ono who both showed up dressed as trees. The first recording on the books was under producer Al Schmitt who brought in Mike Finnigan and Jerry Wood as Finnigan & Wood, recording the album Crazed Hipsters. When Studio B went online, engineer Tom Flye came out to California from New York and ran the room; his first customer was New Riders of the Purple Sage who recorded The Adventures of Panama Red. Following that, Flye helped Sly and the Family Stone make their album Fresh.
The expansion into Sausalito was the result of drummer Buddy Miles and radio pioneer Tom "Big Daddy" Donahue asking Kellgren and Stone to put a studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. The intention was to have a getaway studio, far from the pressures of the big city music industry. Miles and Donahue promised that their recording business would go to the new studio and that it would be promoted with a live radio show. "Live From The Plant" was the resulting radio show; it was broadcast on Donahue's album-oriented rock station KSAN (FM) from time to time over the next two years, primarily on Sunday nights, and it featured various artists such as the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, The Tubes, Peter Frampton, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Pablo Cruise, Rory Gallagher, The Marshall Tucker Band, Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Raitt, Link Wray, Linda Ronstadt and Fleetwood Mac. KSAN, known as "Jive 95", was the most popular radio station for Bay Area listeners from 18 to 34 years old, and the Record Plant broadcasts were widely heard.
|Jimmy Cliff, Record Plant, Sausalito, CA|
Donahue died in April 1975 after which fewer concerts were broadcast. A notable later radio show was by Nils Lofgren and his band, with a guest appearance by Al Kooper; they performed at the Record Plant's Halloween party in 1975.
|Dave Sholin, John and Yoko, Record Plant, Sausalito, CA|
The Record Plant in Sausalito soon became known as one of the top four recording studios in the San Francisco Bay Area, the other three being the CBS/Automatt (now defunct), Wally Heider Studios (now Hyde Street Studios) and Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. In the first year, the studio worked on projects by Buddy Miles, the Grateful Dead (who booked the whole building in August 1973 to record Wake of the Flood), and on Greg Allman's first solo album, Laid Back.
The quirkiness of the studio extended in many directions: For transporting musicians, Stone owned a limousine with the custom license plate DEDUCT, while Kellgren kept a purple Rolls-Royce displaying GREED on the license plate. As in Los Angeles, the studio contained a jacuzzi, but Sausalito's conference room had a waterbed floor. For the musicians' meals, there were chefs ready to cook organic food, and for their sleeping quarters there were two guesthouses next to each other, five minutes away in Mill Valley. In back there was a basketball hoop, and in the nearby harbor a speedboat was kept ready. The studio obtained industrial-grade nitrous oxide—pure, not mixed with oxygen as it is for dental anesthesia—from a local chemical supply company under the pretext that the gas was critical to the recording process, and fresh tanks were delivered weekly. Gas masks hung from the ceiling for those who wished to get intoxicated on "laughing gas"; the Grateful Dead and their engineer Dan Healy reportedly made use of this feature. Al Kooper wrote that during the few days that he was helping Lofgren lay down tracks for Cry Tough, Kooper was so taken with the novel drug experience that he wheeled one of the tanks around and kept it next to him for refreshment between takes. He breathed in so much of it that acid collected in his stomach, aggravating his ulcers, and for a few days he was too sick to work. Kooper said that the studio's fun with nitrous oxide was stopped forever when a friend of Kellgren's was found dead from asphyxia under one of the tanks, the tube still in his mouth.
To satisfy the wishes of Sly Stone, one of the office spaces at the studio was turned into an unusual recording studio dubbed "The Pit". The Pit was a 140-square-foot (13 m2), acoustically dead room that had the engineer's controls sunk 10 feet (3.0 m) into the foundation of the building, this pit surrounded on all sides by a ground level area intended for the musicians. Its appearance was futuristic, with bright maroon plush carpet on the floors, walls, ceiling, and stairs. Psychedelic murals and embroidery added to the visual atmosphere. There were no windows between the control room and the main studio area, previously considered a fundamental method of sound separation; instead, there was a partial cowling circling the control pit, also carpeted. A loft bed was accessible from the perimeter of The Pit, reached only by climbing through a giant pair of red lips. At the head of the bed, audio jacks allowed for microphones to be connected to the console in The Pit so that an artist could vocalize from under the covers. Guitarist Bob Welch wrote that "it really was the height of '70s 'over-the-top-ness'." Al Kooper said "it looked like something out of Thunderdome." Jack Bruce thought it was decorated to look like a human heart, "with all kinds of red, synthetic fur on the walls." Sly Stone recorded in it from time to time but mostly it remained an unused curiosity—a "white elephant", according to producer Jimmy Robinson—a room that new arrivals were shown to elicit an "oh wow, what a trip" response. The separation between engineer and musician frustrated Stone, and he recorded as much as possible down in the actual pit, next to the engineers, lowering a Hammond B3 organ into the pit for his own use, or positioning the members of a horn section down there. Kellgren said it was like a Ferrari in that you had to know what you were doing in order to drive it. In late August 1975, Kellgren flew up from L.A. with bassist Bill Wyman who had just finished a major tour with The Rolling Stones. In The Pit, Wyman jammed with Van Morrison who played saxophone, guitarist Joe Walsh (who had just joined the Eagles), drummer Dallas Taylor, pianist Leon Russell and the Tower of Power horn section; some of the tracks contributed to Wyman's solo album Stone Alone. Wyman laid down his vocal tracks from a lying-down position, a bottle of brandy in his hand.
Mid- to late-1970s
In 1975, the Record Plant's hourly rate was $120. Stevie Wonder worked on Songs in the Key of Life in Sausalito; Sammy Hagar used The Pit to record tracks for a solo album, and the Tower of Power cut In the Slot. Pure Prairie League recorded, Bob Welch's band Paris made Paris, and America produced Hearts. Remote recordings were made by Record Plant crews and gear for Dan Fogelberg, Sly Stone, Joe Walsh, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Elvin Bishop performed a concert at Record Plant, Sausalito on March 26, 1975.
In February 1976 for the album that became Rumours, Fleetwood Mac blocked time at the studio to lay down tracks, bringing in engineers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut. Caillat was responsible for most of the tracking; he took a leave of absence from Wally Heider Studios in L.A. on the premise that Fleetwood Mac would use their facilities for mixing. Most band members complained about the windowless studio and wanted to record at their homes, but Mick Fleetwood nixed this. The band used Studio A with its 3M 24-track tape machine, various studio microphones, and an API mixing console with 550A equalizers. Although Caillat was impressed with the setup, he felt that the room lacked ambiance because of its "very dead speakers" and large amounts of soundproofing. Fleetwood remarked of his time at the studio that his band did not go into The Pit as it was usually occupied by strangers who were chopping powdered drugs into lines with razors.
In late 1977, 19-year-old Prince recorded his debut album in Sausalito while renting a home nearby. He performed every instrument, every track, and produced his own album, For You. He spent the equivalent of three album budgets to make this first record, and responded defensively when more experienced producers made suggestions in the studio. At the Record Plant he met Sly Stone, Chaka Khan and Carlos Santana; three musicians he greatly admired. For You was criticized as over-produced and did not sell well.
Fleetwood Mac's Rumours went Platinum in 1977. The band Pablo Cruise recorded two Platinum-certified albums at the Record Plant: A Place in the Sun (1977) and Worlds Away (1978). Cory Lerios, keyboardist and vocalist for Pablo Cruise, said that, in recording "the better part of four albums" at the Record Plant, drug use enabled jam sessions that could last up to 36 hours: "It was a great time, no question." Another Platinum album that came out of Sausalito in 1978 was Dan Fogelberg's Twin Sons of Different Mothers, a collaboration with Tim Weisberg on flute. Other albums did less well: Jimmy Cliff laid down the tracks for Give Thankx in Jamaica but he came to Sausalito to polish it up, with producers Bob Johnston and John Stronach giving guidance. Cliff loved the studio's laid-back atmosphere, and he said Give Thankx was his best work yet. However, the album did not chart.
Singer, composer and producer Rick James became a fixture at the Record Plant beginning in mid-1981. He recorded all of Street Songs in Studio B, and it went multiple platinum, driven by its hit songs "Super Freak" and "Give It to Me Baby". James was known both for his quick work to create songs in the studio and his high level of cocaine consumption. For a time, James lived in the conference room with the waterbed floor. Jim Gaines said that, with James in residence, "bands that weren't even recording would come by just to see who was there and say 'hi'." James was known for walking through other artists' recording sessions wearing only a towel, and sometimes dropping the towel for effect, "in front of all the women" according to Gaines. Studio manager Shiloh Hobel said that Sly Stone made an appearance, meeting James for the first time. She said, "It was such an incredible moment, these two fabulous forces in music... Each of them was really taken with the other."
In 1981 Stone sold the Sausalito studio to Laurie Necochea. Necochea was a music fan who, as a teenager in 1978, had received a $5.6 million malpractice settlement for being radiated too much during treatment for thyroid cancer, causing paralysis and quadriplegia. Stone said of the sale, "she bought Sausalito because if she owned the studio she could go backstage at concerts."
The Sausalito studio was managed for Necochea by Steve Malcolm and Bob Hodas. The studio business became known as "The Plant Studios" or simply, "The Plant.
In 1982, Necochea funded two new Trident TSM mixing consoles for Studios A and B, and she paid for extensive acoustic work performed by Hidley in Studio B, including louvered panels to control the reverberation characteristics. Studio B's control room was enlarged from 1,500 to 1,850 square feet (140 to 172 m2), and a new studio monitoring system was installed: the Meyer Sound Laboratories ACD, John Meyer's first loudspeaker product. Rick James was the first artist to use the refurbished Studio B. Huey Lewis and the News made their greatly successful album Sports primarily at the Plant.
Changes in ownership and management
In early 1984, the Necochea Trust determined that the money going to the Plant was being mishandled, and they sold the property to Stanley Jacox. Necochea died a year later at age 23.
Jacox selected Jim Gaines as general manager; Gaines was a Stax/Volt veteran and a past manager of The Automatt. The small rehearsal room that had been The Pit was turned into Studio C, first used by John Fogerty to record Centerfield. Some of the tracks for Aretha Franklin's Who's Zoomin' Who? were laid down at The Plant, under the direction of Narada Michael Walden. Engineer Maureen Droney said that "there was an aura of magic and fun that came from the people who recorded there before." Accompanying famous artists, a series of experienced engineers and producers came through The Plant: Tom Dowd, Bill Schnee, Alan Parsons, Ron Nevison, Mike Clink and Ted Templeman. In 1985, with projects in progress by Heart, Journey, Starship and Huey Lewis, the studio was seized by government agents based on an affidavit accusing Jacox of manufacturing methamphetamines at his home in Auburn and investing drug money in the studio. After Jacox's arrest, the Sausalito studio was owned by the federal government, who ran it with a skeleton crew for 14 months. Some observers jokingly called it "Club Fed" during this time, and among the recordings are unreleased tapes made by Buddy Miles known as the Club Fed Sessions. The government sold the studio at auction to recording engineer Bob Skye in 1986, effective on the first day of 1987. In 1988, Skye recruited recording engineer Arne Frager as a partner and Frager bought him out in late 1993.
Spending $1 million, Frager remodeled Studio A for Metallica and producer Bob Rock in 1993–1995, raising the roof from 14 to 32 feet (4.3 to 9.8 m) high for a bigger drum sound. The remodeling included the installation of an SSL 4000 G series console. He gave Studio B a vintage desk: a Neve 8068 with 64 inputs and GML Automation, purchased from the L.A. Record Plant. The former Pit/Studio C—renamed Mix 1—was given an SSL 9000 J series board for stereo and surround sound mixes. The sunken control area that had been created for The Pit was fitted with custom subwoofers. Mix 1 was eventually renamed "The Garden," an oval-shaped mix room designed by Frager and Manny LaCarruba. The Garden was a reverse-design studio where the larger tracking room was the new control room, and the old control room was used for overdubs. Metallica's S&M was mixed in The Garden. Recording artists who worked at The Plant during this period include Sammy Hagar, Kenny G, Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton, Luther Vandross, Jerry Harrison, Chris Isaak, the Dave Matthews Band, Papa Wheelie, Deftones, and Booker T. Jones. Santana's huge comeback album, Supernatural, was made at The Plant, released in 1999. In 2007, Journey returned to The Plant with a new singer, Arnel Pineda, to create Revelation, their biggest album in over two decades.
In 2005, vintage guitar collector Michael Indelicato bought the building, with Frager continuing to run the studios. However, large recording studios were no longer profiting from '70s- and '80s-era recording budgets. Bob Welch once observed, "You had to have a major-label budget to afford places like The Record Plant, with all of the perks—the jacuzzi, the decor, the psychedelic atmosphere". By the 2000s, bands were using their smaller budgets to buy their own recording gear. Metallica, formerly an important client, built their own recording studio and did not book any time at The Plant. Frager asked Indelicato to invest in what he saw as a much-needed rejuvenation of the building, but Indelicato was overextended in his finances and could not help. Indelicato shut the doors in March 2008 after The Fray finished recording in studio B. Shortly thereafter, Indelicato's $5.5 million home in Tiburon was reclaimed by his mortgage company, and he used The Plant as his residence until early 2009.
A few months later, the bank seized the studio, and it remained unused until 2010 when the bank rented studio A to a local film production company for film work. The bank has also rented studio B to Indelicato, the former owner of the building. Frager still legally owns the business name: "The Plant Studios," and has resumed recording in Marin at a new location.
Jerry recorded here on
3/2/73 Old And In The Way
4/21/73 Old And In The Way
7/8/73 Merl Saunders
8/6/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/7/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/9/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/10/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/11/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/12/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/13/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/14/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
8/15/73 Grateful Dead "Wake Of The Flood"
9/2/73 Merl Saunders (Keepers (Finders), Georgia On My Mind)
1973 Matt Kelly (A Wing And A Prayer)
April 1974 Peter Rowan (Texican Badman)
5/31/74 Michael Omartian, Ron Tutt, Merl Saunders, John Kahn (Some Enchanted Evening, Cardiac Arrest)
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49.)^"Famed Studio Celebrates 25 Years of Music, Et Cetera", Los Angeles Sentinel: B4, 1997-11-12
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