Photo by R. G. Barncard 1967 –
STEVE MILLER SESSION PHOTO GALLERY
The legendary Vic Damon. Here is his incredibly odd layout with the speakers in the ceiling. The right channel is just above the camera position. The left channel is just before Vic. The lathes are in front of the window, the mixer knobs are before him. Somewhere between his two lathes was a small fishbowl with his pet turtle in it, which he talked about incessantly. We thought he was crazy.
He hated rock music and would hypercompress the shit out of it without asking, and we customers were so meek we were happy to walk away with a 45. A major reason to build my own studio, but I could never cut 45s and always had to go back to him.
Vic made a huge amount of money in the early 50’s and built this studio. Ampex collectors would DROOL over the model MR-70s, some say the best machine that Ampex ever made, way before the more economical AG-440. He had two 2-track and two 4-track machines, all MR-70. All mics were U-67s on Starbird stands. He had the shit, but he didn’t care about anything but “old people’s” music (in our opinion). I ended up disliking his attitude and vowed never to treat clients like he did.
The worst part is that his little kingdom was built for one man to run by himself. He had no interns, no helpers, and heeded no other option about the best way to do things. Since this was the only ‘pro’ studio I had ever known, I tried to make my studio at home to be like his – except the stupid speakers in the ceiling – I could never bring myself to do that. We used to make fun of his idiosyncrasies behind his back. I emulated his layout: I had a stand-up mixer in my place, no console, and my machines up on some kind of platform.
Barncard’s Audio Lab – like a ‘little Damon Studio’
Vic Damon holding a 16″ instantaneous-cut disc and standing next to the studio’s record cutting lathes.
Sondra Steele, Vic Damon, Jon Steele listening to the Steele’s hit record My Happiness, recorded and released by Damon’s studio, [c.1948] Note that this photo features a turnable board that is the same exact unit that’s parked in his studio in the second photo of this series – 20 years later.
Vic Damon (right) and unidentified man driving the “Sound Bug,” a novelty car with sound system advertising Damon Recording Studios; street scene appears to be a parade, heading south from 11th Street on Grand Avenue, Kansas City . This photo was also published in Howard Tremain’s reference work The Audio Cyclopedia (not to be confused with The New Audio Cyclopedia.)
A native of Bucyrus, Ohio, Vic Damon attended the Missouri Military Academy and worked as teller for Traders National Bank before embarking on a career in the recording industry. A pioneer in recording science, Damon founded Damon Transcription Laboratory in Kansas City in 1933, operating out of the Midland Building at 1221 Baltimore. Later, as Damon Recording Studios, his studio moved to 117 W. 14th Street where Damon continued providing recording services until his retirement in 1973.
Damon was also an engineer for Kansas City radio station WHB.
During his long career, Damon recorded such local notables as Tommy Douglas, Julia Lee, the Scamps, Jay McShann and Marilyn Maye. The Blue Things, a popular folk-rock group based in Lawrence, Kansas, recorded early demos at Damon’s studio under the name The Blue Boys before landing a deal with RCA in the mid-1960s.
One of Damon’s greatest commercial successes was My Happiness, recorded at his studio December 10, 1947, by Jon and Sondra Steele. In 1948 My Happiness sold over a million copies of sheet music and won a Cashbox award for “Best Record of the Year.” Composed by Borney Bergantine with lyrics by Betty Peterson (Mrs. Lou Blasco), My Happiness was subsequently recorded by hundreds of artists including Elvis Presley’s first recorded effort rendered for his mother. Victor L. Damon died February 20, 1974 at age 73.