1967: In Black And White

IN BLACK AND WHITE – 1967

The music revolution was well underway in the greater Kansas City area and the genres better defined by 1967. There were a few ‘band guys’ around the KC area that would cluster around the Place in Westport, the Castaways or wherever we could scare up a gig. The competition for  gigs wasn’t that fierce, and the rivalry between bands was still friendly. We could always get gigs.

Those of us that managed to get out of the draft were doing it by going to college, trade school or junior college,  and the work was steady and plentiful. You could make a living by being a musician and that was cool.  Most of my exposure to bands was due to the connections developed during my years at Shawnee Mission East high school.  The Apollos, the Shadows, the Chessmen, and the Monkeymen were all created in the mid-60s and still working at this point, most hadn’t been drafted.

In Black and White is the first psychedelic band I had ever encountered first hand, and I know I was eager to get them into my studio somehow.

 

The band consisted of Jon Coffin, Hal Pierce on guitar, Tim Hamilton on bass, and Bob the drumma.  Jon lived just up the street from my studio at 7701 Mission Road in Prairie Village, KS. I don’t know how it got arranged, we ended up in my basement one day near Christmas 1967 and recorded three “sides”.

The mixers and limiters in the control room at AUDIO LAB in 1967

My studio, AUDIO LAB, was a construction that my wonderful dad, R. G. Barncard, put many hours designing and building the structure in our basement. My contribution was designing and building many audio devices for the room that I had no way of buying myself, the rest were scraped together from the used market over the years. I realize today that my dad got as much a kick out of the studio as I did, and an incredible amount of encouragement and enthusiasm from him made it possible.  I will cover the full story of the AUDIO LAB studio in another post.

THE SESSION

In 1967, the holy grail of recording for me would be a tape machine with more than two tracks and capable of sel-sync ( the ability to play tracks while recording on others). One technique was to thicken the vocal by ‘doubling’ – singing ‘exactly’ the same words and Melody the same way twice. The minor variations in pitch seem to obfuscate each other en masse, and the overall effect is sonorous and pleasing – similar to ‘phasing’.

Since I didn’t have a multi-track machine, the ‘next best thing’ was to do transfers back and forth between two tape machines, adding a fresh track on each pass, while mixing in the older ones. This is known as the ‘Les Paul’ method, and every record pass you make will have to be a ‘keeper’. Also because there is a little (or a lot) of loss and noise every pass, the earlier passes start to lose clarity. The amount of loss is directly proportional to the accuracy of the machines, and the whole thing gains some kind of odd ‘aura’ often heard in other low budget projects (and some high budget ones of the time, too ).

THE RECORDING ROOM AT AUDIO LAB

Today I don’t remember much about the session, except it was fun, and at the end we smoked a bowl, which was great except my parents were in the house upstairs, and I learned firsthand about how smoke travels. I must have cut a disc for Jon, that was the best way to get the music to people – most folks didn’t have tape recorders.

and now, below, are the original recordings, made on December 23, 1967.

7 Responses to 1967: In Black And White

  1. John Noll on January 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Love it! Sounds great Steve. Thanks for posting.

  2. Kim Krahenbuhl on January 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Once again Stephen, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about *the good old days* and how it came to be that you’re, well…who and what you are today! I wrote you years ago through the LeeShore about the American Beauty sessions after seeing the PBS special. Thanks again for sharing these great stories from your perspective…I’m by no means an expert on recording, but I can follow most of what you’re talking about and I definitely can feel how much you have always enjoyed your work..a luxury few people can enjoy anymore. You’re a lucky man!

    Kim (fomerly k2bizsvcs on LeeShore)

  3. Sally Mann Romano on January 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Thanks for posting this, Steve — I’m so glad we’re friends and am also so grateful for the influence you have had in the lives of the musicians we both love. Always, S.

  4. JP Coffin on January 6, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Thank you Stephen, It was memorable for me, in that I recall certain moments during the recording process. I do know that if was very much our good fortune that you recorded us that day.

    Cheers,
    JP Coffin

  5. Rick Brumbeloe on January 6, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Great post, Stephen, and are you putting together something that chronicles your
    sonic past? Really cool, and it took me back to what was, for me, a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling
    about music and the people that are involved in the making and recording of it. It was a golden time for music and I can’t help but feel a bit of nostalgia with these earnest, genuine
    compositions. I’ll take real feeling over slickness any day! You really should write a book Stephen, I would buy it.

  6. Michael Ritter on January 15, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for putting this blog together, loving it. BTW, track one is labeled “Hey Joe”, isn’t it “Morning Dew”.

    All the best,
    Michael

    • admin on January 15, 2015 at 9:41 am

      yeah I screwed up. Hey Joe was done by the Mystic No. National Bank and Glenn Walters, elsewhere on this site.

      thanks for reporting.

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