Digitizing Chart Records Tapes From 1956
Sometimes a recording studio is a time machine. Like when you’re digitizing 1/4″ tapes from Henry Stone’s 1956 era Chart Records label through a hand built Jeep Harned MCI GH110.
With the flux capacitors operating at maximum efficiency we were transported to the early days of independent music in America, and the r&b, doo wop, rockabilly, and Latin cuts that made it such a vibrant time.
Chart Records is the label that Henry Stone formed after he broke with DeLuxe and King Records. In the settlement of the lawsuit over his unpaid royalties for the million selling “Hearts Of Stone,” Henry was able to negotiate for tens of thousands of record pressings by King, as well as his Otis Williams and The Charms masters, and 100 others as well. He picked up famed American band leader Sonny Thompson as his in-house musical director and he got to work making new records with the likes of The Champions, John Lee Hooker, Johnny and Marsha, and more.
Of course, not everything was released, and we’ve got the tapes to prove it.
Henry Stone Music is keeping these never-released sounds alive by committing them digital. And here’s the trip we took to City of Progress Studios in North Miami to make it happen.
Andrew DJ Le Spam Yeomanson was hard at work on the MCI GH110 hand built by Jeep Harned, the engineering wizard without whom Criteria Recordings and Tom Dowd wouldn’t have been who they became. “He was a Ft Lauderdale boy,” said Spam; “A genius!” said Joe Stone.
Joe Stone said, “Andrew doesn’t fuck around. He’s got a calling for, a passion for this type of work. You can’t fake that. You need patience.”
On some reels, the tape is literally falling apart. There are so many splices at the beginning, at the end, in the middle. The tapes are so old that the adhesive on the tape that holds the edits together has literally worn off. Spam patiently re-splices these breaks with new adhesive.
Some of the cuts, like those by Johnny and Marsha sound like Caribbean doo wop. This leads to a whole conversation about the role of American r&b as an influence on island music, and how Jamaican DJ’s would take shopping trips to Miami to pick up the newest records, and how the trade winds carried many South Florida radio stations across international waters to where island people would listen to them faithfully every night they could.
The old tapes turned up classic sounds by Otis Williams and The Charms, the group that Stone made his first million seller on with the song “Hearts Of Stone” that came out on DeLuxe Records, a label partnership with King Records and Syd Nathan out of Cincinnati.
Joe and Spam even used a high level studio trick, fooling the motors into continuing to run even though their photosensitive sensors should pick up on the clear tape and stop going. Spam ran the tape while Joe held a bit of cardboard over it to block the clarity of the material so that the machine would keep running.
Tape and razor for slicing and dicing.
You can tell where the engineers spliced to make fixes, or change arrangements. It’s interesting to ponder the moves they made and why.
These tapes don’t just hold the music, they hold the studio session. You can hear engineers rapping, Henry Stone giving orders, musicians laughing, all in hi fidelity warm magnetic tape sound that takes you back sixty years and puts you right in the room with them.
Some of the tapes were recorded at the King studio in Cincinnati, others at the Armory in North Miami. And some, we just don’t know.
In some cases we don’t know if the audio was mixed to tape or transferred from the lacquer. But it sure beats digitizing an old 78rpm record.
Chart Records, a Henry Stone label made in the heart of Miami that recorded from LA to Ohio, and right here in Florida.
Look out for more great things to come from Henry Stone Music USA Inc.
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