In Praise of The Tape Recorder

On this date in 1948, the first magnetic tape recorder was introduced by Wire Recording Corporation of America. The ‘Wire Way,’ sold for $149.50.

On April 25th. Bing Crosby recorded his 27th radio show of the 1947/48 season on a pair of Ampex Model 200As serial numbers one and two. Crosby had left NBC two years earlier when the network forbade him from prerecording his shows. He signed with ABC for the 46/47 season, but audiences complained about the quality of the electronic transcription discs. After the successful Ampex test, all Crosby programs were prerecorded. Pleased with the technical quality, ABC orders 12 Model 200s at $4,000 each.

Magnetic tape for sound recording was a German innovation. Around 1930, experiments began with paper tape with oxide lacquered to it. Wire recorders were first on the scene but could not compete with the higher quality audio that magnetic tape offered.

Crosby invested $50,000 in the Ampex Corporation, headed by Alexander M. Poniatoff, whose initials became part of the company name. Bing was also an early investor in video tape recording.

Guitar legend, Les Paul was the first to experiment with multi-track recording and by the 1960s, every significant rock band who could afford it was experimenting with multi-track systems.

Magnetic tape documented much of the cultural and news events of the 1960s and 70s. It found it’s way into reel-to-reel machines, compact 4 and 8 track tapes and cassettes, before digital recording CDs and cheap data storage made the older format obsolete.

Today in History:

1880 Thomas Edison patents electric incandescent lamp
1918 Tarzan of the Apes, 1st Tarzan film, premieres at Broadway Theater
1924 Lenin placed in his Mausoleum in Red Square, Moscow
1926 1st public TV demonstration
1956 ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ single released by Elvis Presley, his first million-selling single
1961 Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli make their debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in ‘Il trovatore’, final curtain call lasts 35 minutes
1961 ‘Sing Along with Mitch’ [Miller] premieres on NBC TV
1967 The Beatles sign a 9 year worldwide contract with EMI records
1967 A fire in the Apollo 1 Command Module kills astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee during a launch rehearsal
1970 Movie rating system modifies ‘M’ rating to ‘PG’
1970 John Lennon wrote, recorded and mixed his new single ‘Instant Karma!’ all in one day. It ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios and arriving in stores only ten days later.
1971 David Bowie arrived in the US for the first time; he couldn’t play live because of work permit restrictions, but attracted publicity when he wore a dress at a promotion event.
1972 American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson died in Chicago of heart failure and diabetes complications aged 60.
1973 ‘Superstition’ the lead single from Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book album became his second No.1 single in the US, 10 years after his first No.1 hit.
1973 British Glam Rock group Sweet appeared at the Grand Hall in Kilmarnock, Scotland and were driven offstage by a barrage of bottles. The incident inspired their song ‘The Ballroom Blitz’ which went on to reach number one in Canada, number two in the UK and the Australian Chart, and number five on the US Billboard Hot 100.
1973 US & North Vietnam’s William Rogers & Nguyen Duy Trinh sign cease-fire, ending longest US war and military draft
1976 ‘Laverne & Shirley’ TV spinoff from ‘Happy Days’ starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams premieres on ABC TV
1977 The Clash signed to CBS Records in the UK for £100,000.
1977 Pres Carter pardons most Vietnam War draft evaders (10 000)
1984 Michael Jackson is burned during filming for Pepsi commercial
2006 Gene McFadden, best known as half of the Philly soul team McFadden & Whitehead, died of cancer at the age of 56.
2014 American folk singer and activist Pete Seegar died at the age of 94.

Today’s Birthdays:

David Seville

1756 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian musical prodigy and composer (Figaro), born in Salzburg, Austria (d. 1791)
1832 Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson], English author (Alice in Wonderland), born in Daresbury, England (d. 1898)
1850 Edward Smith, English naval captain of the RMS Titanic, born in Hanley, Staffordshire (d. 1912)
1885 Jerome Kern, American Broadway composer (Showboat, Roberta), born in NYC, New York (.d 1945)
1918 Elmore James, US blues guitarist, singer, known as the King of the Slide Guitar. James wrote ‘Shake Your Money Maker’, which was covered by Fleetwood Mac in 1968. Influenced Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and Keith Richards. James died 24th May 1963.
1918 Skitch Henderson, Bandleader (d. 2005)
1919 David Seville, The Chipmunks who had the 1958 US No.1 single ‘The Chipmunk Song’, and the 1959 UK No.11 single ‘Ragtime Cowboy Joe’. (d. 1972)
1921 Donna Reed, in Denison Iowa (d. 1986)
1930 Bobby Bland, R&B singer,who had the 1963 US R&B No.1 single ‘That’s The Way Love Is’. (d. 2013)
1936 Troy Donahue, American actor (Surfside Six, Cockfighter, Hawaiian Eye), born in NYC, New York (d. 2001)
1940 James Cromwell, American actor (Babe, The Green Mile), born in Los Angeles, California
1944 Nick Mason: drums, percussion and tape effects, Pink Floyd. Nick is the only member of the band to play on every album since the band’s formation in 1965.
1944 Kevin Coyne, singer, songwriter, film-maker, and a writer of lyrics, stories and poems. In the mid-1970s, prior to the formation of The Police, Coyne’s band included guitarist Andy Summers. (d. 2004)
1946 Nedra Talley American singer with the all girl group The Ronettes who had five US chart toppers including ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Baby, I Love You’, ‘(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up’, and ‘Walking in the Rain.’
1948 Kim Gardner from English group Ashton Gardner & Dyke who had the 1971 UK No.3 single ‘The Resurrection Shuffle’. (d. 2001)
1951 Seth Justman, keyboards, vocals with American rock band The J Geils Band, who had the 1982 US No.1 & UK No.3 single ‘Centerfold’ which was taken from their US No.1 1981 album Freeze Frame.
1951 Brian Downey, Irish drummer and founding member of Thin Lizzy, who had the 1973 UK No.6 single ‘Whisky In The Jar’ and hits with ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’.
1956 Mimi Rogers, actress (Paper Dolls, The Rousters), born in Coral Gables, Florida
1957 Janick Robert Gers, English guitarist with English heavy metal band Iron Maiden, who had the 1982 UK No.1 album The Number Of The Beast, and the 1991 UK No.1 single ‘Bring Your Daughter …To The Slaughter’.
1959 Chris Collinsworth, NFL wide receiver/TV sportscaster
1959 Keith Olbermann, American news presenter
1964 Bridget Fonda, American actress (Scandal, Single White Female), born in Los Angeles, California

Today in 1973, ‘Superstition’ becomes Stevie Wonder’s second No.1 Hit. The lead single from the ‘Talking Book’ benefited from a percussive backbeat created by Jeff Beck. After writing the song, Wonder offered it to Beck to record, but at the insistence of Berry Gordy, Wonder himself recorded it first. Beck was instead offered ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers’, which he recorded on his Blow by Blow album in 1975.

Thanks for listening!

Scott Westerman
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit