Jun 20, 2018
Riddle me this…
What do these recordings all have in common, besides classic recording artists: “Boogie Chillun” by John Lee Hooker; “Back in the USA” by the MC5; “Mothership Connection” by Parliament; “Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes; and “What’s Goin’ On” by Marvin Gaye.
The answer? They were all recorded in United Sound Systems Recording Studios Established in Detroit, Michigan in 1933 by Jimmy Siracuse, it became the first independent and full service major recording studio in the nation and created a platform which gave artists, musicians, writers, and producers the ability to record music, cut the record and get airplay without being signed to a major label. As you can tell from our opening quiz, top players, particularly those from the urban centers of the Midwest, made United Sound Systems the place to be for decades.
On December 21st 1947 Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach recorded four Parker compositions for Savoy Records at United Sound System. Parker's Quintet was in town for two weeks, performing and backing Sarah Vaughan at the El Sino Club. The story goes that that Parker hustled to lay down four sides before the 1948 recording ban was to go into effect.
As with most of the great, old studios, age and innovation had left United Sound in a bad way. Seven decades after the Parker sessions, Producer Ron Skinner and Recording Engineer Nick Bonin came to the control room of Studio B, at United Sound Systems to pay homage to those recordings, bring a group of musicians calling themselves the Detroit Bop Quintet. Using information from the few folks still alive who had worked at United Sound and what they could gather form research, the two attempted to make a recording in similar situations to those the Parker band faced in 1947. This meant standing in the same places, using comparable microphones and as much analog gear as could be assembled. For specifics, check this out.
Podcast 622 is my conversation with Ron Skinner, as we learn about the history of United Sound Systems Recording Studios, and how he made these wonderful recordings. Musical selections include “Bluebird” from the new recordings and “Bird Gets the Worm" from the Parker sessions in 1947.