Gams and Huff and more time with Joe
“The Rich Get Richer” “Dirty Old Man” / “When Will I See You Again?” /
“She Loves You”
Another funny moment I recall working with Joe Tarsia was a night (which was rare with Joe) and we were mixing an O’Jays tune, I think it was “The Rich Get Richer”, and Joe soloed up the drums for me and as a lesson made me note how they sounded. He said that he thought that they were just as he liked to hear them, We, in the business, know that can be a rare thing as the constant pressure of the clock makes us all have to compromise much more that we wish we had to. Anyway, the funny part was that Joe (not as often on night sessions of late) was becoming very tired as the evening ground on and for some reason Kenny who almost always was there for the mixes (not to mention every moment of the productions) was absent and Joe was nodding off a bit. Now this was a bit annoying to me as the longer it took him to finish, the longer it would be until I could go home too. So, I proceeded to do stuff like “accidently” roll my chair into his and bump him awake, etc. After a while I realized that he was really quite out of it and nothing was happening that was going to get either of us home at any reasonable time. So, I tried to see how much he was hearing what was happening. As the tape was playing and he was almost snoring, I reached over in front of him and changed the equalization setting of the treble on just the snare drum. As soon as I turned it up making that slight change to the mix, he roused sat up opened his eyes looked around and then at me. I just looked back at him saying nothing. He scowled and shrugged his shoulders and went back to listening and after a very short time his eyes were closed again, and I reached up and reset the EQ. He again reacted without seeing what I had done. For the next half hour or so I kept doing that to different instruments. Every time, even in his barely (if at all) conscious state, the great Joe Tarsia could hear those minute changes! I never told him about this (until very recently) but of course I always put the settings back to what he had done. At some point, he stirred and finished the song, and we went home. Joe was a great boss and one of the finest engineers who ever pushed a fader. I cannot thank him enough for how he gave me the opportunity to thrive in the industry because of him. But man, that he could hear those changes in his sleep, Wow!!! Here is Joe with his wonderful wife Ceil at the Sigma 50th anniversary celebration.
A much earlier session I recall was with the producer Richie Barrett. Richie managed the group The Three Degrees for many years. In fact, my wife’s father Tony Mammarella owned a small record label in the late 50s and early 60s called Swan Records. Some of the first ever Three Degrees records were released on Swan. Tony would have been my father-in-law if he had lived long enough until the time, I met his daughter Pam. He was honored a few years ago as a Pioneer Broadcaster because he was one of the first to produce all kinds of different television shows. He practically invented the late afternoon kid’s shows that went on to be hosted by local early TV greats like Chief Half-Town and Sally Starr. Tony also invented a show on which local kids could dance to the latest records. It was called Bandstand. He was the man behind that show inventing it and producing American Bandstand for years. If that weren’t enough, Swan Records was the first label to release a single in America in the summer of 1963 by a then unknown English group called The Beatles! In the homes of all his children there is a copy of the Swan single of “She Loves You” framed and displayed proudly.
The Swan release of “She Loves You” is #1 but 5 of the top 15 were by The Beatles.
The Three Degrees sessions that I remember working on were assisting in the very first months on the job on two cuts from the very successful PIR album for them: Gamble and Huff’s “When Will I See You Again” (perhaps their biggest hit ever) and “Dirty Old Man”. I recall working on the string dates and the mixes in my first months at Sigma.