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Ed Wolfrum - Detroit Sound

Ed Wolfrum - Detroit Sound cover

Ed Wolfrum by Rob Moss

 

Article Photo: Detroit from the river 1966

 

The emergence of Detroit as a major music centre in the early 1960s has as much to do with technological expertise and sophistication, as it did with artistic creativity, musical talent or social migration. Yet, the coalescence of such a wide variety of highly skilled musicians, technicians, performers, engineers, entrepreneurs, composers and associated artisans all meeting at the same time, in the same place created a unique collusion that resulted in a period of unprecedented financial and artistic success for the city. The idea that the bulk of this wealth was created by popular music success alone however, is misleading. Selected Detroit studios became industry leaders in the production of motion picture sound tracks, industrial and military film audio, radio jingles, commercials and much more, in a local, national and international marketplace. They were fuelled by a small band of highly talented musicians and technicians who provided an unparalleled level of ingenuity, innovation and abstruse ability. A number of sound engineers, what today would be called "old school", created recording equipment, audio phonic practices and reproduction techniques that revolutionised the industry and elevated Detroit to the very peak of cutting edge electronic sound production in America. The environment that spawned such a technological transformation had its roots in the automobile industry, with its solid engineering base and huge employee reserve, and the rich manufacturing traditions of the Mid West. Historically, Michigan boasted a long and illustrious record as a musical manufacturer, having been the largest producer of sheet music prior to World War II, the biggest generator of player pianos (precursor to phonograph) in the entire 20th century and home to one of the top microphone makers in the country. A burgeoning population in the city not only provided a plethora of performers and players to render the rondos, but also presented a customized consumer base that would drive and deliver commercial success. 'Roll tape'

 

 

 

One important individual in this entire scenario began his professional career in 1961, at 14 years of age, ]servicing, maintaining and building studio equipment at one of the numerous Detroit radio stations WEXL and later WXYZ. His creative genius played a crucial role in the subsequent success and celebrity of the recording industry in Detroit and led him to international acclaim and professional recognition. Doctor Edward J. Wolfrum worked at Motown, Golden World, United Sound Studios, Terra Shirma, Theme Productions plus many other smaller studios, throughout the 1960s and 1970s and in the opinion of this writer is one of the most important sound engineers in the country. Yet it was the invention of a single piece of equipment that catapulted his name and reputation onto the local recording scene, as Wolfrum recollected. " When I was 16 I designed and built something I called a 'Direct box' while I was working at WEXL....

 

note from the soul source team - sorry but all Robs non-current articles are now clipped due to a future book release - watch out for news of that!

 

Rob Moss 2012

http://www.hayleyrecords.co.uk




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great article rob.remember when we ran into each at mike terrys house,me jj barnes mike and yourself.great memories.

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great article rob.remember when we ran into each at mike terrys house,me jj barnes mike and yourself.great memories.

I do Bill. I remember asking JJ if he remembered 'Hole in the wall' and he immediately sat down at Mike's piano and started playing and singing it!! Like you said, very happy memories.

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I agreed, absolutely superb, Love the image of the recording of 'The way you've been acting lately'..

Ive never actually seen a picture of Ed Wingate, I assume its him, as its captioned Wingate.. he look very formidable...

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I agreed, absolutely superb, Love the image of the recording of 'The way you've been acting lately'..

Ive never actually seen a picture of Ed Wingate, I assume its him, as its captioned Wingate.. he look very formidable...

Yes it's definitely him. When Ed first showed me the photo and said 'You know who that is?' I had no idea. 'Uncle Ed' sure had a presence!

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Fantastic article Rob, really enjoyed reading that.

The Way You've Been Acting is without doubt one of the finest recordings ever made, great to see the photo and everything else.

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Really interesting article. As a musician I love reading stuff about studios and recording. Below is a picture of the Wolf Box and some text to supplement your superb article - Thanks for posting:-

Ed designed an ingenious device that allowed Jamerson, Coffey, Babbitt, all the great studio musicians to PLUG-IN directly and reap the sonic benefits of full range recording. The Motown producers were so impressed with the quality of his device, they affectionately dubbed Ed's invention The Wolfie Box.

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Really interesting article. As a musician I love reading stuff about studios and recording. Below is a picture of the Wolf Box and some text to supplement your superb article - Thanks for posting:-

Ed designed an ingenious device that allowed Jamerson, Coffey, Babbitt, all the great studio musicians to PLUG-IN directly and reap the sonic benefits of full range recording. The Motown producers were so impressed with the quality of his device, they affectionately dubbed Ed's invention The Wolfie Box.

Thanks for this -fantastic!

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Many years ago we purchased the GOLDEN WORLD clock that hung outside the studio. It now adorns the inside of our record store.

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This is truly a 'historic' article & photos.

I love the fact Ed mentions that during his pioneering heyday, only about 10% recorded material was ever released. i.e. 90% went to the vaults which could be hundreds (or even thousands!) of "unreleased" by artist such as Deon Jackson, Parliaments, Rose Batsiste, Capitols etc,. (sigh...)

Also, the key to good production is not just solely about arrangement, but the way the sound is improved and captured - which Ed plays an important part of at young age - building analog electronics to enhance & improve sound (way before working to get his academic quals at night school!)

You feel the Detroit session musicians of the mid 60's /early 70's period, were undoubtedly top notch and the best in the world. I believe this golden recording age of Soul /RnB will never be bettered. And long may it be celebrated.

Really great article Rob. Thanks for this.

Regards, Dave

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Not read it yet but i just know its gonna be good.The genius of this man.Gilly and Nicola

Well ive read it and it is brill,he never ceased to amaze me on the many occasions i spent time with him and Susan his wife,the cleverest guy ive ever met in my life.Now thanks to you in your very educational maner youve done the business and documented it for all to read(btw me and Tats have some movie footage taken in 1990 at his house)

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HI ALL I have only just read this excellent post, why I had not done so before?? it's got info that i did not no? i am lost for words?

fantastic and emotional

as always DAVE KILWORTH

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