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