I have mentioned in passing my work as a sound technician. It’s not a line of work that people go into deliberately, for the most part. Here is how it happened to me.
I started working as a volunteer at our local high school’s radio station back in the early 80s. I learned a little bit about operating the stations mixing board, which looked a lot like the one in the pictures of George Martin, mixing down the Beatles early recordings at Abbey Road and it was probably a cousin. It had big old knobs that controlled the volume of each of the turntables, the microphones in the main studio and the newsroom, the “Denon” machines, which were kind of like eight track players, and the cassette deck.
An acquaintance of mine had a band that did original songs about the Chesapeake Bay, sailing, and boats. She decided to produce a traveling maritime folk music festival and booked her band and several others into maritime museums and waterfront parks around the Bay plus the inner harbor in Baltimore. She called me up and said, “Hey you must know all about sound and stuff, why don’t you stage manage my festival and run the sound board?” Sure, I can turn knobs.
So we went off with the little sound system that belonged to another person in her band and I carted a portable stage and this small system around and set it up, ran the soundboard, shooed bands off the stage when their time was up, whether they liked it or not, packed it all back up and schlepped it all home again, every weekend all summer. Somehow I managed to escape bodily injury at the hands of the musicians and have been asked, sometimes even paid, to do this kind of thing again and again.
Last night I had the opportunity to run the sound board for John Jorgenson. John was a founding member of The Desert Rose Band and The Hellecasters, played guitar with Elton John and is now a leading interpreter of Django Reinhardt’s music. He has a band with two guitars, violin, bass and percussion, The John Jorgenson Quintet. I was pleased to escape without bodily injury once again. Nobody asked for my autograph, although John was kept quite busy during the break and after the show.
You can see and hear a video clip of John’s quintet, with a slightly different lineup than last night, at my music blog, Clark’s Picks.