The Making of a Sound Guy

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Yeah. So, I was thinking this week about my experiences before I got into audio as a career. I should have seen it coming. Seems like I was pretty much doomed to go into pro audio.

I realize that most of my audience is made up of church techs. Keep in mind that I wasn’t a Christian until I was about twenty years old. That’s my disclaimer. Keep reading at your own risk.

In my book, I tell the story of my earliest encounter with musicians and extreme sound pressure levels. My dad had a band that practiced in our house. While the normal children in the world are going to sleep with lullabies and cute stuffed animals around them… I am curling up next to an acid rock band from the sixties with Marshall amps and a live drum kit “rocking” me to sleep. Yep. Doomed. And yes, that’s a picture of me.

As I grew up, I just enjoyed saturating my world in loud music.

The walk home from elementary school took me through neighborhoods where everyone just piled their junk by the road to be picked up. There was always a lot of it. Whenever I saw anything with wires, knobs or speakers… It went home with me. By the time I hit high school, my room looked like Frankenstein’s lab. I had a dozen mismatched speakers wired all around the room. There was a massive stack of tuners, amplifiers, tape decks and a record player in there. I never had money, but I always found cool junk to add to my collection. It sounded like crap, but wow, was it loud.

My dad made the mistake of leaving his bass and amp sitting out. So, at the age of 13, I started making my own noise. Never got really good. Loved playing, still do. Miss all the guys and the garage bands over the years. In the book, I tell a few more stories about those days. I will say this, if you have a kid who enjoys music, make every opportunity for them to play. I still admire those brave parents who sacrificed garage space to let us make noise. I also still regret the way I handled my oldest daughter, talking her out of the type of music and instrument she wanted to play. Bad move dad. Let them decide and just support them.

Later, as the story goes along….

Still don’t remember how we did it, but somehow we managed to wire up a guitar amp into my 1978 Chevy station wagon.
The wagon was known as the Millennium falcon, like Star Wars. It was beat up and ugly, but stupid fast. It was known to get airborne like the dukes of hazzard on special occasions. It also had a well know appetite for trash cans. Someone even added kill marks to the front bumper for each one it took out.

On one special day, we borrowed this massive amp, that barely fit into the car. We managed to get it powered up and connected to the car stereo. I don’t know exactly how loud it was, but when The Who or Mötley Crüe was playing through it, we felt like they were with us. Pretty sure we experienced the threshold of pain.

Apparently, I wasn’t driving very well with all that noise. We stopped for cigarettes and pulled in the side of a gas station. While waiting in line, the police officer in front of me answered a call on his radio. They were describing my car and reckless driving. I just slipped out of line and left through the back of the parking lot. Quietly. Fun stuff.

That same year, one of my best friends asked me to help him with a job. He had been hired to DJ for a private school that we had a distinct rivalry with. Unbelievable. Still don’t know what genius hired two of the local dropouts to DJ for this exclusive private school. Ha.

So my buddy shows up in his purple trans am at my house. We load a mix of his crap and my crap, along with every record we own and take off. You would think someone would have stopped us at the door. This is like a “prom dress and tux” dance in the school gym. We show up like an 80s metal band with long hair, ripped jeans and concert shirts. They just let us in and gave us a spot in the bleachers.

If we were nice guys, or really concerned about the money, or concerned about anything… We might have done it differently. But we weren’t. We made that whole gym endure about three hours of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and other completely non-danceable music. We were having a blast.

The funniest thing about that night was how many girls still wanted to talk to us. The other thing that still cracks me up is the image of different teachers timidly asking us to play something the kids could dance to. “Oh yeah, next song for sure.” Every time. And we still got paid.

Later. I had the pleasure of three months in a facility for stupid kids. Voluntarily, honest. This place contained 475 “students.” Of that 475, only 14 of us were white. Between that place and growing up in Georgia, I had witnessed extreme racism from both sides. It was an amazing experience. Fortunately, for me, I had been raised by a father that just didn’t see color. He never influenced me to judge anyone by something they had no control over.

Legend has it that my dad brought a good friend of his into the band. This was a black man, with a bunch of ratty looking white guys, playing acid rock. Yeah, weird. Not well received everywhere during the sixties. Got my dad into a few confrontations. I don’t think he cared.

While I was at this facility, they brought in an entirely black gospel group. I was the only white guy in the room. These guys rocked. I always enjoyed classic R&B and these guys delivered. It was like Sam and Dave jamming with James Brown. Great show. Absolutely loved good live music. Stuff like that kept pulling me towards it.

After we became Christians, I felt the need to get away from all that. I gave away all my music and turned off the radio. We changed a lot of things in our life. I just needed some time to get my head clear. After a year or two, we found a few bands that we were willing to listen to again. Bands like Crystavox, Rez Band, Iona and Larry Howard gave me good music again.

Gradually, I relaxed a little and was able to go back to some of the old stuff. There’s just no substitute for some of that classic rock.

After becoming a Christian and moving outside Atlanta, we connected with a group that did weekly gatherings for teens and started helping with shows and special events. Ta da! The rest is history. Installed my first legitimate sound system there. Got to mix my first shows there. I was ruined.

So there it is. The stuff from diapers to the first mix. Love to hear what got you guys into this world.

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