Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wayne Wadhams article by Joe Viglione

October 18, 2005


by Joe Viglione

Though his group, The Fifth Estate, found fame in June
of 1967 when a hit version of "Ding Dong The Witch Is
Dead" (Jubilee Records) from The Wizard Of Oz circled
around the Top 10, Wayne Wadhams is better known in
Boston circles as a Berklee Professor who has produced
rock and jazz for major labels as well as re-releasing
classical music forgotten by some of those same major
recording companies, successfully packaging and
selling that important art on his Boston Skyline

Professor Wadhams has many great stories - recently
discovered footage of his pioneering 60s band
capturing the spirit of their mission. It should do
much to insure their legacy alongside Peter Wolf's
Hallucinations, Barry Tashian's Remains and Victor
"Moulty" Moulton's Barbarians as the guys who helped
build the vital New England music scene. But as
essential as that work was and still is, the
foundation it created is equally important, if not as
visible. You see, Wayne Wadhams is the man who
developed six recording studios at the Berklee College
of Music in Boston - which constitute the Music,
Production & Engineering Department. Studios where
producers from the late Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones)
to George Massenberg (Linda Ronstadt) and many other
artists have lectured and held master classes while
working on their own projects.


Wayne Wadhams founded Studio B, a commercial Boston
facility, before his work at Berklee, and Arts Media
Magazine asked him how all this developed back in the

A.M.M.: Wayne, what gave you the idea for Studio B?

W.W.: "That was really just an accident. The Orson
Welles Film School, of which I was one of the founders
and Vice President, had a recording studio in it,
which I put together for narration and music
recording - just a 4 track room at the time. At some
point in the early 1970s we bumped it up to 8 track,
which was pretty good for that time. In 1974 the
school itself went out of business, so the owner of
the complex said "Make me an offer". I did. I bought
the entirety in one lump and put it in a van, and it
sat in my backyard for a year, till we decided what we
wanted to do.

During that time I met Allen Smith, who became our
head engineer. We rented the space on Boylston Street
- between Arlington and Berkeley (the street, not the
school) in Boston, where we were for more than a

During that time the studio upgraded from 16 track and
then 24 track at the end. Studio B's business
consisted of commercial clients doing ads, tv work,
the kind of projects now mostly done by the facility
known as Soundtrack (where Allen Smith has worked
since Studio B), and other clientele such as local
artists and regional bands.

In mid-1982 Berkelee College hired Wadhams to do
research and consultancy and decided to go ahead with
the new MP&E department later in 1982. Towards the
end of 1983 Wayne effectively closed Studio B taking
most of his staff and putting them all to work at
Berklee installing the studios and developing
curicculum. "Even Allen Smith became a teacher
there," Wadhams explained, "but he didn't like
teaching much. That's when he got an offer from
Soundtrack and took it in 1984."

Wayne also explained the Berklee philosophy at the
time: "the core was always the performance division -
people teaching players to play, that was the central
part of it - arranging, songwriting, film scoring and
other things of that sort.

I designed the recording studios, not all of them,
because there are eleven. I designed the first six."
The work included basic acoustic design, layout...
"they've been renovated since then, I've had little to
do with that. They are still in the same
configuration, the basic design for Studios A - F (is
the same)."

What happened was that Berklee asked Wayne to write up
a report. "They asked me "should we be teaching
recording techniques or anything related and if so,
what - and how should it be oriented?"

"I interviewed students, a lot of faculty, alumni here
in NY and L.A., interviewed the heads of CBS studios,
Atlantic studios, you name it, to ask if they thought
it viable and worthwhile for a college to be teaching
engineering and/or technical areas of recording. They
said "Absolutely" because recording itself was getting
so much more technical" and so said my report."

Wadhams was in the middle of a motion picture audio
mix with the famous screenwriter/director John Sayles
in New York, the 1983 picture "Lianna", when he was
surprised to receive a phone call (within a month of
his turning in the report) asking "How quickly can you
get all this up and running?"

He replied "If you want this done within six months
you have to give me full control of the whole thing."
They said OK. "They set it up so that I was working
with the Provost, and the new president, then Lee Berk
(the school was, in fact, named after Lee Berk), who
was just taking over from his father, who had founded
the school in 1945. Everything was done in direct
concert with the president's office."

This accelerated the closing of Wadhams' own "Studio
B", helping them make the decision not to move, but to
work on the Berklee project.

"This was also a time when the industry itself was so
rapidly increasing in technical detail and complexity"
Wayne told Arts Media Magazine. Moreover, at this
point in time, an "audio" version of the "Oscars" was
created by Mix Magazine - the "TEC Awards" for
Outstanding Technical Achievement. Berklee won the
first, second and third "TEC" Awards. The AES (Audio
Engineering Society) also awarded Berklee top honors
as an educational institution, and held their
executive meeting at Berklee, which they had never
done at any school before. This signified to the
industry that the school had done the right thing.

Although Wayne intended the Berklee job to be a
turnkey operation in his career, the college had
different ideas. They said "Now that you've built the
MP&E department, don't you want to teach?" Wadhams
reflected: "The next thing I know, I'm a full

Today Wayne is still busy, currently producing a CD of
Bach organ music with organist David Carrier at the
Wellesley Congregational Church. He's written a
number of books including a three volume set called
"Sound Advice", and most recently "Inside The Hits", a
wonderful exploration of what makes many well-loved
Top 40 hits tick. It is published by Berklee Press
and is worth seeking out.


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