Monthly Archives: March 2008

Coast Recorders V1

My poor neglected blog. I’m so sorry for leaving you alone for so long, but I promise to pay more attention from now on.

Like most cities, the San Francisco studio landscape continues to expand and contract in all sorts of mysterious ways. Fantasy Studios (see previous post), has found a way to carry on. Different Fur, a popular recording site since the 1970s, is up for sale. Historic Coast Recorders remains intact, albeit under new owners and the name Broken Radio. Coast is one of the oldest and most traveled studios in the Bay Area, having had successful runs at locations on Folsom Street, Harrison Street, and Mission Street, the location now known as Broken Radio. But before all of that, Coast operated for a brief time at 960 Bush Street in Nob Hill. For those interested in Coast’s early days, I’ve provided an excerpt from my book, If These Halls Could Talk: A Historical Tour Through San Francisco Recording Studios. Enjoy, — Hj

Sound Recorders, one of the earliest known commercial studios in San Francisco, opened in 1946. Jingles for radio, mostly, poured out of this second-floor space at the corner of Post and Powell Streets, while the United Airlines ticket office booked flights downstairs and trolleys outside carried businessmen and shoppers through bustling Union Square. Toward the end of the 1950s, advertisers could finally purchase 30- or 60-second spots rather than sponsor an entire radio program, so naturally, the city’s top ad agencies needed a place to produce these bright, brief bursts of words and music. The demand for these short spots increased as Top 40 AM radio began to dominate in the early 1960s.

Sensing a prime business opportunity in the Bay Area’s commercial industry, audio legend Bill Putnam purchased Sound Recorders in 1962. Putnam had founded Universal Recording Corporation, a successful recording studio and audio equipment manufacturing business (the precursor to Universal Audio) in the Chicago area in 1947, and United Recording Corporation in Hollywood in 1957.

Rooms stamped with the Putnam name were considered prime acoustic real estate, and some of his recording techniques—he is acknowledged to be the first to use artificial reverberation for commercial recordings, developed the first multi-band equalizers, and was one of the first to record in stereo, among other achievements—advanced the field in innumerable ways. When Putnam picked up Sound Recorders, the expanding United umbrella already included both United and Western Studios in Los Angeles, Universal Audio (manufacturers of prized UREI compressors and amplifiers), and the URCON studio in Las Vegas.

Putnam promptly christened his new purchase Coast Recorders and moved the operation and its clientele to 960 Bush Street, a large building in the tony Nob Hill area, not far from the activity of Union Square. The building wasn’t ideal for recording, which is probably one reason why Putnam almost immediately began looking for another space, but he inherited a veritable landmark with a fascinating musical history.

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