Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Bree remembered: "Oh Those Donuts."

Practically the first thing I heard on local radio news yesterday was that that Ray Charles' recording facility, RPM Studios, was going to be open to the public from 3-6, so I took a couple hours off and headed down. I think the event was given limited publicity on purpose -- and didn't say it was attached to the release of the new duets disc. This was for sale in the lobby; even so, the whole vibe was low-key and polite -- no one I'd call an 'industry type' in evidence. RPM is technically in what you'd call South Central (Hobart and Washington), but, if non-Angelenos are curious, the area isn't at all what those words convey; Washington is a major artery, parallel to Pico and Wilshire, Hobart is a unassuming block of single-family homes.

The building, fairly large but not ostentatious inside or out, is an ivy-covered near-cube; built in '64 -- I really had not realized that this was where he recorded up to the end. Line of about 90 people waiting to go in in small groups when I got there; I'd say 70/30 black/other, median age 45; several much older folks in wheelchairs and/or motorized carts willing to bear the heat for a while. One annoying hippie pontificating Jim Laddishly to a couple much younger musician types. No 'tour,' just a chance to look around -- mainly, a path cordoned through the tracking room, w/ Steinway, Hammond w/ Leslie, various other keyboards, and some very covetable RCA ribbon mics, mostly arranged as per his last session, apparently last March. Control room is raised off this -- could peer in and see a nice old analog board. Saw one tape machine in the tracking room; don't know how digitized the operation got. (Sorry I can't get more techy about all this.) After this, you could see into a room with Ray's wardrobe -- apparently numbered in some way for identification, I didn't really understand the sign that had been put up -- with performing shoes on the left wall, everyday ones on the right. Whole place was very clean; furniture even seemed to have been kept up-to-date, but classily so.

Then through the lobby, where I asked someone, a tidy man of about 40 who could have been an assistant engineer or an accountant, associated with the 'organization' if the studio had been booked to other artists while Ray was on tour, or not very active. To my surprise, he said no, it was dedicated to his projects all along, with engineers working on extant tapes or tracks while he wasn't around: "Oh, he kept us busy." Would like to have known a lot more, of course, but remembered that there were a lot of people broiling outside. Noticed an office-directory sign on the way out, w/ names of various sub-businesses: Racer Music, Tangerine Music, Crossover Records. Thought I'd note these down for those who know more than I about how it all relates. No idea what's supposed to become of the facility -- not to mention the mics -- in the future; it did seem that there were still actual employees (besides the one I spoke to) around, at least on the business end. Nothing huge about this story, just though you might be interested.

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