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Dave Hill, March 2010
Provided by Dave himself.
My love of jazz stems from two main sources: (1.) My parents belonged to two monthly dancing clubs, which featured ‘live’ orchestras, and (2.) My frustration with angry and distorted
“hippie” music on the radio led to my purchase of a 1924 Victor Victrola in February of 1974, from a lady who had basement full of all sorts of wind-up phonographs. She filled the record compartment with an assortment of ragtime, vaudeville, operatic, and 1920s “hot” jazz 78s. She was indeed an Angel of Mercy to me. I was “hooked” on the jazz of Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington, California Ramblers, etc. I spent many weekends pouring trough the 78s at The Dixie Flea-Market, especially those of George Schoen, who also loved early “hot” music. In late 1976, another customer (read: addict), John Scrimger, told me about a newly-formed club: ‘The Michigan Antique Phonograph Society.’ I soon acquired more wind-up phonographs, and met lots more dealers, who sold records out of their homes. A few ads in the weekly newsletter where I worked, and I was buying sheds full of 78s for about $10. Once, I traded a carload of “don’t-likes” for ONE mint Duke Ellington disc.
I also need to thank my Grandfather for giving me a radio for my 8th birthday in Feb. 1955, and to thank my Brother for installing a cut-out jack on the back panel of the radio, and for making up a 20 ft. cable to connect a Korean War-Surplus two-earcup headset for private listening. I used to go to bed listening to two stations in Flint, where I lived: WTAC that played Top-40, and WAMM that played R’n’B and Blues. The all-night program on WAMM was my favorite, and was entitled “Music With Marcellus” and was hosted by Marcellus Wilson. I think I must have memorized a lot of great music. At that age, upbeat or comic-lyric songs were preferred to soppy ballads about romance.
Also, in 1958, when stereophonic sound was taking over the marketplace, my Dad bought the best Hi-Fi in the local appliance store at a huge discount, since it was monaural. I think the salesman was happy to see the bulky cabinet go, since big expensive audio had to be ‘stereo’ or nobody would even look at it. Well, in spite of being monaural, the Zenith Cobramatic was a great record player for its day. My family remodeled a “recreation room” in the basement, installing two 12-inch 3-way speakers in the ceiling, and a control switch that allowed music to be played there, while the Zenith’s main cabinet speakers were turned off. I spent many hours under those ceiling speakers, building models of cars, military vehicles, and planes.
In 1965, away at college only a few days, I discovered by coincidence, that my old Cub Scouting pal, Billy, had his room almost directly across from mine in the dormitory. I had lost track of him during the four years of high-school, since he had been sent away to The Interlochen Music Academy to study the violin. I discovered that he had joined his father in the component-stereo craze. It was Billy who taught me about record care, as well as stimulating my interest in very accurate sound quality. His family was well-to-do, and his father frequently upgraded his audio system, giving Billy his cast-offs. I was duly impressed to see a Garrard A-50 turntable with a counterweighted tone-arm. Equally impressive to me was his Roberts tube-type 10.5 inch reel-to-reel tape recorder. Billy would transfer violin classics to the recorder so he could absorb the performer’s playing style.
Well, I soon had a Garrard AT-60 in my room, but just the player; no cartridge, amplifier, or speakers. My money was limited. In those days, I paid all college expenses myself from income earned on a summer job, except room-and-board. By networking with other students who were stereo-nuts, I soon assembled a crude second-hand system for my room. At least I was now meticulously caring for the records. I was also able to buy a lot of cast-off 45s for 10-to-25 cents each, and cut-out LPs for $1.00 each.
In the following year, 1966, I was able to add a Sony 250-A reel-to-reel, and a new Bogen 40-watt integrated amplifier, with Federal tax refunds. In 1968, a Dual 1019 replaced the Garrard. It was that year that Billy inspired me to build my own speakers. It’s hard to realize today, but many stores had hi-fi stereo departments, which also included cabinet kits, raw speakers, crossover circuits, and even amplifiers in kit form. I still use those 2-cubic-foot walnut-veneered cabinets in my present audio system, although with much better speakers and proper cabinet tuning.
Upon college graduation in 1969, I joined General Motors’ Noise and Vibration Laboratory. That was like going to heaven. I soon found myself among about 75 Hi-Fi nuts. Our manager encouraged us to measure our own speakers after working hours, using the lab’s priceless Bruel and Kjaer equipment and the acoustically prepared test rooms.
I will always thank Billy and his father for inspiring me to adopt accurate sound reproduction as a hobby, and possibly directing my career choice. My record collecting followed Billy’s habit of dubbing music to a home-recording. The benefit was twofold: first, record wear and possible damage was avoided, and second, favorites could be played in an assembled fashion.
I retired from my career at G.M. 8 years ago. I now have time to indulge back into a lifetime of record collecting, including some cylinder records. I never plan to reduce the collection of original media. However, I am now able to spend the time required to really tweak the original favorites into some nice compilations. It’s possible to spend several hours on one side of a noisy 45 or 78, especially if there is a “skip” to be fixed.
This snapshot of Dave’s entry into music, sound, and the equipment of sound production gives us an insight into his commitment to this field. We are all appreciative of his willingness to share his skills with us. It is a joy to hear the quality of the sound that he has made possible for us. Thank you, Dave.