Posts Tagged ‘Kearney Barton’

Kearney Barton: Legendary Recording Console on eBay

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011


As you may have seen in our Twitter feed this week, Dave Segal wrote a great piece on Northwest recording engineer Kearney Barton (as in Wheedle’s Groove Kearney Barton) in the latest edition of The Stranger. Check it out online HERE!

Sadly, Kearney’s health is quickly deteriorating and he had to retire after over six decades of recording Northwest music.  Our friend and mastering guru Dave Cooley has been helping Kearney sell his music gear to cover health bills.  The man’s legendary custom build, one-of-a-kind, Langevin recording console is now on eBay – check out the listing for full info and photos. It’s pretty incredible–The Kingsmen, The Standells, The Sonics, Earl Hines, Paul Bley, and many others recorded on this very console.

Kearney has arguably recorded more music than anyone in the entire Pacific Northwest, dating back to 1958, including rock, jazz, sitar music, country, psych, folk, operas, classical, radio jingles, the list goes on and on – Quincy Jones to The Sonics.  His significance to Northwest music history cannot be understated.

We’re currently working with Kearney, his family, and the University of Washington to digitize thousands of analog reels from Kearney’s endless audio archive, and eventually release some of this material on CD/LP/Digital. The University is now preserving over 1,500 reels, but we’re looking to find a safe place – ideally a local Seattle museum – to house the remainder of the archive and then locate funding to pay for months of professional digitizing.

Please spread the word.  We could use your help.

Kearney Barton–legendary NW engineer–featured in Tape Op!

Monday, June 6th, 2011

We’re very excited to see an excellent interview in our favorite music recording magazine Tape Op! Most of you will know Kearney Barton from the Wheedle’s Groove documentary and from his stellar work recording many of the artists on our Wheedle’s Groove comp and also the namesake of their album, Kearney Barton. Did you know that he also recorded legendary NW garage-rock pioneers like The Sonics, The Wailers, The Ventures, and The Rocking Kings (which featured a young Jimi Hendrix)? Kearney is one-of-a-kind and a legend in his own time. Also, dig the cover photo by Chris Gergley of Kearney’s old “headphone tree” that is now proudly displayed at our Seattle office!

Check out the excellent interview by Sean Wolcott in the May/June issue of Tape Op! And as a bonus, check out the Tape Op site for a bonus photo section.

RIP Kearney Barton – Legendary NW Recording Engineer & Studio/Label Owner

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Kearney Barton - early 70s - Courtesy of Kearney Barton

Last night we got an email from Kearney Barton’s niece Patti, telling us the incredibly sad news that Kearney passed away peacefully at 8 PM.  He was 81-years old.  Over the last couple years, Kearney’s health had been deteriorating, but he was still sharp as a nail, hanging on and cracking jokes when we last saw him over the holidays.  To say Kearney was a pioneer of the Northwest sound would be a massive understatement.  Maybe he was the inventor?  Whatever the tag, we miss the man.  He taught us about the Frantics, the Sonics, Little Bill, Don & The Good Times, and so many more, but the one that really blew our minds was Black On White Affair’s “Bold Soul Sister, Bold Soul Brother,” recorded by Kearney in February ’70 and released on his Topaz label.  It’s the tune that led me to Kearney’s doorstep in 2003, hoping to convince the wizard to let us license the single for inclusion on a comp of Seattle soul from back in the day.  I quickly discovered the man had a heart of gold and a sense of humor that would make your grandfather proud.  He was a genuine sweetheart who loved to work and record and record some more, making his famous cookies for guests, and watching a hydroplane race now and then.  I remember him saying he’d had a bunch of calls from overseas reissue labels wanting to license the single, but he felt reluctant.  Kearney liked the idea of working with a local label.  Bless his soul.

The one thing that I could never wrap my head around was the wealth of material Kearney recorded since entering the business in the 1950s.  It didn’t seem humanly possible.  There were few, if any, bands who didn’t record at least one tune after walking through the doors of his Audio Recording Studios.  And if it made a sound, he’d record it.

Kearney's "headphone tree," now proudly displayed in our Seattle office. Photo by Chris Gergley

Digging through Kearney’s archive years later, this becomes all the more evident to our eyes and ears.  We discover analog reels of operas, country western, big bands, psych, advertising jingles, downer songwriters, soul, high school jazz bands, crooners, funk, classical, folk, modern rock, radio shows… and whatever else I’m forgetting he probably recorded that too.

It’s a rare thing to master your craft at any point in your life.  To do it in your thirties and stick with it for another 45 years, up until almost the day you die, is a beautiful thing.  RIP Kearney.  We’ll miss you.

- Matt Sullivan & the Light In The Attic crew

Bringin’ the goods and giving them away! Free Basin’ Fridays is here.

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Illustration by Drew Christie

Addicted to records? Then mark your calendars for “Free Basin’ Fridays!” Each Friday on our blog, we’ll announce giveaways of new releases, selections from our back catalog, ephemera, and other limited items. In honor of the late great Kearney Barton, this week we’re giving away a massive Wheedle’s Groove package (over a $100 value). For your chance to win, leave a comment below and be sure to include your name and email address (kept private) so we can contact you! Winner is announced next Friday 1/27! Don’t sleep on this one!

Giveaway includes:

Wheedles Groove: Seattle’s Finest In Funk & Soul 1965–1979 Limited Edition 45s Box Set (x10 45s)

Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle’s Finest In Funk & Soul 1965-75 (CD)

Kearney Barton (CD)

Wheedle’s Groove Documentary (DVD)

Seattle SuperSonics Replica Trading Cards (16 cards in set, limited edition of 100)

Be sure to check out the blog every Friday at 12PM PST for Free Basin’ Fridays and your chance to stock up on the good stuff…for free! And big thanks to our bud Drew Christie for doing the illustration for the series. Check him out here!

Keeper of the Tapes – Ben Stillman on Kearney Barton’s tape archive

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Ben Stillman wrote this blog post about his experience archiving the late, great Kearney Barton’s vast tape collection, which we took over after Kearney passed away earlier this year. Though it was surely a lot of work, looks like Ben also had some fun in the process and possibly discovered some gems in the collection. Thanks for fighting the good fight, Ben. RIP Kearney. We miss you.

I was asked during my first week as an intern at Light In The Attic to move equipment out of Seattle producer Kearney Barton’s home studio. At that time, the name ‘Kearney’ didn’t mean much to me, at least not as much as it came to mean in the following months. Kearney’s studio as we found it was a relic of the past filled with countless reels and vintage recording gear. We packed a U-Haul and dropped the cargo off at a storage unit in Ballard. There we compiled his legacy into a vast and disorganized stash, which, stacked one cardboard box on top of the other, towered over my 6-foot frame. I didn’t know it then, but his tapes would dominate the next year of my life.

After finishing my internship, I was kept on to sort through and catalog Kearney’s reels. Initially it seemed insurmountable – an overwhelming task that would only be conquered by passion and patience, I found that the best way for me to work was late at night with copious doses of caffeine and Brian Eno. I could judge a reel’s significance by how fastidiously Kearney had labeled it. The most interesting were the 1” and ½” tapes, because they usually contained recordings from serious musicians who had enough money to pay for nicer tape. The ¼” reels were much more tedious; they were often jingles, or radio advertisements. Occasionally a very interesting ¼” reel would pop up. I once stumbled across a box of NBA recordings from the 1970s, including recordings from the Seattle Super Sonics’ 1978 Championship season. Rummaging through the tapes I sometimes felt like a paleontologist sorting through the bones of an ancient creature. As the months passed, the stacks of sorted boxes grew taller and taller. It took nearly eight months and roughly sixty trips to Ballard, but I eventually sorted through all 5,000 Kearney reels.


All photos by Alex Peycheff.

Although he never wrote a song, Kearney was a true artist. With the tools of his chosen medium, Mr. Barton documented the time and place in which he lived. He frequently attended Seattle music festivals, church masses, political debates and sporting events, always bringing with him his portable ¼” tape recorder. Each reel is a snapshot of the day it was recorded, and the end product of organizing the stash he left behind is a meaningful portrait of Seattle in the 50s and 60s. Kearney’s Seattle was a place where roller skating was the popular weekend activity, where there were only 13 channels on TV, where Garageband referred to bands that played in garages, and where radio – rather than the Internet – was the common venue for the discovery of new music. It was also a place where in order to record audio for any purpose, one had to first win the respect of the man behind the recording console. These tapes are a lost piece of Pacific Northwest American history and they belong in the Smithsonian. Fortunately, they’ve found an ever better home at Light In The Attic.