Owsley obit


NYT: Owsley dead at 76

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4 Responses to “Owsley obit”

  1. From “Gizmag.com” I am be to copy and paste some text so that you will not have to suffer through the pop-ups and such if I provided the link.

    This is about Owsley’s unique sound system developed for the Grateful Dead:

    “…But it was Stanley’s design and engineering of the Dead’s enormous Wall of Sound audio system that may have had the most lasting affect not only on the band, but on live rock music in general.

    “He did phenomenal sound work,” Jeff Tamarkin told Relix magazine, where he is a contributing editor and former editor-in-chief. “I think part of the reason the Dead had such an all-encompassing effect on an audience is because of the pioneering work Owsley did to create live rock sound that was both forceful and crystal clear. You could be sitting in the top row of the balcony at Fillmore East and you’d hear every nuance even when they played acoustically. I think it may be a long time until the extent of his effect on the ’60s generation is truly appreciated.”

    The Wall of Sound was truly massive. Reportedly the largest concert sound system in existence at the time, the Wall was designed to give the Grateful dead a distortion-free sound and also act as its own on-stage monitoring system. The huge speaker arrays formed a wall on stage behind the band, and could reportedly reach a half-mile from the stage without delay towers or sound degradation.

    Stanley, Dan Healy, and Mark Raizene of the Grateful Dead’s sound crew, along with Ron Wickersham, Rick Turner, and John Curl of the Alembic sound company combined six independent sound systems using eleven separate channels. The vocals, guitars, and piano each had their own channel, and their own set of speakers. In a you-had-to-be-there design feature, Phil Lesh’s bass was run through a quadraphonic encoder that provided a separate channel and set of speakers for each string. Additional channels amplified the drum set elements including the bass drum, snare, tom-toms, and cymbals. With each speaker array playing only one instrument or vocalist, the sound could be kept exceptionally clear and distortion free.

    In terms of power, the Wall of Sound featured some 89 X 300-Watt solid-state amplifiers plus another three 350-Watt vacuum-tube amplifiers. The system produced a total of more than 26000 Watts of audio power, reportedly projecting “high-quality” audio at 600 ft (183 m) and “acceptable sound” for a quarter-mile (402 m).

    The Wall of Sound was also the first sound reinforcement to use large-scale line arrays (although they were not called line arrays at the time). A line array is a loudspeaker system that employs multiple loudspeakers coupled together to create a linear source for sound. The arrangement of the drivers enables them to work together to send sound waves farther than traditional horn-loaded loudspeakers, and with a more controlled, evenly-distributed sound output pattern.

    The Wall of Sound acted as its own monitor system, and its location directly behind the band meant the musicians could hear exactly what the audience was hearing. Because this arrangement is prone to feedback, Stanley and Alembic designed a self-canceling microphone system to prevent the squealing distortion. Their system used pairs of condenser microphones, with one microphone out of phase from the other. The vocalist sang into only one of the microphones, and the other microphone picked up whatever other sound was present in the stage environment. A differential summing amp added the signals together so that the sound common to both microphones (the sound from the Wall) was canceled, and only the vocals were amplified.

    A prototype of the Wall of Sound system was unveiled at Stanford University’s Roscoe Maples Pavilion in 1973, and every tweeter promptly blew as the band began their first number. The Dead began touring with the full system the following year. The first show to feature the complete Wall was on at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California; on March 23, 1974 (a recording of the performance was released as “Dick’s Picks Volume 24”).

    Despite its success, the Wall of Sound had a few drawbacks. Keyboardist Ned Lagin did not have a dedicated input into the system, and had to use the vocal channels. His parts were often lost in the mix when the system was switched to the vocal microphones. Also, the quadraphonic format could become compressed and tinny sounding when it was recorded from the stereo soundboards of the day.

    Because of its huge number of components, the Wall of Sound took a long time to set up and to take down at each show. Because of this, the Grateful Dead employed multiple stage setups. One stage set would be in use in one city, while another was being erected at the next venue. Throughout the concert tour, the stage setups would leapfrog each other to the next performance. It took four trailers and 21 crew members to move and erect the 75-ton Wall.

    “Bear” Stanley’s Wall of Sound did much to define the Grateful Dead’s sound, and to shape the band’s concert experience as well. But logistically the system was a beast, and when the Dead briefly retired from touring after 1974, the Wall of Sound was retired as well.”

  2. corndoggie Says:

    Think of the hearing damage for the band with this monitoring setup! And with different speakers for each instrument (cool concept, I admit), the band would be too close to the Wall to “hear exactly what the audience was hearing”. Only distance would let the various drivers blend into the front-of-house mix the audience heard–which ain’t necessarily what you want in a monitor mix on stage anyway.

  3. escaped8@aol.com Says:

    Think I’ll just drop out…I’ll go to Frisco ..Buy a wig and sleep on Owsley’s floor.Walked past the wig store and danced at the Filmore..

  4. Could it be! We’ve all missed you sooooooo much! There was a rumor that you had escaped8. Please post something soon. If you need a refresher contact me at the contact link on the front page.

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