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Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2011 5:25 pm
by Pat Kirtley
Hi all,

Several people have asked how to indentify which version of CAIH just by listening. Since there have been all kinds of mixtures of side A / side B with different versions on each side, and also CD reissues which have a different audio version than the accompanying cover image would indicate, being able to identify the version just from hearing Chet's guitar is an interesting exercise.

In each case (the original 59 release where Chet recorded his guitar parts back in Nashville, and the 61 reissue which used the original live-in-studio tapes) Chet's guitar was recorded in an entirely different manner.

1959 first release (night scene cover) --- Chet recorded his guitar at his personal studio in Nashville, possibly using several different guitars, and using all his usual tone tricks (optimum miking of the amp tone, tape delay, etc). Also, the final mix was done by Chet himself. In this version, the guitar is prominent in the mix -- "out front", sometimes using tape delay effects, sometimes not. At times there is very little reverb on the guitar, with a drier sound which is a noticeable contrast against the reverb-y sound of the orchestra.

1961 reissue ("gold girl" cover) --- Chet was recorded live at the 1958 session by plugging his guitar straight into the board using a DI box. This technique was a necessity to keep his guitar sound out of the orchestra's mics, so that he could later redo the guitar tracks. The only thing between Chet's guitar and the console preamp was a transformer (DI box) to convert the high impedance guitar signal to make it compatible with the low impedance mic channel. There was no tone shaping or any of Chet's regular effects, not even a guitar amp through which to hear himself (he and Dennis Farnon had headphones). In this version of the recording, you will hear Chet's guitar without any slapback delay, but drenched in the same lush reverb as the orchestra, courtesy of Radio Recorders' legendary live reverb chambers. Also, Chet's guitar is much more blended volume-wise with the orchestra, and not "in your face" like on the 59 version. The mix is overall a "smoother" sound. According to the photographs we have from the original session, Chet was playing an early-issue 6122 CG (large headstock, no zero fret).

Over the years the different versions of the recording have been released in different "packages". For instance, the audiophile vinyl LP release by Classic Records from 2005 used the Gold Girl cover, but has the audio version from Chet's original Nashville overdub. The Mobile Fidelity CD version from the late 1989 has the Night Scene guitar cover (shown inside the booklet), but audio from the original studio session. The JVC "XRCD" audiophile CD version has the Gold Girl cover and live session audio usually associated with that cover. Over the years, either audio version has shown up wrapped either jacket design, sometimes apparently with no rhyme or reason. This can be explained by the fact that the record company was never aware that two different audio versions existed.

In either version, it is a legendary recording. I hope this makes a complicated scenario a little more clear!

Pat Kirtley

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:23 pm
by Norm
...So if I understand you correctly, there is no single CD version that has the 59 release only?

Must have been odd, being in the orchestra during the recording with only the conductor and Chet actually hearing the guitar.

Underscores how truly hot the musicians were. All those songs in one seven hour day leaves little room for retakes.

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:46 am
by jean-luc
I think that the CD Compact Classics (1995 with Night Scene), the Bear Family set box and the recent UK CD "The Elegant Chet" (with Teensville) are the '59 Nashville re-recorded version.
Regards, Jean-Luc

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 9:00 am
by billmoit
The Bear Family set is the over dubbed version. I have the original girl cover lp that I bought when it came out. The difference is exactly as Pat described. The second Bear Family set ends with 1961. Perhaps if they ever do another set we will have both versions. There are two versions of Boo Boo Stick Beat from the Teensville Album on that set. In addition there are some different verisons of a couple of songs from the Workshop album vs what is on the Bear Family set. I will have to listen again to get the tunes.

In the Lionel train hobby much has be studied and written on its history trying to track everything. The comment one author made is applicable here. Lionel was a company trying to make money selling trains and used whatever parts were available to do that. They were not trying to leave a trail for future historians.

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:01 am
by Norm
"...They were not trying to leave a trail for future historians....'

That's a good line. Applies to guitar manufacturers and just about all recording companies. And unfortunately it results in tantalizing old TV tapes getting re-used.

Like the Chet/Dave Garroway "Today" show where Chet demos the Ray Butts amp using his prototype CGP Gretsch...

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:52 am
by JohnBinns

For those who didn't get to read your magazine article, I'm sure that your posts have cleared up a lot of misunderstandings. The fact that you managed to track down some of the original people involved in the album production is a story in itself. So also the way in which the studio tapes got put on the RCA vault shelves and used by mistake is amazing.

Also, your description of the different versions is exactly how I felt when I first heard the '59 version "in your face" you call it. For me, the two versions set a different tone, hence a personal mood to me, the listener. The "background" effect of the '61 original is blended so richly, it is hard to imagine that Chet didn't intend to share it.

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:02 pm
by Vidar Lund
Pat, that´s an excellent piece of work you have done there. This has been discussed on several occations here on the Chetboard without finding a solution to the twice-recorded-album problem. You´ve finally done it. Here´s what Amazon has to offer regarding this famous recording: ... et&x=0&y=0

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:25 pm
by Pat Kirtley
The comments from everyone here are interesting and thought provoking.

Jean-Luc is correct on the CD releases which use Chet's original 1959 released version of the album. The 1997 Compact Classics CD reissue is great, very well done, but really hard to find nowadays. The Bear Family 1955-1960 box set contains all the tracks from CAIH in their original 1959 version. The El Records "Elegant Chet" CD has the 59 version, as I understand, but from what I've been told, it is in mono. Go figure.

Norm commented how strange it must have been for Chet and Dennis Farnon to be listening on headphones during the session, and nobody else could hear anything except the acoustic sounds in the room. Yes indeed! It is a testament to the skills of those musicians, almost all of whom were Hollywood's "A-Team" at the time. The entire operation ran like a clock, and wouldn't have been possible without lots of pre-preparation -- writing the arrangements (Dennis), making sure they would work (Dennis and Chet), and then manually preparing all the players' parts for all the songs from Dennis's scores (copyist: David Ward). If you look at the names of just the rhythm section, it is a west coast "who's who" of legendary musicians -- Drums: Jack Sperling, Bass: Red Callendar, Guitar: Howard Roberts, Vibes: Larry Bunker. And Dennis Farnon was the unsung genius who would bring all this together. All that being said, it was just "another day at the office" for these people. They were excited to be working with Chet Atkins, but the time together was brief, and then it was off to the next gig.

Bill's comment is interesting about writing history versus the motives of those who make history. At the time something is done, making a record or whatever, there is no thought of future considerations. You make a record that will sell, first and foremost. That's what Chet always said. History is left up to others who might care about something in the future, for reasons other than the original ones.

John said "The 'background' effect of the '61 original is blended so richly, it is hard to imagine that Chet didn't intend to share it." -- It is possible that Chet never heard this version at all, until it was mistakenly released, and maybe not even then. He was a busy guy. He had so much going on at any given time, it is hard to imagine him ever having time to go back and revisit a project even briefly. At the time of the session, all Chet cared about was the orchestra tracks, making sure they were what he needed to work with back in Nashville.

Dennis Farnon himself never knew there were two versions of the album. Sometime after the session, he was sent an acetate reference disc which went out to several RCA personnel -- of Chet playing live with the orchestra. Dennis assumed he was hearing the final release version and liked it. He thought the studio session takes were so good that Chet wouldn't need to re-record his guitar after all. He was surprised to hear Chet's actual release version when we sent it to him 52 years later, and remarked how different it sounded from what he remembered. So you can count Dennis among those who think the "smooth" live-in-studio version is the best.

How that "mystery" master tape and reference disc set got made in the first place, and distributed to RCA personnel, archived in the vault etc, is a story in itself.


Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:44 pm
by JohnBinns
I've been researching this for three years now, and it is a whale of a story. It's why I'm writing a book about it.

Any timeline for your book?

Re: In Hollywood - once again

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:47 pm
by Norm
It is possible that Chet never heard this version at all, until it was mistakenly released, and maybe not even then. ..'
He often stated that he disliked listening to his finished recordings so he probably just shrugged and deposited the royalty checks in the bank.

There is a clip of him made after his brain surgery where he talks about actually listening to his records (finally) and he said "I was good... (turns to a friend) wasn't I good?" almost like a small boy asking for reassurance.

Nice that he could look at his work so positively...touching that he felt he needed someone to agree with him that he was 'good'.

One could learn a lot about being a decent human being from Chester Atkins...