Known as the "Father of Audio" in Arizona, Jack Miller has had a long history in the recording world that including a mid-'50's mobile recording gig in Chicago, some hit-making, late-'50s sessions in Phoenix with Duane Eddy and Lee Hazlewood and a stint in Hollywood with RCA where he worked with artists like The Rolling Stones, Anthony Newley, Herman's Hermits and The Monkees. Jack has been busy ever since, becoming a partner in Arizona's legendary Audio Recorders in the '60s and forming Jack Miller Productions in 1978. Now in his 70s, Jack is still recording, working extensively with Canyon Records on their catalog of Native American music.
When you moved to Phoenix from Chicago didn't you get a music store job?
I worked at Dawson Music for two years. It was a record store that sold and moved pianos. After that I went to Ramsey's — a TV store that fixed TVs and radios and appliances and had a record store up front. I worked in the repair shop until the engineer for the recording studio (in the same building) left, and I went to work in the studio. That was Ramsey's Recording [owned by Floyd Ramsey]. That's basically where Duane [Eddy] started.
Were there other studios in Phoenix at that time?
There were two studios in Phoenix. There was Ramsey's and Arizona Recording Productions — [owned by] Ray Boley. That's kind of unique because I'm in the Canyon Records building, which used to be owned by Ray.
Sanford Clark's "The Fool" had already been cut at Ramsey's right?
"The Fool" was cut and released in '56. [written and produced by Lee Hazlewood]
Did you work on that?
No. They were still watching it climb the Billboard charts. I was there when finally they found out that it was going to be a smash, and Dot Records took it over. That started the ball rolling, because money came in and we started doing more recording. Up until then we weren't doing that much.
What was the purpose of a studio like that before?
They recorded local bands and things like that. They didn't do any radio commercials or that kind of stuff. Floyd had two labels at the time. One was Old Timer Records and the other one was Liberty Bell. The Old Timer label had been a success [for] square dancing records. When I was selling records in Chicago that was my favorite label, because they were so precise and so wonderful. I was thrilled to be a part of that.
With the calls?
The calls — right. Do it without the call and then overdub the call — they had two sides of the record. Ramco Records was started later.
Did you work with Lee Hazlewood on the first Duane Eddy stuff?
Oh yeah. He didn't show up until after I got there. He'd played sideman on sessions and things like that. Lee brought Duane to us. Duane had actually recorded a couple of things at KTYL radio station and was unhappy with the sound. Lee was the one that went and got the tank to put echo on the recordings. That happened before I got there.
This famous reverb tank — I researched it and found three different numbers as to its size!
Two thousand one hundred gallons is the correct number. It was round, tall, cylindrical. It had a port on the side, so they laid it down on it's back so the port was sticking up. It looked like a submarine. It was a Lee Hazlewood thing — he wanted that for vocals. He wanted a nice, rich reverb on Sanford Clark's "The Fool," and he ended up with a slap back [tape] echo because that's all they could produce. They walked around these yards and yelled into tanks. They told me that the guy that was walking with them said, "Are you guys crazy?"
Just a speaker and a mic in there?
Yes. After I got there I didn't like it — it was ringy. One day I took the lid off and I heard it playing and it was real echo-ey. I said, "If the mic was out here it would sound better." So we started tweaking with it and built a box that sat outside the tank with the mic mounted in it, listening to the hole. The speaker was at one end and things are bouncing around in there. When the mic goes down in the tank, then you get standing waves and things start cancelling themselves out. It really did help it a lot, and about that time is when we started working with Duane. Duane and the tank — that did create a sound.
Were you putting that on guitar tracks and stuff?
We were putting it on anything we could put it on. We overused...