Interview With Floyd Ramsey

By Dave Acker

As evidenced by the following interview, Floyd Ramsey is definitely the very definiion of the self-made man. Anyone thinking of turning a small radio repair shop/record store into a multifacited recording studio equipped with the latest technology would do well to sit at the knee of Mr Ramsey and take notes. I was given the grand tour of his facility and found myself impressed beyond words with some of the most expensive recording equipment available at the time. The walls in the outer office were adorned with 45 and 78 rpm records he'd recorded there and, yes, many of them were by Duane.

As a side note, I visited the original AudioRecorders down the street where Duane did the "early stuff." At the time of my visit, the building housed a pet grooming parlor, but many of the original offices and recording studios were still in tact. Even the strong odor of flea soap and doggie shampoo could not mask the nostalgia.

DA: When did you first become acquainted with Duane?

FR: Must have been about 1955, I guess.

FR: Did you have anything to do with recording "Soda Fountain Girl," Duane's vocal?

FR: We did some work with Jimmy Delbridge. He was under contract with me for a long time. I remember him, so it might have been that we did do something with he and Duane. I can't really remember.

DA: Can you tell me the type of equipment you used to record Duane?

FR: We were only using two tracks at the time, two track stereo; then we went to three track somewhere down the line. I don't remember exactly when. It was Ampex equipment.

DA: What was the address of the old sudio behind the barber shop?

FR: That was 3703 N. 7th Street, just a block away from the present studio.

DA: What is in the building now? Is it still there?

FR: Yeah, it's still there. Ithink it's a print shop now.

DA: Do you have any old files of records of dates ofn those sessions?

FR: Gosh, no. I wouldn't have any of those left anywhere. One of the things we used on Duane's sound was tape delay. Miller would be more familiar with that than I am. We also bought a big water tank, a 2500 gallon water tank. I've still got it here in the studio. We moved it down here when we moved here. We don't use it too often anymore. We did use it on all Duane's stuff. That was part of that tinny, funky sound that we got. That was how we got the guitar to sound real big. The combination of tape echo and delaying it into the tank, and feeding an echo back from that. Kind of of the Duane Eddy sound as it was known in those days. It was interesting that many of the things Duane later did for RCA were recorded here.

DA: How about the typical session with Duane, Hazlewood and the Rebels? Was it a pretty smooth operation, or hap-hazard?

FR: It was very hap-hazard. It was developed as it went along. It would go on for hours. They'd record a side and work on it all day and night, the next day listen to it and throw it out, go back in and do it again. It wasn't unusual to invest hours and hours on one song. They'd sometimes do some "sweetening." Lee, alot of times would take the tapes from here to the coast and some voice things or strings. They did that for the RCA stuff. As I remember, those were added on the coast (LA) over-dubbed. I can remember many times working all night long on a session, right up to datlight. Jack Miller and I usually handled all the engineering on all that. We worked together on most of it. Lee was a rather temperamental kind of guy, you know, but I think that's typical of all creative people. (pauses to think). One incident I remember happened when we werte doing a take one time. The drummer, Jimmy Troxel, had put a cigarette in the ashtray which was right beside his drum set. Right in the middle of the take, the ashtray burst into flame. (laughs). He didn't know what to do, stop playing or continue. We were right in the middle of a take. We were recording and he was nervously watching this fire beside him. (laughs).

DA: Can you give us some background on yourself?

FR: When I was a kid, I was interested in how a record was made. In high school, I proceeded to find out how it was done. I started to get into disc recording. This was before tape. When we moved to 3703, my dad was in the radio repair business. Then I went into the service (around 1944), and got out in '45. We built on a addition, which was a record store. I think we called it "Ramsey Record Land." There were only two places in town that sold records, ours and another. I built a small on the back of that (which is still there in the original building), and it was a little recording studio about the size of an office, and there was a seperate little control room. Again, we were still recording on disc. We would make disc copies for people and do sessions. One of the first things we did was Marty Robbins, from Glendale, (Arizona). He used to hang around at the time. He would come into the record store and buy Eddy Arnold records. He liked him pretty well. He was working in some club, (Robbins), and some used car dealer here brought him in and paid for a session to make a few cuts. I don't remember what. A year or so later we built a larger studio (about 25' x 35'), and that's where we did Duane's first stuff.

DA: How did Duane and Hazlewood choose you to record them?

FR: Well, at the time, Lee was a DJ over in Mesa, KTYL I think, a country station. Somehow he got acquainted with Duane, maybe through his DJ work. In fact, Lee was still working as a DJ when we were doing Duane's things at first. Actually, we were the only studio in town, outside of radio stations. After that, it developed into alot of stuff. We did the first Wayne Newton thing with his brother (I Spy/The Real Thing - Capital 4236). We leased that to Capital Records, but nothing happened with it. We did several things with them. Then we did Duane. We did "The Fool" with Sanford Clark. That was a big record for us, a hit. We did "Cherry Pie" and "It Was I," two records by Skip and Flip, two kids from Tuscon, (about 1959). I also did Waylon Jennings first records for A & M (1964). We also did some things for Goose Creek Symphony which we leased to Capital back in '70. That was actually Richie Hart and his group under a different name. We did Hart's "The Great Duane" back in 1959. We also did the group Eclectric Mouse, a rock-jazz that was leased to Capital (around '72). We also did "Funky Broadway" with Dyke and the Blazers. Having recorded "The Fool," plus having Duane, helped promote our name in the business. Articles about the "Phoenix Sound." helped too.

DA: Can you explain this "sound" we're always hearing about? Nashville Sound. Muscle Shoals Sound.

FR: Just the production, our use of the echo tank. Now it's more of a sophisticated way of doing it.

DA: What was Duane like to work with?

FR: Duane was always a kind of an even-tempered guy, always a nice guy. He was easy to work with. He did what Hazlewood told him to do. I that was a good thing for him.

DA: Any interesting stories on the years?

FR: I remember a funny story. One time, Lester Sill was involed with Duane. He kind of coordinated all the sessions. He was a nervous sort, nervous about getting masters shipped on time back to Philadelphia. One time we took a tape box, about a foot square and filled it with tape we'd unrealed off a roll of tape and stuffed it into the box and sent it to him marked, "Eddy Masters." We always did nutty stuff like that.

DA: Thanks for the interview. Our readers will enjoy it.

FR: Glad to have helped.

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