Stories From My Past: The Studio Session

Many of my friends know that I’ve spent years in the recording studio as an engineer, producer, recording artist and backup musician.  I was often called in to do some support work, such as background vocals, handclaps and so forth, on visiting artist’s recordings.  This story is about one of those times….

At Crosstown Recording Studio in Boston, a prominent recording artist wanted to do some personal recording for the purpose of presenting songs to the publisher for a new album.  These kinds of quick demo tapes were common in those days and I must have played on dozens of such sessions.  Here is a list of the players in this particular story:

  1. Butch Tavares:  The artist in question, and the man who sang “It Only Takes A Minute” which I understand, sold 5 million copies in the US.  Everyone who know him calls him “Butchie.”
  2. Gary Dobbins: Recording engineer at Crosstown.
  3. Hank: Guitarist for the band Tavares.
  4. Steve: Keyboardist for the band Tavares.

Butchie has asked me to do some hand claps on one tune and he invited me to sit in on the sessions, so I sat down in the control room and watched the session.

Gary was setting up to record a melody line consisting of a guitar part and a keyboard part.  Hank and Steve would play together on separate tracks which would be mixed together later.  All was going according to plan.

Butchie was listening to the guys rehearsing their parts prior to recording the tracks (called a “take”).  Butchie seemed unhappy with the results.

“Gary, can you let me hear just the guitar part by itself, while still letting Steve hear his keyboard part in his headphones?”

“Sure” Gary said.

Butchie was pleased with just the guitar part, so he asked Gary to record just Hank’s guitar part and omit the keyboard part from the take.  But Butchie didn’t want Steve to know that he wasn’t being recorded.  Gary made that happen.

When the 2 musicians were doing the take, they were both grooving to the tune, and obviously pleased with their performance.  Now was the moment of truth: the playback. Steve got a funny look on his face when he didn’t hear his part on the recording, as he had definitely heard it while doing the take.  Finally Steve said “I can’t hear my keyboard part – what happened?”

Butchie turned to Gary and said “What happened?”

Gary shrugged his shoulders, obviously the fall guy in this situation.

“Nevermind, Steve, now that I’ve heard it with just the guitar part, I think I like it better that way….”

And with those words, the matter was settled.

But I will never forget the look of bewilderment on Steve’s face….

Gary Dobbins and Bill Irwin (1978)

This is a 1978 photo of Gary Dobbins (left) with Bill Irwin, his partner in the music store they owned on Beacon Street in Boston.

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    1. you know Craig, the world is full of stories about stars acting rudely and so forth. but the people with whom i worked and associated were nothing short of fantastic. Butch Tavares is one of the nicest people you could meet. his wife and young daughter (at the time) came to pick him up at the studio. Butch is a family man, and happens to be one of the best singers in the business too. thanks Craig.

  1. I stumbled accross your blog and I really enjoyed it! I was and still is a HUGE Tavares fan, and I had a huge crush on Butch back in the day, but I did meet him very briefly off and on when I lived in New York and yes he is a very nice guy, I never heard of any nasty attitudes or huge egos when it came to Butch and his brothers. What year did the above story take place? Was it in the 80’s after Tavares did “Words and Music”? That was the year I worked at Norby Walters Booking agency where Tavares was one of their clients.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. welcome Jenjen! the year was 1979 and it was a great year for me in the studio and on stage, as we did a lot of recording and playing back in those days. Butch was a real gentleman and i had the occasion to also meet his lovely wife and daughter when they visited the studio. that man can sing! i’m glad you got to meet him too. hope to hear from you in the comments section again soon!

  2. Hi What ever became of Gary Dobbins? He was my guitar instructor in the 70′ in Cortland NY, before he moved to Boston. I would like to catch up with him…

    1. hi Jonathan. the last i heard, Gary moved to LA and was doing sessions. that would have been 1978. i haven’t seen him since. Gary was a good guy and he helped my career back then. wish i could help you more than that. take care.

  3. Ola, sou brasileira, 46 anos, veja como a web é poderosa, eu redescobri TAVARES, todos os irmãos são otimos cantores, mas eu tenho uma atenção especial por Butch Tavares, não me pergunte porque. Infelismente nunca vieram ao Brasil, e tenho certeza seria um prazer ouvi-los. Minha geração adora suas músicas.
    Apesar de ter passado muito tempo, acredito que sejam os mesmos, apesar das adversidades da vida, aos poucos vou descobrindo algumas coisas sobre eles. um forte abraço

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