Ideal Gear For The Monomaniac
My grandfather was the radio/TV guy here in my hometown of Coxsackie, N.Y., at Rosa Radio and Television from the late 1940s through the 1960s, retail and repair. He used to occasionally tell me about "Dr. Yarvin," a grumpy, old family doctor here in town that supposedly had the hi-fi system to end all others. My grandfather said, "He always had me special order crazy equipment for him, brands that I never even heard of, like someone could actually hear a difference anyway...".
I asked what stuff the doctor had ordered, and my grandfather would always say that it was super expensive, crazy equipment that he had heard about at hi-fi shows in NYC, etc. As a kid, I remember being amazed that there were even such things as a hi-fi show. Sheesh.
Anyway, about 15 years ago, with my grandfather and Dr. Yarvin both long gone, I received a phone call from Dr. Yarvin's daughter. She said that she was in town getting ready to sell her father's house and when cleaning things up, found that all of his LPs were still there (4,000 albums, all classical) and his hi-fi equipment was still installed in the music room. (Again, I was amazed that anyone in my old home town even had a music room.) She asked if I was interested in seeing/buying his stuff.
I went over and started going through the guy's stuff. In his music room, there were gigantic Klipsch corner speakers built into the wall. Two Marantz Audio Palettes (all tube, natch) and a bunch of different tube McIntosh front ends. Hidden in the wall were two big, ol' Mac monoblocks installed in 1958 by my grandfather! With my Grandfather's hang tags and handwriting still attached to the power cords! He wasn't bullshitting! I bought everything for 300 bucks – and still have it all today! I even have the original, tiny owner's manual that came with the units!
I'm also the proud owner of a matched pair of all-tube MC40s and a matched pair of all-tube MC75s, both pairs of which were basically fished out of the basement/equipment graveyard of Columbia's old 52nd Street Manhattan studios in the late 1980s. They are the original amps that were used in the 52nd Street studios, the very amps that originally monitored Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and hundreds (or thousands) of others.
The folks running the studio considered them totally obsolete at the time. Sold 'em all off to me (and a few lucky others that had worked or still were working there) for a few hundred bucks, total! Still have 'em! I also have Xeroxes of the original owner's manuals.
Interestingly, all of the Mac amps used back in the day at Columbia Studios were slightly modified by the Columbia engineering/maintenance guys. They had a trim control added and some sort of special input setup – a nine-pin plug or something like that. (I was given extras of those as well.) I still have the wiring input diagram that one of the old-timers gave to me when I first got the amps, hand drawn!
What they did was to take the nine-pin output jack and convert it to a combo input/output section, and then they used the original input chassis hole for an added input-trim section, I think. If that makes any sense. I now have the four of the little darlings sitting right next to me, getting ready for their photo debut!
The mono pre-amp and 50W-2 are stunning – best I've ever seen. They were put inside a wall by my grandfather in, I dunno – the mid to-late 1950s and sat there until I unearthed them! You should see what else I got out of his house! Tons of perfect-condition audiophile gear from the 1950s! With manuals! Plus – a box of unused Genelex Gold Lion KT88s! Amperexes! Bugle Boys! Egads!!!!
[After this point, the communication degenerated into salivating audiophilic excess. But, as said before, at least they found a good home.]
McIntosh And A Tip For The Beatles
It was 1988 or thereabouts, and it was a period when I was really, really busy. My secretary got a call, bless her heart, and said, "There's a call for you on such and such a line." "Well, who is it?" She said, "He won't say." "Well, what's it about?" She said, "He won't say."
I said, "Look at me: Am I sitting around here watching television? If he doesn't want to tell me who he is or what he wants, he obviously is trying to sell me something, so tell him I'm too busy." She said, "I've got a feeling about this, Wayne. I think you should take this call. I really don't know why, but I think you should take this call."
I said, "OK, Julie, put it through." It turned out to be the business manager for the U.S. operations of the Beatles. And he was very, very cagey at first, wouldn't tell me who he was. He said, "I got your name from a gentleman named Maurice Painchaud; do you know him?" I said. "Of course, I know him very well."
He said, "I have a problem involving a trademark issue, and I understand that you solved a problem for Mr. Painchaud's company that was sort of similar to the problem I've got."
So I said, "I did handle an interesting trademark issue for McIntosh. I don't know what yours is, whether it's similar, but he's telling the truth and it worked out very well. We were very content with the way it was resolved."
Then he finally admitted who he was and why he was calling. "If you would be willing to do so, I want to send you a first-class ticket to London. We would like you to fly there Tuesday to meet with our board of directors because we're having this problem with Apple Computer." And I said, "Well, Tuesday looks free!"
That began a relationship with the Beatles' company that only actually ended this past year  when they got involved in another big battle with Apple Computer, which was largely a non-instant replay of the first battle. Because the first one escalated to such an enormous degree, when this one happened, they used the good sense of getting a big, multi-tiered law firm instead of me, which I think was the right thing to do.
A selection of checks paid by Apple Records and George Harrison to Allan Markoff's Audio Center.
Allan Markoff – then as now – was a McIntosh dealer in upstate New York. He, too, had dealings with the Beatles:
We sold McIntosh to all of the Beatles individually. One night I got a call from a friend of mine who was with Apple. He called me one night at 10 o'clock at my house. George Harrison was staying at the Plaza Hotel and he wanted a massive sound system there. In the hotel he had like half of a floor, George Harrison and his friends.
We delivered it at 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock in the morning, four JBL S8Rs, which were the equivalent of two Paragons, and a rack mount of McIntosh power amplifiers and preamplifiers, and a turntable, tuner, things like that. We set it up in his room and he played it so loud you could hear it four or five blocks away, let alone throughout the hotel. And it got him thrown out of the hotel. We also sold McIntosh equipment to Paul McCartney.
As a result of this, we also did a lot of the stage sound work for the Concert for Bangla Desh, because of our dealings with Apple. We did the stage monitoring with domestic McIntosh equipment; Madison Square Garden had the other sound reinforcement.
From Woodstock To Newport And
Most Points West
Bill Hanley is one of the pioneers of high-quality sound for concerts, the first to apply the standards of high-end audio to live gigs. He's been amplifying live music for over a half century: With his younger brother Terry ("... for so many years my all-around right-hand man"), he founded Hanley's Sound Equipment in 1954-5, now simply called Hanley Sound. From humble origins providing the sound at skating rinks, Hanley's career grew to include the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, Woodstock, the Fillmore East, the legendary Boston Tea Party, and countless tours – from the Beach Boys to the J. Geils Band to the Jefferson Airplane. The Beach Boys, in fact, were the first to include a rider in their contract that Hanley Sound had to be used for their gigs.
"Our service," Bill said in August, 2005, "was that we could be called on the phone and go anywhere in the world at a reasonable price. I didn't see myself or the company as being a corporate business, but rather we wanted to bring the best sound to the people. It was sort of idealistic for me, but I really believed that I could make the world a better place with this contribution. Electronics and idealism came together, and they're still both important parts of my life. "And I'm the guy," he smiled, "who told the Grateful Dead to use McIntosh."
Bill Hanley at Woodstock 1969
Bill recounted his company's history with assistance from Judi Bernstein-Cohen, who has been in charge of the business of actually running the Massachusetts based Hanley Sound for four decades, and electronics maven Harold Cohen. Both joined Hanley in 1966.
What started out as an interview focusing on McIntosh's role at Woodstock ended up revealing a whole other side to the brand, including the use of McIntosh amplification in most of the United States' top rock venues, on global tours, and even at an inauguration. A glimpse through Hanley's photo album called to mind a vintage McIntosh catalog.
His pre-1969 photos showed that it was almost inevitable that the Woodstock organizers would end up dealing with Hanley Sound. Harold and Judi recalled that their only rivals at the time were a couple of professional sound companies on the West Coast.
Bill was approached by the festival's principals, starting with Stan Goldstein. One of the key organizers of Woodstock, he was quoted by Joel Makower, in the latter's irresistible saga of the festival, Woodstock:
The Oral History, as feeling that, "Bill Hanley was the hardest guy to make a deal with and to get a real commitment from. He said he would do it, he wanted to do it, but to find out what it was he was going to do, what he was really going to do and what he could really deliver was just f*****g impossible.
"I don't want to give the wrong impression. At the time, Hanley was – there were a lot of guys competing, and there were a lot of guys who did a pretty decent job given the fact the equipment just didn't f*****g exist at that time."
Another key player in the Woodstock story, lighting expert Chip Monck, described Hanley in the same book as "...marvelously schlock... an absolutely darling man... He was at that time just about the only contractor available... He actually could woof and tweet what was an appropriate estimation or resemblance to the actual sound. Numbers and numbers of tube amps and early Macs and Altecs and some gorgeous equipment that would be fun to have nowadays, because it would make a guitar sound lovely. But beyond that, it was a really small, nice, cute little system that nobody in their right mind would have used for a gathering of that size."
Hanley chuckled at the descriptions. "They just wanted to pick my brain!" Judi was slightly saltier about it, but it was clear that by 1969, Hanley Sound was used to dealing with seasoned professionals for properly organized events, whereas Woodstock was looking like a hippie-conducted train wreck from the outset.