Anatomy of a 45

Soulful Detroit Forum: Archives: Anatomy of a 45
Top of pageBottom of page   By david, glasgow, scotland ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 12:01 am:


i think i've got a good ear for quality music but haven't got a clue how it's put together.

i wonder if we could talk at length about the creation of a 45.

i presume that creation of a 45 begins with a songwriter!

who puts music to that song before it reaches a studio? is that also the songwriter?

i don't understand why someone who puts together
some words (apparently randomly in a lot of instances)is rewarded so well - or are they rewarded so well?

next question after your response. thanks david

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 03:16 am:

Thisis a good question David and there are different ways to do this. It ALL starts with a song. The song is EVERYTHING. It may come from an independent songwriter, or from the producer himself. But ultimately a song lands in the hands of a producer that has a need for that song. With me, after a period of thinking on it and deciding how I want to do it, I go into the studio to cut the basic rhythm tracks.
Once I have a good solid track that is tight I will usually bring in the lead singer and start working the vocals out. This can take several sessions until everyone is satisfied that it works. From there I will start sweetening. Background vocals...strings horns...effects...whatever works and does the song good. When all the recording is complete then it is time to mix.Time to get the finished product so it all balances and sounds good. Once completed if it is going to be released it goes to a good mastering engineer ( such as Bob Ohllson )
who kind of does a few magical things to get it even better and put it in the proper sequence for the album. Maybe we could get Bob to talk about this process sometime. By the time it gets to mastering it's out of my hands and I'm not quite sure what the hell those guys do. I do however approve the final master. Then from there the records were pressed or in todays case CD's made.
Yes David, a songwriter can make a lot of money on a hit song. There are performance royalties, where he is paid an amount each time a record is played and there are mechanical royalties where monies are paid on each sale of the record.

Top of pageBottom of page   By acooolcat ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 04:45 am:

As the songwriter creates the original idea it's appropriate that he/she is suitably rewarded. But the publisher will be the one who actually recieves the money!
As Ralph explains - the music is created in the studio, and that's where the arranger, musicians and singers play their important roles. Obviously bad musicians can make a mess of the best of songs, and a good arranger can turn a mediocre song into something special.
Ralph, did you have a cutting lathe at Terra Shirma?
Detroit sound engieer Ron Murphy (tried to) explain to me how important it was to have this. Golden World and Motown both had more
control of their recordings by having this equipment. He also mentioned a "Purtec" that was used to balance the low and high ends. I guess it was a kind of equalizer?
Basically, I'd like to know how much control you (TS) had over the finished product - the 45 - as I guess if you simply sent the master-tape to the pressing plant you didn't know what quality of sound you'd get on the 45.
I think I'm right in saying that most TS recordings were pressed at Columbia's plant (ZTSC matrix numbers). Did you have any experience with the Sheldon plant in Chicago. Ron said they made a good job of pressing 45s there.
I'm still a bit confused as to how a "mother" is made and how a plate/stamp is made from the tape. I think they electroplate it or something! Can anyone explain this to me?

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 07:33 am:

The point I would like to mention here is that the recording medium also comes in to play.

I remember a quote from Smokey many years ago, which was that if you weren't there in the studio recording, you weren't on the track. In the early days, Motown artists were live in the studio (or even at the Graystone ballroom recording) with the musicians. If you mucked up, you started again or did it another day.

Another intersting the recording medium improved, so voices, strings, horns etc were added on and even artists could record later PLUS they could have lines "punched" in. Sandy Wynns/Edna Wright talked to Mick Patrick (of Where The Girls Are CD fame) about this process and she demonstrates with a line from "My Guy" - not that she specifically said that she sung on that particular record but it did make me re-listen to the song. We all know this happens - sometimes it goes to the extreme - like when another artist actuallly sings the whole song as did Edna's sister Darlene Love who is clearly the lead voice on Glass House's "Touch Me Jesus"

Top of pageBottom of page   By acooolcat ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 10:56 am:

Ron Murphy also mentioned to me how Detroit studios mostly used over-dubbing; recording the basic track, then later adding horns, strings or whatever, and then vocals, all in seperate sessions. Whereas in New York everyone would usually be in a studio together, but with baffles or cubicles to seperate the various musicians and instruments.
Obviously 4 track made this possible. I spoke to a guy who had a garage studio - where Berry, Robert West and other Detroit music pioneers used to make their very first recordings - and he only had a single track machine. Positioning the microphones was crucial and a mess-up by anyone would foul the whole take. The Volumes "I Love You" made there, and so were a couple The Arabians early recordings. They're unsophisticated, but have a special quality; Popcorn Wylie is banging on a suitcase on "I Love You" as they didn't have a drum set!

Top of pageBottom of page   By david, glasgow, scotland ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 01:26 pm:

so if i had i song which i wanted to take to gomba or jobete, would i also supply a basic melody?, or is it just purely words i'm giving them?

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 02:37 pm:

the equalizer you mentioned was a Pultec.
It was a graphic equalizer used for honing sound. It had capabilities of dealing with the entire spectrum of sound frequencies.It was a great tool, but was no subsitute for getting the sound on tape correctly to begin with. Then it was used just to enhance the sound. Some would make the mistake of over EQing and the result would be a less than natural sound.
Tera Shirma did not have a lathe. It was our intention to eventually put one in to better serve the producers. We never got around o it though. From what I remmber it was going to cost us somewhere around $100,000.00 to do this and I just didn't have the money. Generally most producers sent their master tapes to their company of choice for pressing. Once the tape was mastered to disc, the company would send a sample for approval.
Once a master disc is cut on a lathe it is sealed in a plastic bag and it goes to the pressing plant. There it goes through some sort of electro plating process. This finished process results in an exact negative of the disc and becomes the " Mother ". The Mother is what is used to press out the records and the negative Mother now turns out the positive records.
A quick note about disc lathe work: This is a highly specialized process. The person doing this must really know his stuff. They're dealing with all sorts of issues to transfer the tape successfully to a disc.The Lathe even has a microscope poised over the disc so the cutting engineer can observe how the grooves are looking as the cutting takes place. For instance, very close, or crowded grooves can result in distortion on the record. I am really totally unqualified to discuss all this, but this is some of the basics anyway.Motown's disc cutter was a guy names Leanord Wysniewski.
We called him " The Waz " and he really was good at what he did.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 02:49 pm:

If all you had were lyrics you might have wanted to team up with someone who was good at putting music to them. A classic exampe of this is Elton john, who writes only the music and his partner Bernie Taupin who is a lyricist. I would say they have done rather well with this arrangement over the years.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 03:21 pm:

At one time ALL records were recorded live. The musicians and singers were placed at their microphones and the song was run through many times until the recording engineer was getting just the right balance in the control room. Then the song was recorded and what went on tape was the finished product. If a mistake was made during recording, they would have to go right back to the top and start over.
With the advent of selective synchronization ( the 4 track ) { and the recording industry owes so much to the great Les Paul for coming up with this }
options were made possible to the producer.It could get very expensive paying musicians to stay on a session if the singer wasn't having a good day. Now the tracks could be cut and at a later time the singer brought in to sing to the already recorded track. Plus the abiity to " punch in " allowed the producer to fix a certain part of the vocal track without having the singer do the entire song over. It's not unusual to spend a lot of time punching in just one line until the results are satifactory.
I suppose a certain amount of " naturalness " is lost when all is not recorded at the same time. The recording session was more like a performance that way. However, if the music track was good it sure gave the singer something to sing to.There is nothing quite like putting on headphones and hearing a great music track coming through. Add a little creative mood lighting to enhance the atmoshere and the singer for all practical purposes was transported to the stage.
I suppose I should mention that because of the advent of multi-track recording, the mixing engineer was born.
there was an od saying that you could lose a hit rcord in the mix, and this was and still is very true. A good mixer is worth his weight in gold. My brother Russ ( Corky ) is a good example of this. He was for all practical purposes, the master mixer.
As four tracks grew to eight tracks...then sixteen and further to twenty's easy to imagine what a mixing engineer is faced with in getting everything in perspective to make a hit record.

Top of pageBottom of page   By david, glasgow, scotland ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 08:59 pm:

ralph & graham or anybody

ok, i take a song to a publisher.

presumably they analyse it and, make you an offer? was there a fixed price for a song? how much?

graham said they get the money. is that because they took over the rights when they paid your fee?

robert bateman says he still gets checks. is that because he managed to hold on to the rights?

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 09:42 pm:

Robert Bateman has his name connected with Please Mr Postman. I would think his royalty cheques will keep him in luxury for the rest of his life. And so it should be.

I read he's the uncle of Greg Perry et al...

Top of pageBottom of page   By david, glasgow, scotland ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 09:52 pm:

sadly, robert is not living the lap of luxury.

he told us his average income from that song and it was surprisingly low.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Sunday, November 04, 2001 - 10:03 pm:

Really, maybe that recent Marvelettes Milennium was not as good as I thought it was.....oh well, I suppose it's time to give me the elbow....

Top of pageBottom of page   By acooolcat ( - on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 02:43 am:

Basically - you finish writing a song, words and music, either by yourself or with a bunch of friends. Then you try to get it recorded, but the sensible thing to do is first register the song with BMI (and start your own publishing company). Berry Gordy realized that this is where the money is made early in his career.
Once the song is registered anyone can record it - and BMI should send you a royalty check.
David - It might be worth you taking a look at BMI's website which has an excellent database of song titles, writers and publishing companies, as well as general information about registering a song. Many of the records made in Detroit were written by someone associated with the artist/group and record label/company. Motown had people whose job was simply to write songs; HDH spring to mind.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 02:18 pm:

Graham is right on the money when he stresses the value of publishing. When Berry Gordy sold Motown I remember reading that he retained ownership to Jobete. I really had to laugh about this considering Motown's artist stable at the time was pretty thin. I joked about it and said Berry sold MCA the letter M for sixty three million dollars. Berry is no fool.
Also the story when Paul McCartney was working with a relatively young Michael Jackson and advising him on the value of publishing and Michael turns around and buys up all the rights to Northern Songs. Paul was rather upset with Michael on this one.So the real name of trhe game IS publishing.
Getting back to the sale of Motown. I'll never quite figure out why Berry sold the company. He certainly didn't need the money. Why couldn't he have put the controls of the company in the capable hand of someone? There were many who could have carried on with the fine tradition of the company.When all was moving to L.A. there was some talk of leaving Motown Detroit in my hands. I would have been honored to do this, but West Coast politics put a stop to that. I was less than thrilled with that crowd and I guess they didn't like me all that much either.
The sad fact remains that now the name Motown, in my opinion, is just a joke, putting out that crap they refer to as R&B these days. So sad. Well I'll get off the soapbox now.

Top of pageBottom of page   By david, glasgow, scotland ( - on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 04:11 pm:

did you work for motown in los angeles?

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 07:49 pm:

I was still in Detroit when Motown L. A. took control. I was out there a few times for meetings but it didn't take me long to realize this was a whole different ball game. It definitely wasn't Detroit. My contract was about to expire, so at that time I decided it was time for me to move on. I was told that the door would always be open for me and I guess it was. After I re-located to Monterey I would go to L.A. often if for no other reason than to visit my brother who was still with the company. It was during this time that Raye Singleton had re-gained control of the creative division. She and I had a meeting when I was there one time and she expressed an interest in me doing something with the company. I had begun writing extensively again so it seemed we might come to some sort of agreement in that regard. however, her stewardship was short lived and nothing ever really came of it and I would eventually form Powerhouse in Monterey.My company may be small and struggeling, but at least I can control it to my satisfaction.

Top of pageBottom of page   By acooolcat ( - on Monday, November 05, 2001 - 11:55 pm:

David- In Detroit during the 60s most writers didn't hawk their songs to publishing companies, maybe they would get someone they knew to record it. Some writers sold their songs outright for a lump sum cash payment - often to another writer or record company owner. Obviously they wouldn't get any royalalties (if it became a hit) but that was a gamble some writers made.
The whole record business is a big gamble though!
Also different writers on a song might contribute various amounts - and receive a proportionate percentage of the song - maybe you only come up with one line, so you may get 10% of the credit. If an arranger made a significant contribution to the recording a writer may feel inclined to give them a slice too, and Mike Terry's name ended up on a few titles that way. A lot of writers back in the 60s couldn't actually "write" music (lead sheets) and would rely on folk like Mike and Joe Hunter to do that for them. Also the company owner or producer might want to take a slice of the writer's credit, which was common practice then; hence Ed Wingate's name on so many Ric-Tic 45s. I'm pretty sure he didn't do much writing.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Tuesday, November 06, 2001 - 08:27 am:

Ivy Jo Hunter told me of a few songs he wrote but didn't get a writer's credit....titles escape me - (being a man who is discreet!!)

Top of pageBottom of page   By acooolcat ( - on Tuesday, November 06, 2001 - 09:41 am:

Just making sure you're not confusing Ivy Joe with plain old Joe (who I was refering to). It's very confusing as they were both at Motown.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Nikki ( - on Thursday, November 08, 2001 - 04:12 am:

I see reference was made to Robert Bateman of the Satintones above. I have been fortunate to have become good friends with several of the Satintones over the last 3+ years, and spent quality time with them while our visit to Detroit in October of 1998. Two of the original Satintones, James Ellis (lead) and Chico Leverett, are both on line. Our web site, Harmony Haven, features many Detroit groups (along with others) and we proudly feature the Satintones. For a look please go here:

Robert Bateman wrote or co-wrote and/or arranged many songs over the years.

Thank you.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Thursday, November 08, 2001 - 07:47 am:

Nikki......a wondeful selection of made me late for work!

Top of pageBottom of page   By david, glasgow, scotland ( - on Thursday, November 08, 2001 - 08:35 am:

hi nikki

i've enjoyed harmony haven on many occasions.

as john says your pics are tremendous.

thanks for sharing them with us and welcome to soulfuldetroit.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Nikki ( - on Saturday, November 10, 2001 - 05:19 am:

Thank you John & David for your nice words. It's a pleasure to be here. I always enjoy chatting and sharing info about my favorite (music) city, artists, and labels, with other discographers, collectors, and fans. I am enjoying this web site and expect to visit here often. I also buy, sell, and collect 45s, and am trying to learn more about exactly what "Northern Soul" means!!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By acoolcat ( - on Saturday, November 10, 2001 - 08:28 am:

The term "Northern Soul" refers to the northern parts of England, where a lot of nightclubs continued playing 1960's soul records during the 1970s.
David's intro on this site elaborates, and you'll find a lot of other sites devoted to this British cult, which is now a global phenomenon.
But don't get bogged down in jargon - just turn the volume up and enjoy!

Top of pageBottom of page   By detroit gal ( - on Saturday, November 10, 2001 - 04:39 pm:

Motown was known for overdubbing -- but Fortune and the other R&B labels didn't, they recorded 'live' I wouldn't say just because Motown did something that that was the Detroit way ...

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrna ( - on Saturday, November 10, 2001 - 04:55 pm:

Earlier on many of the smaller companies didn't have the benifit of 4 track recorders. Because Motown did, they were able to do all the over-dubbing they needed to achieve what they were looking for. It wasn't exclusively a " Motown Thing ". Once 4 track became the norm, all studios were doing it. Done properly, the over-all sound of records began to improve. The music became more complex and production became more sophisticated.The fact that so many of the early good records were done mono is a good illustration of the talent involved with those producing the music. I have always held that you make do with what you have and do the best you can. They sure proved that so long ago.

Top of pageBottom of page   By acoolcat ( - on Sunday, November 11, 2001 - 04:28 am:

Absolutely right Ralph. I know Golden World, Thelma, Groovesville, Topper, Ric-Tic, Revilot, Sidra, D-Town ,as well as Motown, used the benifits of 4 tracks.
What year(s) do you think it became the norm?
Best wishes, Graham

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Sunday, November 11, 2001 - 01:32 pm:

I'm not really sure. If I remember correctly, I think all the early Sunliner stuff was done 4 track and that would be around 1961. I imagine sometime around this date 4 track was becoming the norm. We did some of our earliest recordings at Hitsville, when Motown used to rent the studios. I'll ask my brother if he remembers what the recording format was then.

Top of pageBottom of page   By bob Olhsson ( - on Monday, November 12, 2001 - 05:09 am:

I think John Windt told me that "Please Mr. Postman" was the first Motown 3-track recording. Motown went directly from 3 track to 8 track with the track to "Where'd Our Love Go" being recorded at the first 8-track rhythm session. I can remember putting hair clips on the tape guides of an 8-track when we needed to play back a 4-track tape from an outside studio.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Monday, November 12, 2001 - 02:31 pm:

Given this information, do you think the early Sunliner stuff was done 3 track at Hitsville? I remember Mike McLean was the engineer for these sessions.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Monday, November 12, 2001 - 09:02 pm: I take it that the early Sunliners recordings at Hitsville would still be there under Sunliners...? You have mentioned a date of 1961..can you give a month

You talked about Hitsville USA being rented out...can you expand on that who?

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Monday, November 12, 2001 - 09:44 pm:

Before Motown got to be big they would rent their studios just as I did at Tera Shirma. So anyone could rent the studio for an hourly fee.It was a source of income for them. Whatever The Sunliners recorded there would be on the Hercules label. From what I remember not to much of it was good. We did a thing called Hit It there that actually did fairly well on the local charts. My date of 1961 is an educated guess, but I certainly can't give you the month. Actualy I think we recorded there two or three times before moving over to United Sound. Our early producer was Clarence Paul who was producing for Motown at the time.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Monday, November 12, 2001 - 10:21 pm:

Clarence Paul used to be working with the likes of Hattie Littles and Johnny Powers round about that time....all on 3 track...

Do you think that Motown might still have copies of any of those Sunliner recordings from those days.......have you ever asked to find out?

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Tuesday, November 13, 2001 - 12:24 am:

These recordings were not the property of Motown. We simply did the sessions, took the tapes and left.Some of the guys in the band have some of these recordings. I may have also, but I'd have to find them. Whether or not any are circulating still is something I don't know.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Tuesday, November 13, 2001 - 03:30 am:

So could these "rented" sessions normally include the house band...although I suspect the Sunliners didn't need them.

So presumably this was post-Pete Rivera..and most of you went full circle as far as Hitsville USA was concerned. Deja Vu!! (French for already seen). How did it feel to go back some 10 years later in a different guise. It always amazes me that life never works out the way you would expect it! can you say you have tapes and we are not able to hear them...when you gonna find them and let us all hear is for hearing and not for storing in cupboards. (Now get yourself out of THAT hole!!! HA HA HA HA)

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph Terrana ( - on Tuesday, November 13, 2001 - 05:29 am:

I'm not sure if a house band was avilable in those days. I suppose it's possible that the emerging Funk Brothers might have been doing sessions for outside clientel but I'm not sure.
Pete Rivera was in the band at this time.Pete was still in The Sunliners when I left the band. As far as the old records, Fred Saxon has some of the early stuff. He had communicated with David earlier. He's going to track these records down and put it into his computer to send to David, if I have my facts right. I know I have a couple of the old records, but I'm not sure which. I don't have the capability on my computer to put these records on though. Hell, I can't even play 45's anywhere either. Yes it was strange going back to Motown after all those years.A few years ago I was in Detroit and I visited Hitsville. I went and sat in the control room and thought about the countless hours I had spent in that room over the years. It was eerie in a way. Now it was a museum. I think what bothered me that day was the studio was set up all wrong. It didn't look the way it did. I went to see Esther Edwards to say hello, ( She was like an aunt to my brother and me.) but the day I was there she wasn't in her office. I always wanted to talk to her about the studio set up. I also thought there should have been individual pictures of the Funk Brothers placed at the location they were in during recording sessions.
Maybe someday I'll get to set it up.

Top of pageBottom of page   By John Lester ( - on Tuesday, November 13, 2001 - 10:14 pm:

Esther used to be there on a Friday....the fans know you have to telephone first to make sure she is there...I mean, how can you go all that way and not see Mrs Edwards...she IS the Motown Story.

A lovely woman, really charming....we all adore her.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Bob Olhsson ( - on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 06:56 pm:

I talked to Mrs. Edwards at length about that and they brought Mike McLean and Bob Dennis in and restored it to a lot more like it used to be.

Ellen and I are working as volunteers at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum here in Nashville because they are doing an extraordinary job of preserving pop music history. Hopefully one day we will be able to contribute some of what we learn to the Motown Museum. It turns out that one of the main people behind this museum, Ranger Doug Green of Riders in the Sky, grew up about a mile from where I did in Birmingham. Within five minutes he was rattling off names from my high school graduating class!

Anyhow we've made some great connections here for helping the Motown Museum.

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