This is from an on-line magazine called The Immortal Jukebox, written by Barbara Schultz.
There’s the fascinating story of Wally Heider’s studio which is basically an interview with the great engineer Bill Halverson, whose credits at that point included Crosby Stills and Nash’s massive self-titled debut album, Cream’s Badge, Tom Jones Sings She’s a Lady and CSNY’s Déjà Vu.
This is what he says about Bill Withers before he became famous: ’Withers was eventually signed to Sussex Records, and Booker T. Jones was enlisted to produce the new artist’s debut album, Just as I Am in 1971. Also on the session were two members of the MGs . . . drummer Al Jackson and bass player Donald Duck Dunn . . . plus singer songwriter Stephen Stills on guitar. The recordings were made in Wally Heider’s Studio 3, then situated in L.A. at the corner of Cahuenga and Selma. We had difficulty finding studio time and just spent the one night recording.
On Withers’ session, Halverson placed Jackson’s kit near the control room glass, under an overhanging soffit that held the studio playback speakers. ‘If you tucked the drums as close as you could under that overhang of the big speakers, you were out in the room but you had really good isolation,’ Halverson says.
‘When Bill Withers showed up he comes walking in with his guitar and a straight-back chair, like a dining room chair, and asks, ‘Where do I set up?’ I showed him right in the middle of the room, and then he left and he came back in with this platform, a kind of wooden box that didn’t have a bottom. It was about four inches tall, and was maybe 3 foot by 4 foot; it was a fairly large platform, and he set it down in the middle of the room. Then he put his chair on it and got his guitar out, and he’s sitting on top of this box. So I miked him and I miked his guitar, and then I was doing other things . . . getting sounds together. But then he calls me over and he points down to the box and says, ‘You gotta mike the box.’ Well, the way I was trained, you serve the artist, whatever the artist needs. So I got a couple other mics and I miked the box, the place down near the floor, next to this platform.
‘And now, when you listen to Ain’t No Sunshine, you know that all that tapping that goes on [while Withers sings] ‘I know I know I know’ all through it, actually, that’s him tapping his feet on the box, which is actually more intricate than the guitar on that track. He had evidently rehearsed that in his living room, maybe for years.’
You can listen to it here:
This little article borrowed without permission from the Colyer blog.