Thursday, July 9, 2009

Firehouse #21 -- July 9, 2009

The Underwriters Fire Patrol Headquarters building on Natoma Street near New Montgomery was built in 1907. The San Francisco Underwriters Fire Patrol was founded in 1875. The Patrol worked to prevent fires, and to minimize property damage and help with salvage. It was the first motorized fire company in San Francisco, in 1911.


Jerry's Brokendown Palaces said...

In 1962, bassist Lloyd Pratt and piano player Steve Atkins started Commercial Recorders in a building that used to house one of the original turn-of-the-century San Francisco firehouses. A photography studio operated on the first floor of 149 Natoma between 2nd and 3rd and Mission and Howard Streets in the heart of downtown.

With the arrival of Pratt and Atkins, one of the city’s most successful jingle studios kept the second floor abuzz with activity.

Prat is rumored to be the only white man to have played with The Count Basie band.

During its seven-year run, Pratt and Atkins hosted, on average, 90 percent of the commercials running on San Francisco radio A pole, left over from the building’s fire station days, ran through the middle.

Jazz luminaries such as Vince Guaraldi and Cal Tjader could be found playing as part of a trio or quartet, usually conducted by Atkins if he wasn’t sitting in on the sessions himself. “We could have anything from a trio to a 30-piece orchestra in there, depending on what was going on that day,” he says

Still on the clock at Commercial, Healy switched his cleaning shift to days and snuck in his friends’ bands at night. “Of course Lloyd Pratt and the guys would come in the next morning, and everybody would just be out of there by the time they came in,” Healy recalls. “The place would be thick with cigarette smoke, and there I’d be, sweeping the floors! Lloyd never said anything about it.”

By that time, the four tracks at Commercial Recorders weren’t enough for what Healy wanted to accomplish, so he sought out another studio and found one in the basement of one of the most recognizable buildings in North Beach—Columbus Tower—the same address that Steve Atkins had moved to just a few years before.

After Atkins and Healy moved on, Pratt continued to run a busy jingle production business. In 1969, Pratt merged his business with Coast Recorders, giving Coast even more muscle in the advertising world. Not long after, Bill Putnam named Pratt director of agency recording. Sadly, Pratt didn’t have much time to settle into his new position. He died of a heart attack in 1970.(2)

We owe these demos to Dan Healy, a friend of ours who is a technology wizard and has done amazing things for Quicksilver. It is at Commercial that the Dead make demos of many of the songs that will appear on our first album. A few arrangements of traditional tunes, two or three of our own songs, and that’s pretty much it.

Dan Healy was indeed an engineer at Commercial Records studio - he said in an interview with Sandy Troy: “Along about 1963 I moved into San Francisco and got a job in a little recording studio called Commercial Records. It’s defunct now. At the time it was the state-of-the-art studio in San Francisco. It had a 3-track tape recorder on half-inch tape. That was big time in those days, when 4 tracks were really rare… I worked days in this studio.”

Healy confirmed briefly that he did tape bands in the studio after-hours: “Because I was working in a studio which only operated from daylight to dark (8:00 to 5:00), after they locked up the studio at night we’d sneak in and record. So I would take all the bands in there. That was really a good trip.”

The book Skeleton Key also mentions: “Healy would sneak the Dead into Commercial Recorders at night, and they would record until dawn.(1)

Calif. Community Dispute Services resides there now, 2011.

In 1966, Jerry recorded here after hours while Dan Healy worked as the janitor.


2.)^Johnson,Heather, If These Halls Could Talk: A Historical Tour through San Francisco Recording Studios

See my blog here:

Joe Thompson said...

That's cool stuff to know. Thanks for sharing the information. I'll add a link to your blog.