Thursday, August 9, 2012

Phil York (1942-2012), Texas Music Legend

Phil York has passed away.  He was the engineer who recorded, amongst many others,  the Nervebreakers' We Want Everything album in 1980.  Back when the Nervebreakers were first looking into recording an album, I quizzed my older brother Dan for recommendations.  Dan had previously recorded with Gene Summers at Phil's studio, Autumn Sound in Garland, Texas and immediately brought York's name up.  Phil was a really good guy, and had seen and recorded many artists over the years, but I think we were his first exposure to punk rock.  He was the ultimate professional.  After we called him to inquire about recording at his place, Phil came out to one of the Nervebreakers live gigs to check out what we sounded like in person at a nightclub.  Once in his studio and recording, he was very patient and steady in his dealings with the rowdy novices we were at the time.  Years later, he also helped out on some remastering projects.  Phil was very good at what he did, as the quotes below demonstrate. He's a big part of Texas music history and will be missed.  I just hope Phil had the time and inclination to complete the memoir Robert Wilonsky mentions in his remembrance from the Dallas Morning News website.

A word from Nervebreakers' guitarist/songwriter Mike Haskins and Phil York's obit:

From Mike Haskins: “Phil York recorded the Nervebreakers’ “We Want Everything” LP in 1980 and The Big Gundown EP in 1994. A great guy, excellent engineer.”
Philip Wylie York, of Irving, passed away Saturday, August 4, 2012. He was born January 2, 1942 in Dallas. He was a graduate of South Oak Cliff High School and was a Scientologist for 50 years. Philip was a recording engineer/producer and owner of Yorktown Digital Works, Inc., in Irving and Big Y Productions for 53 years.

Philip was a three time Grammy winner and a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He had recorded tens of thousands of hours in Texas recording studios, including his own. He recorded the musical numbers to Universal Pictures’ feature film Tender Mercies, which was nominated for four Academy Award Oscars and won two of them. He has recorded a No. 1 national chart hit single in five major music styles: Pop, Country, Rhythm & Blues, Hispanic, and Contemporary Christian. He recorded the No. 17 Billboard disco hit single, Coming out of Hiding, sung by Pamela Stanley. He has recorded three Grammy Winners and about 40 Grammy contenders that didn’t win. The most recent Grammy received was in 2003.

Philip wrote and directed the TV movie Waiting for the Train for Paragon Cable, which included an original Ron Dilulio music score. He recorded four of Willie Nelson’s hit albums, Red Headed Stranger, The Sound In Your Mind, Family Bible, and Face of a Fighter, with Willie as producer on all, and Phil as recording engineer. Red Headed Stranger contained the classic, Grammy winning hit single, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. In 1983-90, he co-hosted The Texas Toast radio show with Foxy Jan on KNON-FM in Dallas, playing only Texas music. He has recorded hundreds of national commercials for companies such as Gulf Oil, Igloo, Texaco, Chrysler Corporation, Fuddruckers’ Restaurants, IBM, Datashred, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Chase Manhattan Bank, Republic National Bank, The Dallas Morning News, and many others. Phil had recorded hundreds of talented artists in his career as recording engineer. Among them are Ann-Margaret, Jewel Akens, Chelsey Austin, Jim Batchelor, Belinda B, B-Square, David Cline , Dallas Coleman, Brave Combo, Bruce Channel, King Cone, Crawfish Band, Floyd Dakil, T. Bob Davis, Lonnie Dean, Nokie Edwards, John Gary, Art Greehaw & The Light Crust Doughboys, Paul Harrington, Johnnie High, Engelbert Humperdinck, Carroll Hubbard, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kalinka, Kenny & The Casuals, Shannon Kincaid, Von Lightfoot, Jesse Lopez, Trini Lopez, Delbert McClinton, The Moondogs, Willie Nelson, The North Texas Lab Band, Tommy Overstreet, Larry & Linda Petty, Charley Pride, Helen Reddy, Dan Roberts, The Rolling Stones, Ray Sharpe, Shotgun, B.W. Stevenson, Vern Stovall, Gene Summers, Shoji Tabuchi, Dave Tanner, Larry Joe Taylor, Susie Taylor, Marc Toussaint Combo, Dwight Townsend, Ross Vick & TrueHeart, The Van Dykes, Jimmy Velvit, Jerry Jeff Walker, Debbie White, Lew Williams, Don Zimmers, and many, many more.

Phil had also restored and remastered for re-use record labels in the US and Europe, using CEDAR & Sonic Solutions with NoNoise, over 550 CDs from old analog sources. Vintage artists include Rex Allen, Patsy Cline, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Lightning Hopkins, Glenn Miller, Elvis Presley, Della Reese, Kay Starr, Sunny & the Sunglows, Ike & Tina Turner, Johnny Guitar Watson, Andy Williams, YALE Whiffenpoofs and many more.

He knew how to fix gooey tapes, and regularly performed those services for individuals, too. Bing Crosby, one of the most loved and respected entertainers who ever lived, recording more recordings than anyone else, said this about Phil York’s work restoring some early recordings to higher quality: “The tapes are truly remarkable. The quality is unbelievable. Thank You.”

He is survived by his son Jason, sister Sharon; grandson Michael; granddaughter Chauni; nephew Steve; niece Stacey; great nieces April, Autumn, and Alex; great nephews Morgan and Conner; numerous other family members; and many members of the music industry whom Phil considered his family, including several best friends that he loved dearly.

Funeral services will be held at 10 AM Friday, August 10, 2012 at Brown’s Memorial Chapel. Burial will follow at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas. The family will receive friends 6-8 PM Thursday at the funeral home. 

Robert Wilonsky's  Blogpost:

‘Unsung’ local hero Phil York, the man who helped Willie Nelson record ‘Red Headed Stranger,’ has died at 70

Phil York and Willie Nelson in Garland, recordingRed Headed Stranger in 1975(Via.)
Buried inside today’s Metro section is this small obituary for a Dallas-music giant: Philip Wylie York, otherwise known as The Man Who Engineered Red Headed Stranger, among countless other recordings with which you’re no doubt familiar. His death on August 4 didn’t take friends by surprise; the 70-year-old had been in failing health for a long while. I didn’t even see the obit, but was instead tipped off by a note from Mike Haskins of the Nervebreakers, the Dallas punk pioneers with whom York made two records, including the essential We Want Everything!
Last time York and I spoke was in November of last year, when he said he was working on his memoirs; I was eagerly anticipating the section concerning that legendary wee-small-hours Rolling Stones jam session at the late, great landmark Sumet-Bernet Sound Studios, all of which he caught on tape. But that was one story among many: The three-time Grammy-winner worked with local garage-rockers in the ’60s, punk and country outlaws in the ’70s, polka revivalists in the ’80s (he was behind the board on three Brave Combo records) and everyone from Charley Pride to Rocky Hill to Ann-Margret to Robert Duvall for theTender Mercies sound track. And he engineered The Relatives’ sessions in the early 1970s — recordings that still sound like they were made the day after tomorrow.
For his work as engineer, and as someone who restored historic recordings of legendary artists, York was rewarded with three Grammys.
“He’s the unsung hero of the audio recording arts in Dallas — and arguable the most important audio engineer this side of Jim Beck, which is saying a lot,” says Willie Nelson biographer Joe Nick Patoski, referring to the man who first recorded Lefty Frizzell. “He was a cool guy who did great work. It was right place, right time and, more importantly, the right attitude. He took on all kinds of different projects. His [stuff] was all over the map. [Red Headed Stranger] is the album that pushed Willie across when nothing else had to that point. That album made all the difference in the world, and he let Willie do it his way, which was against every rule in the studio recording business: He stripped it all down, and Phil was with him all the way.”
Per the obit, funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Brown’s Memorial Chapel in Irving, where the South Oak Cliff grad lived. He’ll be buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park. Our condolences to his family. And now, this.