Thomas John "Tom" Dowd (October 20, 1925 – October 27, 2002) was an American recording engineer and producer for Atlantic Records. He was credited with innovating the multi-track recording method. Dowd worked on a virtual "who's who" of recordings that encompassed blues, jazz, pop, rock and soul records.
Dowd graduated from Stuyvesant High School in June, 1942 at the age of 16. He continued his musical education at City College of New York. Dowd also played in a band at New York's Columbia University, where he became a conductor. He was also employed at the physics laboratory of Columbia University.
At age 18, Dowd was drafted into the military with the rank of sergeant. He continued his work in physics at Columbia University. He worked on the Manhattan Project contributing to the atomic bomb. The purpose of the work was unclear until 1945. Dowd planned to obtain a degree in nuclear physics when he completed his work on the Manhattan Project. However because his work was top secret the university did not recognize it, and Dowd decided not to continue, since the university's curriculum would not have been able to further his physics education. His research for the military was more advanced than the academia of the times.
Dowd took a job at a classical music recording studio until he obtained employment at Atlantic Records. His first hit was Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake". He soon became a top recording engineer there and recorded popular artists such as Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Coasters, Ruth Brown and Bobby Darin, including Darin's famous rendition of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht's "Mack the Knife". He captured jazz masterpieces by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. It was Dowd's idea to cut Ray Charles' recording of "What'd I Say" into two parts and release them as the A-side and B-side of the same single record.
Dowd worked as an engineer and producer from the 1940s until the beginning of the 21st century. He recorded albums by many artists including Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Derek and the Dominos, Rod Stewart, Wishbone Ash, New Model Army, Cream, Lulu, Chicago, The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Bonamassa, The J. Geils Band, Meat Loaf, Sonny & Cher, The Rascals, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, The Eagles, Kenny Loggins, James Gang, Dusty Springfield, Eddie Harris, Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Joe Castro and Primal Scream. He was also an employee of Apex Studios in the 1950s.Dowd received a Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in February 2002.
Tom Dowd helped to shape the artists that he worked with, and because he worked with an array of great artists on some of the world's greatest recordings, Dowd was highly influential in creating the sound of the second half of the 20th Century. It was he who encouraged Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records to install an Ampex eight-track recorder, enabling Atlantic to be the first recording company to record using multiple tracks.
Dowd is credited as the engineer who popularized the eight-track recording system for commercial music and popularized the use of stereophonic sound. Although stereo had been invented in the 1930s, Dowd was the first to use it on a record. He also pioneered the use of linear channel faders as opposed to rotary controls on audio mixers. He devised various methods for altering sound after the initial recording.
Tom Dowd was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. The ceremony took place on April 14, 2012 and Robbie Robertson gave the induction speech.
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