Flim & the BB's

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Flim & the BB's (1990)

Flim and The BB's was a contemporary jazz band that became popular with jazz fans and audiophiles alike because it was the very first band to utilize digital recording.[1]


Flim and the BB's consisted of Jimmy Johnson, nicknamed Flim, on Alembic 5-string bass and the two BBs Bill Berg on percussion and Billy Barber on piano, keyboard, and synthesizer. Woodwind-player Dick Oatts was listed as "featured" on their first album, and subsequently became a full-fledged member of the band.[2] The band was a side project for all of them as they were each full-time freelance studio musicians, who also played live with various groups.

Their early days in the late 1970s included individual studio work in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area, and occasionally playing together as a band at the Longhorn Bar. Through their work as studio musicians, they became acquainted with Tom Jung, chief engineer at Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis. It was around this time that Minneapolis-based 3M began experimenting with digital sound recording, and Flim and The BB's were hired to provide music to test this new equipment at Tom's studio.

The group's self-titled debut album (LP only) was recorded mid-1978 at Sound 80, and was ostensibly going to be a direct-to-disc project. Nevertheless, 3M placed an experimental 50.4 kHz digital recorder[3] in the control room as a backup to the direct-to-disc lathe.[4] Like all direct-to-disc recordings, the band was required to play the entire LP side without stopping, and without any editing afterward. When the resulting acetate disc was deemed inferior to the digital master tape, the record was pressed from that digital backup tape, making it the second-ever U.S. commercially available digital recording. Since the machine used was an early experimental prototype, built before any digital recording standards were established—and dismantled before 1979—there is currently no way to re-issue that first album on either LP or CD.[5]

Flim and the BB's second album, Tricycle (for DMP Digital Music Products, an independent all-digital audiophile record label started by Tom Jung) was the first non-classical recording to be released in the new Compact Disc format. It was recorded on the new Mitsubishi X-80 digital audio recorder at Sound 80. The disc displayed the full dynamic range available in CDs, becoming a popular test disc for this reason. It was also the first jazz album to be recorded, mastered and delivered completely in the digital domain. The entire recording chain, after the first few feet of microphone cable from the musicians' instruments, remained in the digital domain until it was decoded by the consumer's CD player. DMP's releases were for the most part recorded directly to two-tracks as opposed to the more common multi-track method. This means that there was minimal use of overdubs and the majority of the music was performed, recorded and mixed "live" to the digital recorder.[6] The cover art for "Tricycle" was drawn by Bill Berg's son Jacob.

Flim and The BB's went on to release four more albums for DMP, all to critical acclaim, each winning Digital Audio's "Jazz CD of the Year" award. After the release of their album The Further Adventures of Flim & The BB's they parted ways with DMP Records and signed to Warner Bros. Records. They released their album New Pants in 1990 and followed with This Is A Recording in 1992. After that they were unceremoniously dropped from the label which led to the group breaking up.[citation needed]

DMP Records subsequently released two of their albums, Tricycle and Big Notes, on limited edition Gold CDs, and Tricycle on SACD. These reissues are 20-bit remasters and are generally considered[by whom?] to be of a higher fidelity than the original releases, already considered "audiophile" material. Also released by DMP was a compilation album Vintage BB's with one previously-unreleased track.

Outside of Flim and The BB's, Billy Barber composed the original theme for "All My Children" (a version of the song appears on their album This Is A Recording) and continues to do original music for radio, TV and commercials. Jimmy Johnson is a freelance studio musician based in Los Angeles. Dick Oatts is currently Artistic Director of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (formerly the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra) as well as playing with several other groups. Bill Berg plays drums in various jazz groups around the Los Angeles area.


  • Flim and the BB's (1978, LP only, Sound 80 Records S80-DLR-102)
  • Tricycle (1983, DMP CD-443)
  • Tunnel (1984, DMP CD-447)
  • Big Notes (1985, CD-454)
  • Neon (1987, DMP CD-458)
  • The Further Adventures of Flim & the BB's (1988, DMP CD-462)
  • New Pants (1990, Warner Bros. 26152)
  • Vintage BB's (best of) (1992, DMP CD-486)
  • This is a Recording (1992, Warner Bros. 26655)
  • Tricycle (Gold CD reissue, 1994, DMP GOLD-9000)
  • Big Notes (Gold CD reissue, 1994, DMP GOLD-9002)
  • Tricycle (Super Audio CD reissue, 1999, DMP SACD-08)


  1. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/artist/flim-the-bbs-mn0000184483/biography
  2. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Flim & The BB's: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  3. ^ http://www.aes.org/aeshc/pdf/fine_dawn-of-digital.pdf
  4. ^ http://www.mprnews.org/story/2013/11/18/sound-80
  5. ^ Liner notes from Tricycle, DMP CD-443
  6. ^ Liner notes from Tricycle, DMP CD-443

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