Gary Kellgren

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Gary Kellgren
Gary Kellgren 1969
Gary Kellgren 1969
Background information
Birth nameGary Wayne Kellgren
Born(1939-04-07)April 7, 1939
Shenandoah, Iowa
DiedJuly 20, 1977(1977-07-20) (aged 38)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation(s)audio engineer
Recording studio owner
Years active1967–1977

Gary Kellgren (April 7, 1939 – July 20, 1977) was an American audio engineer and co-founder of The Record Plant recording studios, along with businessman Chris Stone.



Kellgren was a successful and well respected audio engineer[1] (and occasional record producer) during the 1960s and 1970s. He began working at Apostolic Studios, Scepter Studios, and Mayfair Studios with musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and Wes Farrell. "Mayfair Studios were the best in New York, and Kellgren was the king of the advanced eight-track board."[2]

Kellgren was an early user of "phasing", a studio technique which simulates the sound of a jet engine.[3] He is also credited with pioneering other "psychedelic" sound effects, such as "flanging", a sound which is sometimes confused with automatic double tracking (ADT).

He worked with musicians including John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Bill Wyman, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Bobby Goldsboro, the Animals, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Frank Zappa, Sly and the Family Stone, Velvet Underground, CSNY, Rod Stewart, Ravi Shankar, Keith Moon, Barbra Streisand, and Neil Diamond. He also worked with producers such as Wes Farrell, Tom Wilson, Chas Chandler, Jack Douglas, Robert Margouleff, Phil Spector, and Bill Szymczyk.

He conceived of, and was responsible for, all the "Live at the Record Plant" recording sessions as well as the Jim Keltner Fan Club Hour; was sought out by George Harrison to record the Concert For Bangladesh which was later ranked as being No. 9 of the 50 Greatest Moments at Madison Square Garden; he also did the remote concert recording starring James Brown for the Muhammad Ali/George Foreman fight, "Rumble in the Jungle", in Zaire in 1974. He contributed spoken dialog to the Mothers of Invention's 1968 album We're Only in It for the Money, which he engineered as well. "I was there when he recorded Barbra Streisand, Paul Anka", said his business partner, Chris Stone:

He recorded Anka for years. Everything he touched in the studio was a hit. Gary is remarkable in the studio. He really is ... He has engineered and produced records for Ron Wood and Bill Wyman. Even if he had done nothing else in his life, Kellgren would be famous among musicians for a jam he produced in March 1975, a never-released song called "Too Many Cooks". Present for the session were John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston, Mick Jagger, Al Wilson, Harry Nilsson, Jim Keltner, Ringo Starr, and Danny Kootch. The song was aptly titled.[3]


Kellgren began his recording career at the Dick Charles demo recording studios in 1964 in the legendary Brill Building in Manhattan. Studios at that time had no décor to speak of. They "were sterile, utilitarian places. Engineers wore jackets and ties (or even lab coats!), and musicians performed under fluorescent lights and acoustical tile ceilings while seated on folding chairs. Amenities – if any – consisted of bad coffee and a few ashtrays. Record Plant broke that mold in a style that is now the stuff of legend."[4] And when Kellgren and his partner Chris Stone opened the Record Plant, it was Kellgren's concept to bring color, artistic design, hotel-like comforts and services to the world of recording studios along with state-of-the-art technology and acoustical design.

In an interview for Mix magazine, Stone stated:

Gary was an institution. He single handedly was responsible for changing studios from what they were - fluorescent lights, white walls and hardwood floors – to the living rooms that they are today. His feeling, more than anyone else's, was that a studio should be a comfortable place to record. He was the one who first thought of the diversions, like the Jacuzzi he built in 1969. In those days that was unheard of. The only reason he built it was that I wouldn't agree to an Olympic size swimming pool in the parking lot. The Jacuzzi was Gary's compromise - and quite a surprise to me![5]

"There are tales told by the campfire, where rock mythology is discussed, that say the atmosphere created in that first studio and the ones to follow was so close to a good home and a fine hotel that songs were written to immortalize that special state of mind ... It is safe to surmise that no other 'facility' has ever lent so much of a creative edge to the works of art at hand."[6]

Record Plant[edit]

In 1967, Kellgren and Stone built the first of the three Record Plant Recording Studios in Manhattan. Kellgren was the creative and recording side, Stone the business side, and their third partner, Ancky Johnson, Revlon heiress, provided the financial backing. Kellgren had already been working with many of the top artists of the day, like Hendrix, so when he opened the Record Plant, they followed. Mitch Mitchell: "We went there [the Record Plant NY] because Gary Kellgren, who we'd worked with at Mayfair, had raised the money with a partner and managed to start the Record Plant."[7] The NY Record Plant was booked solid for three months in advance at the time of the opening.

The first album to come out of there was Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix. Stone later said in an interview that

Gary, having worked all night, would very often be out cold on the couch, with Jimi still in the studio glaring through the haze at the speakers. They would sometimes go three and four days without stopping. Out of those sessions came Electric Ladyland, the Record Plant's first record. Other people have taken credit for the record, but about ninety percent of it was done in Studio A in New York with Gary and Jimi.[5]

One of the last to record there was John Lennon, who left the studio to go home the night he was murdered.

Opening celebration for the Record Plant in Los Angeles, December 4, 1969. Pictured L to R: Attorney Tom Butler, producer Tom Wilson, investors Ben Johnson and Ancky Johnson (cutting cake), founders Chris Stone and Gary Kellgren

Almost two years after the launch of the New York Studio, Kellgren and Stone opened up the Los Angeles Record Plant. The first big mix session was for the Woodstock soundtrack. It was also where John Lennon and Paul McCartney played together for the last time during an all night jam session in 1974.

Record Plant Sausalito opened in 1972, where Fleetwood Mac's Rumours was recorded as was Bob Marley & the Wailers' Talkin' Blues which was done live in a closed session for an in-studio broadcast from San Francisco radio station KSAN.


On July 20, 1977, Kellgren and his girlfriend/secretary Kristianne Gaines were found dead in the swimming pool at his residence in Hollywood. A business associate of Kellgren was in the house at the time; he called police and reported that Kellgren had recently been in surgery, and that he had been swimming in the deep end of the pool. Gaines, 34, a resident of Los Angeles, was last seen alive sitting on a raft in the pool; she could not swim.[8] The incident was called "a double accidental drowning" by the police.[9] Two days later, an investigator told reporters that there was no indication of "foul play".[8] Guitarist Ronnie Wood wrote that Kellgren probably died from electric shock while trying to fix some underwater speakers in his pool, and that Gaines drowned trying to save him.[10]

Kellgren was survived by his wife Marta, their two children Devon and Mark, his sister Aleda, and his mother Crystal.



Later releases of recordings made before his death[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • The Mix – Independent Engineers Forum – September 1978
  • Prendergast, Mark The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Moby – The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age Bloomsbury Publishing (2003)
  • McDermott, John w/ Eddie Kramer Hendrix Warner Books (1992)
  • Black, Johnny Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience Thunder's Mouth Press (1999)
  • Walley, David No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa Da Capo Press (1972)
  • James, Billy Necessity Is…: The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention SAF Publishing Ltd. (2000)
  • Stone, Chris Audio Recording For Profit: The Sound of Money Focal Press (2000)
  • Jackson, Blair Grateful Dead Gear: The Band's Instruments, Sound Systems, and Recording Sessions from 1965 to 1995 Backbeat Books (2006)


  1. ^ Gary Kellgren discography at Discogs
  2. ^ Walley, David No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa
  3. ^ a b Truscott, Lucian K. "Inside the Hotel California." New Times, June 1977.
  4. ^ Droney, Maureen "L.A. Grapevine", Mix, December 2001
  5. ^ a b Schwartz, David "The Mix – Chris Stone Interview" September 1978
  6. ^ Goggin, David Audio Recording For Profit: The Sound Of Money, Appendix I
  7. ^ Black, Johnny "Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience"
  8. ^ a b "Southland". Los Angeles Times. July 22, 1977. p. C2.
  9. ^ New Times. 9: 20. 1977. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Wood, Ronnie (2007). Ronnie: The Autobiography. Macmillan. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-312-36652-0.

External links[edit]