McCune Audio/Video/Lighting

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McCune Audio Video Lighting
Audio/Video/Lighting Rental and Production
Industry Professional Audio
Founded 1932
Headquarters San Francisco, CA, United States
Key people
Harry McCune, Founder
Number of employees

McCune Audio Video Lighting (previously known as Harry McCune Sound Service, McCune Audio Visual and McCune Audio Visual Video) is an American company based in South San Francisco, California, with offices in Monterey and Anaheim. It is one of the oldest and largest audio visual rental and sound services in the U.S. McCune was founded in 1932 by Harry McCune Sr, McCune AVL provides audio, lighting and high-definition video services to events as varied as outdoor festivals such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, and the Bohemian Grove, and to arena conferences such as TED.[1]


Harry McCune, Sr. was working as an auto mechanic when he built a sound system and founded McCune Sound Service in 1932. He built several systems before he completed one large enough to handle a dance band. He would rent out his system and personally operate it for $1 on a Saturday night and then give it away for free on a Friday night. Harry McCune, Sr. began renting sound systems to big bands in the 1930s and 1940s, and with his son, Harry McCune, Jr. (1930–1996), would broadcast the concerts live over the radio from ballrooms in San Francisco.

In the 1940s, the company operated out of 10 Brady Street in San Francisco which was centrally located near the Civic Center. In 1963, McCune adopted the name "Channel X" for its video production services.[2] In the 1960s, McCune operated from 960 Folsom Street in the South of Market (SOMA) area. In 1969, the company moved to 951 Howard Street and built an audio and video recording studio within the structure.[3] McCune later expanded to both sides of Howard Street. Still expanding, the company moved to a single large building on 2200 Army Street, later named Cesar Chavez Street, before moving to their current location at 101 Utah Avenue in South San Francisco.

McCune has been credited with inventing many of the concepts of the modern day live performance, and was one of the very first companies to provide touring sound systems, beginning in 1965 with Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass and progressing to such diversity as Andy Williams, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steely Dan, John Davidson, Crystal Gayle, and many others.[4] The first time that a stage monitor was used for a live show it was provided by McCune and was for Judy Garland, at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. The rehearsal was not going well, and Harry McCune Jr. came up with the idea of pointing a speaker at her. He jumped in the truck and dashed back to the office, grabbed a speaker, brought it back, put it on the corner of the stage, took a feed off the main system, turned up the amp and, like magic Miss Garland was happy.[5] In the late 1960s music was flourishing in San Francisco, and so was sound design itself, Monterey Pop Festival and, even before that, The Beatles' last-ever live concert performance, held at San Francisco's Candlestick Park,[6] during which the small sound system could not be heard over the screaming of the fans. Mort Feld mixed the sound for the Beatles.[7] In the late 1960s, engineer Dan Healy drew from McCune equipment to amplify the Grateful Dead; Healy said he often blew up the gear trying to get it louder.[8]

McCune thrived in the concert market during the early 1970s, and even branched out into theatre, supplying equipment for East Coast companies like ProMix and Masque Sound, while at the same time creating the famed "wall of sound" for the Grateful Dead, and creating touring systems for Jefferson Airplane, CCR and others.

Employees John Meyer and Bob Cavin created an active speaker system in 1971 known as the JM-3, named for John Meyer.[9] This was a three-way, tri-amped system that enclosed the power amplifiers and all of the integrated electronics associated with the loudspeakers in an external equipment rack with few or no controls, the settings having all been calibrated at the shop. The fully horn-loaded system was used on CCR's final tour.[10] The amplifier enclosure also included preset crossover filters, limiters and equalization. The outside of the amplifier rack was simple: a two-circuit AC power cable connection, XLR connectors for input audio signal, and two 4-pin female twist-lock NEMA L14-30 connectors for carrying the amplified 3-way audio signal to two JM-3 loudspeakers.[11]

Bob Cavin was a pioneer in designing and building consoles, and systems designed and fabricated at McCune were being used on Broadway, with touring acts and at Las Vegas show rooms. Taking these systems out to Broadway was Abe Jacob, who was an early and influential sound designer. Jacob got his start at McCune touring with Peter, Paul and Mary and several other acts. Abe moved to New York and worked on Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, A Chorus Line, Beatlemania and many other shows using McCune equipment.[12][13]

A blank name badge from the 1980s. This style badge was worn by McCune Staff at the in house hotel accounts where McCune provided audio visual services.

Harry McCune Jr. saw no need to continue his manufacturing process beyond the needs of his immediate clientele, which he believed the mass production of his speakers to sell would detract from his core rental business. The employees however saw the writing on the wall for the future and John Meyer left to form Meyer Sound Laboratories, while Deloria took Cavin to form Apogee Sound.[14]

Former employees[edit]

Notable events[edit]


  1. ^ McCune Audio Video Lighting Switches to Sennheiser wireless (Lighting and Sound America Online)
  2. ^ "Bay Region Business". 20. San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. 1963: 49. 
  3. ^ Journal of the SMPTE. Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. 78: 490. 1969.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ AES In Memoriam Harry McCune
  5. ^ Mix Magazine, McCune Sound profile
  6. ^ [1] TED2014 Speaks Up With DPA Microphones
  7. ^ Mort Feld was the sound mixer for this concert, in addition to the Monterey Pop Festivals. Mr. Feld later became the General Manager at McCune, and spearheaded McCune's drive into the hotel and convention center rental audio visual market. McCune has had in house staff at many large hotels and convention centers throughout California, including the Moscone Center .Audio Necessity Mothers Invention
  8. ^ McNally, Dennis (2003). A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead. Random House. p. 155. ISBN 0-7679-1186-5. 
  9. ^ Mix Magazine, McCune Sound profile
  10. ^ Transcript PSW LIVE CHAT with John Meyer
  11. ^ Necessity Mothers Invention
  12. ^ Meyer Sound History
  13. ^ Stevens, Gary; George, Alan (1995). The longest line: Broadway's most singular sensation, A Chorus Line. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 75. ISBN 1-55783-221-8. 
  14. ^ Show Business San Francisco Sound
  15. ^ Hammar, Peter (1994). "Charles P. Ginsburg". Memorial Tributes. National Academy of Engineering. 7: 85. ISBN 0-309-05146-0. 

External links[edit]