I'm hoping there are some experts here on ye olde days of radio. I'm trying
to definitively gather the history of the studio spaces at 711 5th Avenue,
NY, which were eventually home to my father's first studio, Fine Sound.
Here's what I know, but as you'll see, there are blanks in the timeline.
1. the studios were probably (likely) constructed by National Broadcasting
Co. as their first network studios, circa late 20's. I'm not sure exactly
when they opened for business, but it appears NBC was launched in 1926.
2. NBC occupied the studios until 30 Rockefeller Center opened -- in 1934?
Not sure of exact date NBC radio studios moved to Rock Center because there
is conflicting info (surprise). Perhaps someone has an authoratative history
3. World Broadcasting Co. occupied the studios before, during and after
WWII. I'm not sure if they were directly after NBC or if there was an
interim occupant. Retired Columbia engineer Frank Laico told me he worked
for World Broadcasting both before and after his WWII service, in that
4. In 1948, WMGM moved into the entire space, according to histories of
WHN/WMGM I've been able to locate. There's an interesting aside to this, but
I'll get to it later.
5. When Loews/MGM bought an interest in Fine Sound in 1952 (they licensed my
father's PerspectaSound 3-channel optical soundtrack system), they
apparently moved WMGM to smaller quarters in the space and took over the big
studios (A, B, and C) for Fine Sound. By that time WMGM was moving more to
music-playing and small-format talk radio, so they did not need the big
studios anyway. MGM may have taken over one or more of the big studios
previously to do movie-sound mixing before licensing PerspectaSound. I'm not
clear on MGM's timeline except that WMGM was definitely in the space that
became Fine Sound Studio C later on as of 1949.
So the parts of the timeline I'm fuzzy on are between NBC and WMGM and what
MGM movie studio was doing in the space (if anything) before 1952.
Now here's an interesting aside. I was listening to that recent reissue of
Miles Davis "Birth of the Cool" and flipping through the booklet. The
centerfold photo is of one the 1949 sessions for that album. I looked at the
numerous online discographies and none listed a location except "NYC." A
careful look at the photo reveals the WMGM logo on the RCA 44 mic in the
middle of the circle of musicians. I also noted the distinctive music stands
and ashtray in the photo -- they looked familiar. I contacted the former
chief engineer at my father's studios, Bob Eberenz, and asked him if he
could place the photo. He said for sure that it was indeed WMGM's recording
studio, which became Fine Sound Studio C (converted for film-mixing) later
on. The distinctive folding gobo's were used in the studios for many a music
session. And the art-deco music stands and ashtrays -- which may date from
NBC radio or World Broadcasting -- were used in both Fine Sound and later in
Fine Recording's Ballroom studio. That those 1949 sessions would have taken
place at WMGM makes sense because Capitol had no NYC studio at that time
(indeed they didn't have a California studio either in 1949). And WMGM had a
history of renting their recording room(s) for music sessions, both at their
old location and at 711 5th Ave. As jazz fans and historians know, WOR also
rented their recording room for many a session, particularly early Blue Note
-- Tom Fine