Bill Szymczyk

William Frank Szymczyk (/ˈsɪmzɪk/; born February 13, 1943) is an American music producer and technical engineer best known for working with rock and blues musicians, most notably the Eagles in the 1970s. He produced many top albums and singles of the 1970s, though he retired from the music business by 1990. He re-emerged in the late 2000s, taking on select projects including the 2007 Eagles album Long Road Out of Eden and the 2008 eponymous debut of Brian Vander Ark.

Unlike many music producers, Szymczyk has no background as a musician. He was originally a sonar operator for the U.S. Navy and took some audio production classes as part of his Navy training. Besides his work with the Eagles, he has produced hit songs and albums for such diverse artists as B.B. King, Joe Walsh, The James Gang, and Elvin Bishop.

Bill Szymczyk
Bill Szymczyk at Sterling Sound 2014 (cropped)
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Frank Szymczyk
Born13 February 1943 (age 76)
OriginMuskegon, Michigan, United States
GenresRock
Occupation(s)Producer, engineer
Years active1967–present
LabelsABC Records, Tumbleweed Records
Associated actsB. B. King, Michael Stanley, James Gang, Joe Walsh, the Eagles, The J. Geils Band

Early life

Bill Szymczyk was born in Muskegon, Michigan on February 13, 1943.[1] His mother worked as a nurse, and his father held several jobs, including factory worker and maintenance at a school.[2] Growing up, his first introduction to music and electronics was when he built his own crystal radio from a kit. Using his radio, he became a fan of blues and R&B while listening to a station out of Nashville, Tennessee.[3]

He joined the United States Navy in 1960, where he worked as a sonar technician. It was in the Navy that he took his first course in radio and television production. Upon leaving the service in 1964, and without much of an idea of what to do for a post-military career, he enrolled at New York University's Media Arts School.[3]

Professional career

Szymczyk began working at a firm which produced demo recordings for Screen Gems Records and worked extensively with Brill Building songwriters such as Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He also worked as an assistant to music producers and songwriters Quincy Jones and Jerry Ragovoy, eventually working his way up to chief engineer at Ragavoy's Hit Factory recording studio in New York City.[4] His first work as the primary producer on an album came for a Harvey Brooks solo record.[5] He dropped out of NYU to work full-time in the music industry.[3]

He left the Hit Factory and took a job at ABC Records, taking a large pay cut in exchange for the opportunity to move from engineer to producer.[3] He successfully lobbied ABC to let him work with B. B. King, whose own record label was a subsidiary of ABC and who was a long time idol of Szymczyk's. After Szymczyk convinced King that he could improve his sound to make him more appealing to a wider audience, King himself agreed to let Szymczyk produce for him.[4] Among the albums he produced for King are the 1969 live album Live & Well, King's first ever top-100 album. He produced his follow-up studio album Completely Well, which featured "The Thrill Is Gone", the biggest hit of King's career and his signature song. He would continue to produce blues albums throughout the early 1970s for the likes of King and Albert Collins.[5]

Szymczyk was moved several times while working for ABC Records; first to Los Angeles when ABC acquired Dunhill Records and Szymczyk took over production for the West Coast operations, and later to Denver when he decided to form his own label, Tumbleweed Records. He worked for a while as a disc jockey at radio station KFML, and continued to produce albums in New York and Los Angeles, such as the J. Geils Band's 1971 album The Morning After, recorded at the Los Angeles Record Plant. He did extensive work at the Colorado studio Caribou Ranch, which would be the center of his operations for the rest of the 1970s.[3]

After producing the James Gang's first three albums, he followed singer-guitarist Joe Walsh when he left the band, first as a solo artist with the Szymczyk-produced albums Barnstorm (the first recorded at the Caribou Ranch studio) and The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get and later with the Eagles. His most prolific collaborations have been with Walsh; the two have made over 15 albums together in many settings. Walsh himself moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1971 in order to work with Szymczyk and the location would inspire one of Walsh's biggest solo hits, 1973's "Rocky Mountain Way". Besides work with Walsh in his band The James Gang and as a solo artist, he also brought Walsh in to work on several albums he was doing with other musicians, using him as a session player for the B. B. King album Indianola Mississippi Seeds and the Michael Stanley album Friends and Legends. It was at Szymczyk's suggestion that the Eagles bring in Walsh to give them a "rock" edge; Walsh has remained a core member of the band to this day.[5][6][7] [8]

Bill Szymczyk and Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound 2014
Bill Szymczyk (left) and Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound 2014

His long relationship with the Eagles began with their 1974 album On the Border, an album he took over from London-based producer Glyn Johns. He would be the sole producer for the next three Eagles studio albums, including 1976's Hotel California, the first to feature Joe Walsh. Szymczyk was instrumental in giving the Eagles a more "rock sound" and helping them to move away from their country rock roots.[5]

Among the other acts he worked with extensively through the 1970s include Michael Stanley and the J. Geils Band. While working with The Outlaws, he coined the term "Guitar Army" to describe the band's sound; the name continues as a nickname for the band.[9] He worked in the studio for the Edgar Winter Group's biggest hit, the Rick Derringer-produced "Frankenstein", and later produced Derringer's best known solo album All American Boy and its hit single, "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo".[5] At the start of the 1980s he was a highly sought-after producer, and worked on such albums as Bob Seger's 1980 album Against the Wind and The Who's 1981 release Face Dances. During this time period, Szymczyk produced such hit singles as Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell in Love", The Who's "You Better You Bet", The Eagles' "Hotel California", and Bob Seger's "Against the Wind".[5]

His workload tailed off in the mid-1980s, due mostly to his own financial success.[5] He officially retired from the music industry in 1990,[3] but re-emerged in 2005, producing Dishwalla's self-titled fourth album. He returned to work with the Eagles on the 2007 album Long Road Out of Eden, and followed that with the 2008 solo debut of ex-Verve Pipe singer Brian Vander Ark.

He now lives in Little Switzerland, North Carolina with his wife Lisi. The couple have two sons, Michael and Daniel, and have become involved in their local community, having raised money for a local shelter for victims of domestic violence, among other charity work. He still works as a producer, but is more selective about projects he works on.[2]

Production style

Szymczyk's has frequently been noted as the sort of producer who pushes bands to expand their musical horizons; he has been brought in with the specific intent of changing a band's sound. He himself has credited this tendency to his lack of musical knowledge, stating: "I'm a professional listener. I listen and I react. I never was a musician, so I don't bring any preconceived prejudices to the table; I don't favour the guitar over the keyboard, and so forth. I just listen and try to figure out if I have anything I can bring to a song."[3]

For his work with the Eagles, he has been cited for his innovative mixing of drums, laboriously working to get the right microphones and placements for just the right sound. Rather than recording harmony vocals individually, and mixing them together later, as was common, Szymczyk preferred to capture the Eagles singing in ensemble, often spending many hours to record each phrase "just right".[3]

For the Elvin Bishop hit, "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," it was Szymczyk who suggested the inclusion of the song on Bishop's Struttin' My Stuff album, feeling the blues-oriented album lacked a pop single. The song would go on to become Bishop's biggest hit.[10] Such a pattern was repeated throughout his career. The Eagles brought him in to refine and improve their "rock" sound,[3] and all of their biggest selling albums and songs were Szymcyzk-produced. Martin Turner of Wishbone Ash has called him "my all time favourite producer". While the two did not always get along during recording, usually over Turner's bass-playing style, Turner does credit Szymczyk with giving the band a more commercial sound on one of their most successful albums, 1974's There's the Rub.[11]

Selected discography

All credits as producer unless otherwise noted.

B. B. King

Silk/Michael Stanley/Michael Stanley Band

  • Smooth as Raw Silk (1969)
  • Michael Stanley (1972)
  • Friends and Legends (1973)
  • You Break It... You Bought It (1975)
  • Ladies Choice (1976)
  • Stagepass (1977)

The James Gang

Joe Walsh

Eagles

The J. Geils Band

Jo Jo Gunne/Jay Ferguson

  • Bite Down Hard (1973)
  • Jumpin' the Gunne (1973)
  • All Alone in the End Zone (1976)
  • Thunder Island (1978)
  • Real Life Ain't This Way (1979)

Others

References

  1. ^ Benson, Carl (2005). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound (2nd ed.). CRC Press. p. 1085. ISBN 0-415-93835-X. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Keel, Beverly (2005-12-08). "Life in the Slow Lane". American Profile Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Daley, Dan (November 2004). "Bill Szymczyk". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  4. ^ a b Daley, Dan (2005-02-01). "Classic Tracks: B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone"". Mix Magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-06-27. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Kurutz, Steve. "Bill Szymczyk". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  6. ^ Brown, G. (2003-06-22). "Eagles' Walsh Found His Rocky Mountain Way But Tragedy in Family Led to Rocker's Departure". Denver Post (reprinted at Joe Walsh Online). Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  7. ^ Grundy, Stuart and John Tobler (1983). "Joe Walsh Interview". BBC Publications (reprinted at Joe Walsh Online). Archived from the original on June 28, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  8. ^ "Eagles' Complete Discography: Don Henley Looks Back". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  9. ^ Merchant, Teri (2008-05-08). "Sign The Petition -- Vote For The Outlaws To Be Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame". Southern Fried Magazine. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  10. ^ "Elvin Bishop interview". Songfacts. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  11. ^ "Questions and Answers with Martin Turner". Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash official website. Archived from the original on August 27, 2014. Retrieved 2009-05-29.

External links

Against the Wind (album)

Against the Wind is the eleventh studio album by American rock singer Bob Seger and his fourth with the Silver Bullet Band. It was released in February 1980. It is Seger's only number-one album to date, spending six weeks at the top of the Billboard Top LPs chart, knocking Pink Floyd's The Wall from the top spot.

Already Gone (Eagles song)

"Already Gone" is a song recorded by the American rock band the Eagles for their 1974 album On the Border. It was written by Jack Tempchin and Robb Strandlund and produced by Bill Szymczyk.

The song was the first single released from On the Border and peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, the Eagles have included it on their greatest hits albums and in their live performances. Tanya Tucker and Wilson Phillips have covered the song.

But Seriously, Folks...

"But Seriously, Folks..." is the fourth studio album by the American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Walsh. The album was released in mid 1978, on the label Asylum. It included the satirical song "Life's Been Good". The original 8:04 (8:57 on CD releases with a goofy speech at the end) album version of this track was edited down to 4:35 for single release, and this became Walsh's biggest solo hit, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The album also featured the other four members of the Eagles — which Walsh had joined two years earlier — as well as singer-keyboardist Jay Ferguson, a former member of the groups Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne (who co-wrote one track on the album), drummer Joe Vitale from Walsh's former band Barnstorm, and bassist Willie Weeks.

Hotline (The J. Geils Band album)

Hotline is the sixth studio album by American rock band The J. Geils Band. The album was released on September 9, 1975, by Atlantic Records.

The intro of "Believe in Me" also became the intro tune to the German Rockpalast rock events.

In the City (Joe Walsh song)

"In the City" is a rock song written by Barry De Vorzon and Joe Walsh. It was first recorded by Walsh and released on the soundtrack for the 1979 film The Warriors. Another version of the song, recorded by Walsh's band the Eagles, was included on their album The Long Run, released the same year.

Love Letters (song)

"Love Letters" is a 1945 popular song with lyrics by Edward Heyman and music by Victor Young. The song appeared, without lyrics, in the movie of the same name, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1945 but lost out to “It Might as Well Be Spring”.

Rocky Mountain Way (song)

"Rocky Mountain Way" is a 1973 song by rock guitarist Joe Walsh and his band Barnstorm, with writing credits given to Walsh, Rocke Grace, Kenny Passarelli, and Joe Vitale. The song was originally released on the album The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get.

Shangó (Santana album)

Shangó is the thirteenth studio album by Santana. The album reached number twenty two in Billboard 200 album charts. The single "Hold On" from the album reached number fifteen in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and number seventeen on Billboard's Top Tracks chart. A second single from the album, "Nowhere to Run", peaked at number sixty six on the Hot 100 chart and number thirteen on the Mainstream Rock chart and a third single reached number thirty four in the Mainstream Rock chart.

Songs for a Dying Planet

Songs for a Dying Planet is the tenth solo studio album by the American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Walsh. It was released in mid 1992, on the label Epic. Keen to re-establish himself after his ill-received 1991 album, Ordinary Average Guy, Walsh enlisted his former producer Bill Szymczyk. At the end of the track "Certain Situations," you can hear a Morse code message that says "Register and vote for me."The album was received negatively by the majority of music critics and it was also a commercial disappointment, missing the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic, which called an end to Walsh's solo career for 20 years before he released another solo album in 2012 called Analog Man. The song "Vote for Me" however was a minor success, peaking at number 10 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

The Thrill Is Gone

"The Thrill Is Gone" is a slow minor-key blues song written by West Coast blues musician Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951. Hawkins' recording of the song reached number six in the Billboard R&B chart in 1951. In 1970, "The Thrill Is Gone" became a major hit for B.B. King. Subsequently, many blues and other artists have recorded their interpretations of the song.

Who's Better, Who's Best

Who's Better, Who's Best: This is The Very Best of The Who is a 1988 compilation album by The Who. A compilation of videos also titled Who's Better, Who's Best was released in 1988 as well.

You (The Who song)

"You" is a song by The Who, Written by their Bassist John Entwistle and sung by Roger Daltrey, This is one of two songs written by John Entwistle for the Face Dances album (The Who's first album without Keith Moon, Kenney Jones of The Small Faces and The Faces is on drums instead,) the other song being "The Quiet One". It was also released on the B-side of the underwhelmingly-performing "Don't Let Go the Coat" single.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.