Two years ago we had a long discussion on this blog regarding the recording of Johnny B. Goode
. This included some comments about a man not only present at the recording but also deeply involved: Jack Wiener.
This is when I started researching about Wiener who was one of the most interesting record men in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Very little is known about Wiener's work. Therefore I started to write a short article about him. As I researched more, the article became longer and longer. Finally the text is now online as part of this site.
Most of his life Jack Wiener operated using the brand Sheldon Recording Studios
named after his middle name. So when you were uninterested in Wiener so far, record collectors should now start to pay attention. Sheldon
is a famous name not only to Chuck Berry collectors.
Looking at your Chuck Berry 45s you will see a tiny Sheldon stamp in the dead wax area around the label.
This Sheldon stamp signifies that this record has been mastered by Jack Sheldon Wiener. You will find this on a huge number of singles, EPs and albums from dozens of independent record companies such as Chess, Atlantic, or Vee-Jay.
Looking at your Chuck Berry LPs you will see the logo "Sheldon Recording Studios" on the back of One Dozen Berrys
as well as on other Chess/Checker/Argo albums.
Now you're paying attention, don't you?
Jack Wiener (1935-1999) was a sound engineer by profession. From what he did, he was also an inventor, a designer, an architect, a producer, and a studio owner.
In his teens, Wiener built and sold high-fidelity cabinet speakers. At the age of 17 he entered the recording business and started to work at Universal Recording, Chicago and later at Master Recorders, Los Angeles. As an account executive he handled independent record companies such as DOT, CHESS or SUN for which he mastered, doctored, overdubbed and recorded artists such as Pat Boone, Chuck Berry, or Elvis Presley.
In 1956 Wiener started to build a first recording studio on his own located at 2120 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago. Yes, the famous Chess studios weren't Chess studios at all. The Chess brothers had bought the building and provided some money for the studio, but Jack Wiener was a co-owner and did all of the planning and management. He built the recording console, he planned the room layout and construction, and he selected and bought the studio gear. The famous sound we all know from 2120 was purely Jack Wiener's achievement.
Wiener also did all of the recording and mastering at 2120 S. Michigan Av. up to mid 1958. At his so-called Sheldon Recording Studios, Wiener recorded all the Chess/Checker/Argo artists, but also performers from other labels such as the Coasters, Johnny Cash, Ronnie Haig, the Mark IV and more. Not to be forgotten, he cut and mastered Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen
and Johnny B. Goode
In July 1958 Jack Wiener was drafted and left 2120. He became a member of the Audio-Visual Branch of the Information Service at the Fifth Army Headquarters in Chicago. Concurrently to his work for Army radio broadcasts, he continued to record, to master, and to design recording studios. For instance he recorded the complete 1959 Playboy Jazz Festival. His masters for Chess, Sun, Nashboro and so on were now marked with the tiny Sheldon stamp in their dead wax area. As a consultant Wiener designed the recording console for Sam Phillips' new SUN studio in Memphis as well as the Echo Recording Studios for Jack Clement.
A 1961 client list included more than 200 companies Sheldon was working for, mostly record labels from Ace to Vee-Jay but also radio and TV stations as well as advertising agencies. With the huge list of clients, it's no wonder in a July 1959 ad in Cash Box, Wiener proudly claimed "Best in Mastering: More hits on charts than any other independent studio".
In 1962 Jack Wiener built a new Sheldon Recording Studios at 1725 North Wells Street, Chicago. This time he included everything needed for providing full service to independent record labels. This included recording and mastering, but also pressing, label printing, packaging and shipping. "48 Hours from recording to sale."
By the end of the 1960s with the decline of the independent recording labels, Wiener moved his business to TV sound recording and processing. In the 1970s and 1980s he built and sold top-of-the-line equipment used for motion picture and television production. He also developed computer hardware and software for broadcasters and recording engineers.
Jack Sheldon Wiener was one of the unnamed experts behind all the great records you love. Singer and guitarist Ronnie Haig called him "The Genius in the Sound Room". Wiener's contribution to 1950s music should not be forgotten. Therefore the whole story is here on the main site
Acknowledgements: I wish to thank all the fellow writers and experts who helped during my research such as Jason Wiener, Nadine Cohodas, Susan Schmidt-Horning, Ronnie Haig, Fred Rothwell, Bruce Pegg, Colin Escott, Peter Guralnick, Bill Leebens, Hermann Ruwwe, Bill Daniels, Opal Louis Nations, Tim Samuelson, Kandalyn Hahn, Morten Reff, Thierry Chanu, and Steve Carr. Thank You!