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The Character Of Passionate Characters (Redux)

Five years ago in this space, I wrote an editorial that talked about how the old adage that all businesses are people businesses seems uniquely apropos for professional audio.

Frank Wells
Five years ago in this space, I wrote an editorial that talked about how the old adage that all businesses are people businesses seems uniquely apropos for professional audio. I used an example of a client engineer from my studio tech days, an individual who remains among the best engineers I’ve ever met. Indulge me for quoting myself:

“He was also as fast a mixer as I’ve seen. In those days, a song a day was the common time allotment for mixing. He’d arrive at 9 a.m. and start his mix, often tasking the console and mix room by attacking the mix in new and innovative ways. When we had the somewhat experimental and cumbersome AT&T DisQ mixing system hooked up to our SSL, he’d try to play ‘Stump The Tech’ and say (I’m paraphrasing), ‘Now, when I mix, I sometimes like to route the signal this way and use this other capability of the console; how do I do that with this digital thing?’ I’d ponder signal flow for a few moments and give him a way to work how he wanted. He’d in turn ponder the awkwardness of my solution, turn around and press Play, listen to the analog console, listen to the digital mixer core that was pretending to be the console (the saving grace of the DisQ being that it sounded very good), then turn back to me and say, ‘Damn, it still sounds better. Tell me how that signal flow went again.’ Despite his best efforts, technology rarely slowed him down. Typically by 10:30 a.m., the mix was nailed and he was left waiting for the producer to arrive late afternoon to bless his efforts. Perhaps a little ADD, he’d then try to come up with a way to entertain himself for the remainder of the day, cutting up and generally entertaining all around him.”

I didn’t identify the individual at the time, but it was John Hampton. It is with profound grief that I point you to a brief obit on page 12, which could be an entire biography and still not capture the essence of the man.

The passion for music and sound and the jones for technology are driving motivations for audio pros. They also are the glue that binds us as people. Upon that foundation, we build relationships that are lifelong. I’m truly honored to call such people as John “my friend.” That I have to more frequently use the past tense is a sad thing indeed. Just as I was saving this column, news comes that Ardent Studios founder and Hampton’s mentor and partner, John Fry, has also passed. Mourning will radiate even further and deeper out of Memphis.

Newbies in our industry tend to quickly learn the value of relationships. What you know might get you in the door, but there’re a lot of people armed with similar knowledge. Who you are, and who you know, are the real foundation for a career, laid atop a gravel bed of knowledge. Make the most of opportunities to interact with the characters that lend pro audio character.

A bit of business: As was announced in last month’s Pro Audio Review, beginning with this issue, PAR review content in print will be wrapped into the pages of Pro Sound News, and will continue to be found online at As the print magazines share a common mailing list already, this move is purely practical. Strother Bullins, PAR editor for many years and the person who can be credited with cultivating the best roster of peer reviewers in our industry, will expand his role, becoming Reviews Editor across the entire NewBay Media AV/Pro Audio division. We are committed to bringing our readers the same quality end-user in-use perspectives that PAR readers have come to expect from each issue.