Passion For Records, Recording, Writing and Radio
Introducing Chuck Grenata LOMM Reporter
For many years, I was a police officer. So, when people first learn that I’m in the music business, they inevitably ask, “How did that happen? How’d you go from being a cop to working on iconic sound recordings, writing books and being on the radio?
My fascination with music and anything ‘phonographic’ dates back to the beginning: my own beginning - the age of one – when I’d sit for hours, mesmerized by records spinning round-and-round on the record player. I’m not sure what the attraction was, but it didn’t matter what type of music was being played (although George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was always a favorite from the time I can remember.)
I was, admittedly, an odd child.
How else to explain a youngster who’d beg for record players for his second, third and fourth birthdays? Or, one who – at five – relished knocking on neighbors’ doors, asking if they had any old 78s they wanted to get rid of? The pre-teen whose heart began to pound at the sight of a pile of detritus on bulk garbage day, hoping he’d find old tape recorders, film projectors or ‘Victrolas’ nestled among the discards?
Such predilections come at a cost. For me, the expense was being clumsy and useless when it came to the things my peersaccomplished with ease: tossing a football, throwing a layup, perfecting a tennis swing and learning to catch a baseball. While they were out enjoying sunlight and fresh air, I much preferred being cooped up in my bedroom with my records,drums and ramshackle assortment of recording and playback equipment. I was the kid who was setting up microphonesand taping my middle school band and chorus concerts, then selling copies to all of the players.
After years of shunning my nerdy past, I come before you humbly accept the mantle. I can “twelve-step” with the best of them: my name is Chuck, and I’m a recordholic. I don’t have corpuscles and hemoglobin in this body; it’s vinyl coursing through my veins. You get the idea.
I’m sure what I describe above – all of it verifiable and true – resonates with many readers who, like me, have enjoyed a lifelong obsession with music and its mediums. Finding kindred spirits isn’t easy, and when we “record nuts” connect, we tend to latch on for life. However, there’s a distinct difference between me and most other music and record fanatics: for some reason, the Gods of amplitude and magnetism looked down on me, and – by some miracle – at the age of thirty I found myself where I’d always dreamed of being: immersed in the business of helping to make records.
Now, it’s important to understand that I’d been preparing for this moment all my life.
I’d diligently collected thousands of records, meticulously cataloged them and spent thousands of hours compiling tracks into customized mix tapes. During my high school years, I bought a four-track open reel and a cassette “Portastudio” recorder, a small mixer and some Shure SM-57 microphones and taught myself how to record and mix basic tracks. With the care of a professional engineer, I had my semi-professional tape recorders calibrated twice a year, and had lots of fun turning out some nice sounding recordings. I worked as a DJ, mixing all sorts of music for local church and school events, and continued making mix tapes from my expanding music collection for myself, friends and family. By the time Sony Music called and asked me to work on a Frank Sinatra project in 1992, I’d done – in Malcolm Gladwell’s term - my “ten thousand hours.” I had the talent, knowledge and expertise; it was the luck – and being in the right place at the right time – that really tipped the scales in my favor.
Photo used with permission
Photo used with permission
Chuck at Sirius-XM Studios
Chuck Grenata & Michael Feinstein at Sony Music Studios NYC