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Show History

Art Semmig, Joy Boys engineer

Art Semmig cues up a record WRC engineer Art Semmig was one of the first Joy Boys engineers. In this story we'll show you what life was like from his side of the soundproof glass, and also a bit about a recording engineer's career from the 1940s and '50s. (Click any picture for a larger view.)

This series of pictures is from around 1960. We see Art in the control room, Willard Scott sitting close to the glass, and Ed Walker at the center table in Studio One. Ed is holding up his hand, ready to signal Art to play the next record or commercial. Both music and commercial spots were recorded on discs called "E. T.'s" (electrical transcriptions). Tape recordings weren't yet commonly used for playback during on-air broadcasts. Click here (MP3 file, 104K) to hear a Mac McGarry promo, followed by Willard saying "Mac, that was you on the E. T., right?"

Art on the far side of the glass   Willard at the NBC microphone   Ed prepares to give Art the signal

Willard, Art Semmig, Ed, and John Hickman Willard Scott, Art Semmig, Ed Walker, and John Hickman pose in the studio. John worked with the Joy Boys for many years as a producer, and also hosted the Big Broadcast on WAMU-FM before retiring due to illness. Ed Walker now hosts that show on Sunday nights.

The Joy Boys always thanked their engineers at the end of the show. Click here (MP3 file, 68K) to hear one of those occasions. Ed says "look at the birdie," referring to the fact that Art Semmig liked to carry his camera and made lots of photographs around WRC.

Ed and Willard in the WRC lobby You can also listen to this clip (MP3 file, 90K) as the Joy Boys were broadcasting live from the WRC lobby in December 1966, and Ed speaks to Art (who is still in the control room, in the basement).

Art Semmig with some NBC folks Proud as the NBC peacock, Art Semmig (center) appears here with some NBC staff members. From left to right: Sherman Hildreth, Director of Operations; Sam Hecker, also a WRC engineer; Art Semmig; and another engineer, LeRoy (Rip) Van Winkle. Sam and Rip were sometimes mentioned on the Joy Boys show. (Thanks to Fred Risher and Mike Berry for their help in identifying this cast of characters.)

Click here (MP3 file, 138K) to hear Willard and Ed reminisce about Art's shape and his famous snoring! This sound clip is from our first Remember the Joy Boys CD project.

cover of Radio News magazine In 1944, the magazine Radio News (later Radio-TV News) ran an article describing the equipment used by the Library of Congress to preserve old recordings. In 1944, "preserve" meant "transfer from wax cylinder and cut a disc." Art Semmig was involved in this project and he appeared in the article. Below we see Art operating the necessary equipment: (left) playing a cylinder; (center) closeup of the dubbing table, with its control board, filters, and equalizers; (right) the complete recording setup which includes two Scully recording machines, two Presto 6N recording machines, RCA high-fidelity amplifiers, Presto recording amplifiers, Fairchild playback tables, and Hallicrafters S-31 and SX-28 receivers.

operating the cylinder playback   closeup of the cutting table   the complete recording setup

Art on location with miners Now, imagine that same roomfull of equipment stuffed in a truck and taken on location for remote recordings. These two pictures are from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 23 1947, an article entitled "Singing Miners: They record their folk ballads for Library of Congress." The first picture was captioned At recording session in basement of public library at Pottsville, Pennsylvania, miner Bill Kating sings a folk ballad of the anthracite region. It was appropriately titled "Down, Down, Down." Seated at left is George Korson, supervisor of the Library of Congress recording project. Arthur Semmig, right, traveled through region in station wagon.

recording in the mines Russell David, mine superintendant, does a clog dance at a recording session in one of the mines. Fiddler at left is James Muldowney, mine carpenter. He made his violin. Korson and Semmig wear miners' clothing.

recording label Recording on a disc was very much a one-shot deal, much like burning a CD-R is today. But of course there was much more room for a label! Here's an example of the labels you might see on a disc, just after it was recorded at NBC.

Bob Semmig Thanks to Bob Semmig for the photos and background material used in this story, borrowed from his father's collection.


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