Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Passing of a Recording Industry Legend, my friend & mentor Roger Nichols.

This blog post has been in the works for nearly two months now. For someone who speaks to crowds of people on a daily basis around the world, I must admit that I was really speechless as to what I should write. I can’t emphasize enough the amount of influence Roger had on my life, my work, and everything that I do. He was a constant teacher and true visionary…but it was his passion for audio, his determination for excellence & precision, and his incredible patience and sense of humor that endeared him to me forever.

Jase, Roger & John Denver, Nashville, 1996.

For those of you unaware of the immortal Roger (a long-standing nickname, and a well-deserved one!) his biggest claim to fame was as the engineer for Steely Dan in the 70s. During his 45 year career, he won seven Grammys (largely for Best Non-Classical Engineered Recordings) and was the creator of two of the finest records ever put on tape, Aja (1977) and Gaucho (1980), the latter of which was one of the first to premiere his own invention, the Wendel Drum Replacement computer (pre-dating the official LinnDrum by a few years). Roger built this drum computer on the heels of a promise to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, after they complained of the timing of the drum performances during sessions for what would become Gaucho in late 1977/early 1978. On a whim, they ‘wished’ they had a computer that could re-produce full-spectrum drum sounds, and play it the way they wanted. Roger simply stated, “I can do that…I just need $150,000.” They gave it to him, and the rest is history.

Apart from Steely Dan, Roger’s credits run the gamut, from John Denver (both as Producer and Engineer) to Johnny Winter; Diana Ross to the Beach Boys, James Taylor to Stevie Wonder and literally everyone (and everything) in between. During my years working with him at Digital Atomics in Nashville, Tennessee, the majority of recorded/mastered output consisted (mainly) of country music; Wynonna, Delbert McClinton, Lari White, Trace Adkins and Kacey Jones were among some of ‘masters’ I was introduced to…right out of college. His trust in me, to allow me to do *anything* with these recordings, was immeasurable. But that was Roger; once you earned his trust (and somehow, I seemed to earn it rather quickly), it was limitless. The biggest highlight for me, however, began on my first day of work with the master himself…
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