Lou Waxman, ace tape operator, clarinetist, deli master

by Pete Weiss
(Plainview, NY)

Working in Columbia's studios with Lou Waxman was almost always a treat. Columbia was a union shop (IBEW Local 1212)and every studio session required two engineers - one at the console, who was also responsible for setting up the studio if there was recording to be done - and one to operate the tape machines, which were 8-track when I first started working there in early 1969 and then 16-track.

Lou was the tape machine operator on many of the sessions I did at Columbia. He was not a youngster when I first met him, but he was surprisingly adaptable as new gear and new technologies were introduced - 16-track Ampex machines with SelSync, big gray early Dolby boxes (eventually replaced by 2U rack-mounted ones), etc.

Lou was also an expert at "punching in" and "punching out." These were done when there were no more empty tracks available on a multi-track tape, but some portion of one of the tracks - a vocal or instrumental phrase or passage - needed to be replaced because of an error or other shortcoming. Punching in required setting up the multi-track machine in SelSync mode for overdubbing on the target track, then listening very carefully to the music as it played, and then hitting the Play and Record buttons simultaneously at precisely the right point (agreed upon and rehearsed beforehand) to capture the "correction," and then punching out - hitting the Stop button - just in time to avoid recording over the next phrase or passage. Lou was a musician - a clarinetist - and I believe that gave him an advantage in being such a good "puncher." Lou would practice his clarinet playing during downtime in the studio.

Lou also handled food orders when that became necessary during long nighttime sessions. Most often, with the assent of those present, he would order from the Carnegie East deli. The place had great food, a large selection, and was not too far from the studio building, so the meals arrived fresh and hot. But we all had a suspicion about Lou - that he had some sort of "commission" deal with the deli, because in addition to whatever he ordered for himself, there was always a small package of sliced corned beef or pastrami that went home with Lou, but never showed up on the receipts. Lou earned that arrangement.

Pete Weiss

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