1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:41 am

Bruce Jackson was Elvis Presley's on tour sound guru from 1971 to 1977.

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After Elvis' tragic death, he worked his magic for Bruce Springsteen from 1978 to 1985.

These segments are taken from http://www.pertout.com/Jackson.htm ->

How did you end up living in the US?

I’d ... met up with Roy Clair of Clair Brothers, when he was in town doing Blood Sweat & Tears, in either ’69 or ’70. And this was the first time we’d seen one of the big overseas PAs in Australia. Everything before that was the stuff that we used to make, which was columns. Dynacord and all these other companies were just basically producing speaker columns. I knew a way through the back fence, and so I took a friend of mine, Russell Dallas. We climbed over, checked it out, and were just amazed.

So I went up and started talking to Roy Clair. They were a very small company, but Clair Brothers was now by far the most dominant sound company, and he said that he would like to leave the PA here and do a Johnny Cash tour coming up. It was going to be about six months later, and he asked if I would I mind looking after it and helping him out. I was glad to do that and learn about the new technology. I ended up doing that tour with him, and he said, "When you come across to London, stop off in the States if you like, and visit." And so I did, and ended up staying.

I was very young, but helped out with electronic ideas and designs, and also went out on the road as an engineer. It was at the same time when Elvis Presley had just started touring again, and was using different sound companies at different areas, like a regional situation. And, fortunately, everything went well when I did the (Presley) shows.

Mixing for Elvis must have been some experience. What memories do you have of this significant period of your career?

It was over a six year period, and it was hard work. I remember it was hard work, and you are not particularly aware that it’s a big deal at the time, other than it’s great fun traveling around on that level. You know, because the police loved him so much we’d have the police captains and sergeants, and everyone running us around. And no one toured on the same level, with four or five jet planes.

And we used to have like the Playboy plane. So I’d go out with him, and the limo would pull up, you’d walk the stairs up to this black plane with a bunny on the tail, and there’d be the bunnies in there serving us. It was just an amazing lifestyle. And over the years I got to know him real well, so that was a really good experience. And in hindsight I realize how lucky I was, but at the time it was like lots and lots of shows, hundreds of shows, and a lot of hard work.

It has been said that you have been purely responsible for pioneering the high quality stadium sound for the ... Springsteen tours. What is involved logistically at this large scale?

Well, Bruce Springsteen was an uptight performer, and so I would hold his hand a lot, explains things to him, and work with him. And then on the other side of things, he would then support me. But he was very uptight about going from theaters into arenas, and wanted to make sure that everything was as good as possible. And that’s what I love to do, I love a challenge.

So he’d come in and say, "Why doesn’t it sound so good when I get in back here? You know, why don’t I hear the hi-hats? Why isn’t it crisp and clean?" I said, "Well, the super highs get absorbed over distance more than the bass frequencies." He said, "What can we do about it?" And I said, "We can do a lot about it."

So we came up with this unique scheme of putting delayed super highs out in the house. And what happens is that the sound then goes out from the speakers, and just as it is starting to get rolled off in the high frequencies, it is boosted up by these high frequency drivers. And consequently the people in the back get this much higher quality sound than what they would normally get with just the big stacks up the front. And we kind of took that further and further, and then when he was so big, like on the Born In The U.S.A. tour, and we were going to do dozens of stadiums, he said, "I want to make sure that we have the best stadium sound." And I said, "Great!"

So I designed this very overblown set of delay systems, with eight delays up on poles. And we set a new standard for live PA in stadiums. And in fact, quite a few tours tried to do it after us, and the promoters were howling, saying "Look, Springsteen came around and did this, he had all his delays, and did it this way. And you’ve got to do the same thing, because people can’t hear as well." So since then a lot of people have copied it.


Nice job, eh?

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 7:03 am

Lucky bastard.

Now if he'd only detail what he actually has in his possession ...
Last edited by Scott on Fri Sep 12, 2008 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 7:19 am

Scott wrote:Lucky bastard.

Now if he'd only details what he actually has in his possession ...

Pure gold.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 7:45 am

midnightx wrote:
Scott wrote:Lucky bastard.

Now if he'd only details what he actually has in his possession ...

Pure gold.


Covered in platinum in some cases, we hope.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 7:53 am

Interesting read Doc, thanks for postings. An, I just got to say too, lucky bastard :lol:

PEP 8)

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 8:55 am

Yes, his personal tape archive would be nice to review. Even if unheard, let's hope he has them properly filed, accounted and stored -- perhaps even digitized for future generations.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 11:30 am

Now Bruce Jackson could write a very interesting autobiography!

He comes across as a very dedicated professional and innovator in the sound game.

Andrew

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 1:39 pm

let's hope he has them properly filed, accounted and stored -- perhaps even digitized for future generations.


Pity that's only in an alternate reality & not in our reality.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 2:05 pm

Ray wrote:
let's hope he has them properly filed, accounted and stored -- perhaps even digitized for future generations.


Pity that's only in an alternate reality & not in our reality.


Yes, a pity. How old is he again?

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 3:51 pm

mmmmm - just imagine all the NEW stories, observations and perceptions that Bruce Jackson must have on Elvis throughout the years both onstage and off. This could extend to the aduiences - did they remain the same (they sound it), was there any dissatisfaction with audience members as Elvis' addiction got the better of him? What did the road crew think of Elvis? What was Bruce Jacksons first impressions when he saw the audience reaction to Elvis? The questions could go on and on! Did you record Pittsburgh Bruce? Any rare songs that you remember? Why didn't you get longer tapes so the endings of the shows could be recorded :D
Last edited by LesterB on Fri Sep 12, 2008 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:53 pm

maybe Bruce Jackson wants to sell the soundboards at a good price :arrow: given that he s not so young anymore, he shouldnt wait more :idea:

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:31 pm

Thanks for the post Doc!

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 9:46 pm

tcb4 wrote:maybe Bruce Jackson wants to sell the soundboards at a good price :arrow: given that he s not so young anymore, he shouldnt wait more :idea:


I don't think money is the main issue.
It's safe to say Bruce has earned enough $'s over the years.

He was extremely young when he worked with Elvis, probably in his early 20's.
He is also an innovator, and people like that don't retire early.

Maybe Bruce already did let go of some soundboards in the past, such as the Fort Worth'76 gig.
(including "Happy birthday Bruce Goose";)

He'll probably has the most sought after shows in his possession..
And don't count on a nearby breakthrough.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Fri Sep 12, 2008 10:10 pm

Robert wrote:
tcb4 wrote:maybe Bruce Jackson wants to sell the soundboards at a good price :arrow: given that he s not so young anymore, he shouldnt wait more :idea:


I don't think money is the main issue.


maybe you re right but i wonder how much a ( never-before-released )soundboard concert would worth ?

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Sat Sep 13, 2008 12:34 am

JonRomanovich wrote:Thanks for the post Doc!

This is what I do! Enjoy the doc!

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Wed May 05, 2010 2:40 pm

Another Jackson interview where he passingly mentions having "sound bites" of Elvis...
Q:And then there was Elvis.
A: Yes, I did sound for him for his last six years. I have sound bites from him, of him complaining to me for one thing or another…of times when he stopped the show and got me on stage to stand next to him to hear what he was hearing--that was embarrassing. Then other times, he would introduce me or stop the show and sing "Happy Birthday" to me.
Q: How did that gig come about?
Things didn't operate then as they do now. It was regional. If you were doing Texas, you called Showco. Then when you moved onto to San Francisco, you called McCune. When you played the Northeast, you called Clair.
So I went out with Elvis on Northeast shows, and we did a lot of pioneering on that tour. We had to hang the sound gear--not for sound quality, but to get more buns in the seats. And hanging the speakers was a real challenge--taking the lead from ice shows, we were the first sound company to take CM chain hoists and hang them upside down to pull the speakers up in the air. Now it's not uncommon to see 70 of those hoists on a tour, but in the beginning, we hung the entire P.A. system on one.
Fortunately, a lot of other companies working with Elvis had troubles, and of course, we had our troubles. But I guess they didn't realize it, and they liked me enough to ask me to go along and do all their shows. At first, I'd be their link to local sound companies, then after a while, I said, "Why don't we just take Clair Sound with us everywhere?" People don't realize he worked a lot. I did hundreds of shows with him.
Q: And you were there when Elvis left the building--for good.
A: I was in Maine with his manager, Colonel Parker, at the next gig he was supposed to play when we both heard for the first time he was gone. At the time you don't realize it's a big deal, working with someone like Elvis, but later on you get perspective…

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Wed May 05, 2010 5:16 pm

Thanks Doc, nice read...and yes, you have to say lucky bastard!!!!

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Wed May 05, 2010 5:16 pm

Thanks Doc, nice read...and yes, you have to say lucky bastard!!!!

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Wed May 05, 2010 5:25 pm

Does anybody on this board know how to contact him??

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Wed May 05, 2010 7:05 pm

I contacted him years ago.
He admitted he had some special stuff in his private collection.

I don't think he is easy accessible nowadays.
Don't count on much transparency regarding soundboard information..

He is rather quiet because he's still in the business and he feels too many people already told too much.

Cheers.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Thu May 06, 2010 1:12 am

All high-level rock engineers have super tape archives. It comes with the territory. They often trade items amongst each other, knowing the items are secure because they're all in the same boat, so to speak.

When "rare" things leak, it often means someone in that chain let it slip to the next level.

As for Jackson's skills working with Bruce Springsteen, going from theater to arena to stadium, I can attest that he did a PHENOMENAL job with the sound -- it was just wonderful at every show I attended where Jackson was at the mixing board.

Thanks again for the kind words, they are appreciated.

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Thu May 06, 2010 3:10 am

Hi, new here...has Ernst ever contacted him about things he may have?

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Thu May 06, 2010 3:13 am

I would imagine that the answer to the question is "yes."

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Thu May 06, 2010 4:21 am

He'll have the soundboards in storage, but not 'digitised!' and for certain he'll have Bruce Springstein 'gems' too! I could say much, MUCH more but if i do a friend will kill me so i cannot! would be 'very nice' though if some of the interesting stuff came to us on FTD via Ernst!` Meanwhile whilst Ernst has almost every 1974 show access we can excpect much more from 1974 - i suppose(such as the forthcoming May 1974 Lake Tahoe cuts!~) :smt002

Re: 1970s Soundman Bruce Jackson Remembers!

Thu May 20, 2010 2:49 am

Excellent topic. Diden't the Boston 10 Nov 71 soundboard come from his personal collection or was it from Ed Bonja's collection?

Sincerely

Kenneth