Tom Dowd

born on 20/10/1925 in New York City, NY, United States

died on 27/10/2002 in Miami, FL, United States

Tom Dowd

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Thomas John "Tom" Dowd (October 20, 1925 October 27, 2002) was an American recording engineer and producer for Atlantic Records. He was credited with innovating the multi-track recording method. Dowd worked on a virtual "who's who" of recordings that encompassed blues, jazz, pop, rock and soul records.


Early years

Born in Manhattan, Dowd grew up playing piano, tuba, violin, and string bass. His mother was an opera singer and his father was a concertmaster.

Dowd graduated from Stuyvesant High School in June, 1942 at the age of 16.[1] He continued his musical education at City College of New York. Dowd also played in a band at New York's Columbia University, where he became a conductor. He was also employed at the physics laboratory of Columbia University.

Military work

At age 18, Dowd was drafted into the military with the rank of sergeant. He continued his work in physics at Columbia University. He worked on the Manhattan Project contributing to the atomic bomb. The purpose of the work was unclear until 1945.[2] Dowd planned to obtain a degree in nuclear physics when he completed his work on the Manhattan Project. However because his work was top secret the university did not recognize it, and Dowd decided not to continue, since the university's curriculum would not have been able to further his physics education. His research for the military was more advanced than the academia of the times.[2]


Dowd took a job at a classical music recording studio until he obtained employment at Atlantic Records. His first hit was Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake". He soon became a top recording engineer there and recorded popular artists such as Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Coasters, Ruth Brown and Bobby Darin, including Darin's famous rendition of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht's "Mack the Knife". He captured jazz masterpieces by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. It was Dowd's idea to cut Ray Charles' recording of "What'd I Say" into two parts and release them as the A-side and B-side of the same single record.

Dowd worked as an engineer and producer from the 1940s until the beginning of the 21st century. He recorded albums by many artists including Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Derek and the Dominos, Rod Stewart, Wishbone Ash, New Model Army, Cream, Lulu, Chicago, The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Bonamassa, The J. Geils Band, Meat Loaf, Sonny & Cher, The Rascals, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, The Eagles, Kenny Loggins, James Gang, Dusty Springfield, Eddie Harris, Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Joe Castro and Primal Scream.[3] He was also an employee of Apex Studios in the 1950s.[4]Dowd received a Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in February 2002.

He died of emphysema on October 27, 2002 in Florida, where he had been living and working at Criteria Studios for many years.[5]


Tom Dowd helped to shape the artists that he worked with, and because he worked with an array of great artists on some of the world's greatest recordings, Dowd was highly influential in creating the sound of the second half of the 20th Century. It was he who encouraged Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records to install an Ampex eight-track recorder, enabling Atlantic to be the first recording company to record using multiple tracks.[6]

Dowd is credited as the engineer who popularized the eight-track recording system for commercial music and popularized the use of stereophonic sound. Although stereo had been invented in the 1930s, Dowd was the first to use it on a record. He also pioneered the use of linear channel faders as opposed to rotary controls on audio mixers. He devised various methods for altering sound after the initial recording.[1]

In 2003 director Mark Moormann premiered an award-winning documentary about his life entitled Tom Dowd and the Language of Music. In the 2004 biopic Ray, Tom Dowd was portrayed by actor Rick Gomez.

Tom Dowd was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. The ceremony took place on April 14, 2012 and Robbie Robertson gave the induction speech.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Daley, Dan (October 2004). "The Engineers Who Changed Recording". Sound on Sound.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Biography. Tom Dowd and the Language of Music. Retrieved on 2007-11-01.
  3. [Tom Dowd at All Music Guide Tom Dowd - Credits]. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2007-11-01.
  4. (9 November 2002) Billboard, Nielsen Business Media, Inc.. ISSN 00062510. URL accessed 20 December 2012.
  5. Norman, Forrest, Soundman God, New Times, January 16, 2003. URL accessed on January 7, 2011.
  6. Dobkin, Matt (2004). I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You: Aretha Franklin, Respect, and the Making of a Soul Music Masterpiece, p. 142143, New York: St. Martin's Press.

External links

  • Tom Dowd and The Language of Music
  • Tom Dowd at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Discography
This page was last modified 09.03.2014 18:16:43

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