Grammy goes to math-expert audio restorer

The recording was a bootlegged Woodie Guthrie live concert. 1949. Original format is something called a wire recording – which predates widespread use of the magnetic tape recorder. Getting a 50+ year old format to playback while making a recording off it was quite an effort. The Woody Guthrie Live Wire album won a Grammy was for “Best Historical Album” – the mathematics involved was to use ambient noise in the recording to re-set the tempo after portions were stretched and broken.

Shortly after September 11, 2001, a small, heavy package wrapped in brown paper arrived in the mail at the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York City. Inside was a mess of wires.

Guthrie’s daughter Nora eventually figured out that the suspicious package wasn’t a bomb, but rather a recording of her father on a device that predated magnetic tape. After a year of searching, she managed to track down someone with the equipment to play it.

What she finally heard was a bootleg recording of her father singing a live performance in 1949. It was the first time she had ever heard him perform in front of a live audience. He had developed Huntington’s chorea and stopped performing when she was a child, and she thought he had never been recorded live. [Read More]

The Woodie Guthrie Foundation gives more background on the finding and restoration of the album.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 13, 2008 in • AudioRestoration
2 CommentsPermalink

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That is too cool. We had a wire recorder at the radio station I volunteered at in college.  And a few years ago, my wife and I went to a hamfest, and we saw one there. She insisted that we buy it. So, yes, I am the proud owner of a wire recorder. I don’t have any appropriate wire to check if it works, but it looks pretty cool.

ralph  on 02/16  at  01:16 AM

Slick, Ralph. Your wife has excellent taste! Do you have a picture of it posted on the web?

Susan A. Kitchens  on 02/16  at  07:42 AM

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