Begun in 1974 by the late Jeff Kracke and Kevin Kelly, The Workshoppe Recording Studios Inc (precious spelling of Workshoppe = Jeff’s idea) grew to be a full service, multi-room commercial recording facility located in Douglaston Manor, NYC during the 70’s and 80’s. The SPARS member studio serviced major labels,“Indy’s”and local bands, recorded music for feature films as well as music and audio production for the advertising industry.
The WLIR-FM Live Concert Series
The Workshoppe proudly produced and engineered the WLIR-FM Tuesday night concert series “Live from the stage of My Father’s Place in The Village of Old Roslyn” in collaboration with the Audio by Zimet remote van and of course, Eppy.
The Police (first US tour), Billy Joel, Hall and Oates, Charlie Daniels Band, Spencer Davis Group, Pure Prairie League, David Bromberg, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and scores more shows were mixed “live to 2-track” broadcast live, and archived for rebroadcast and in some cases record release over the years. Either Jeff, Kevin or Rob produced and mixed the live shows uplinked via ISDN lines to the station from a little blue Ford van on a 24 input Sound Workshop console, then brought the tapes back to the studio to edit out the curses and extended tuning breaks for re-broadcast. Good Times.
The early days…
The physical recording studio actually started in Kevin’s parent’s basement in Bayside, Queens where Blondie’s infamous “Betrok Tapes” were recorded. These recordings are now included in the Blondie Platinum Collection and have been released as bonus cuts on albums through the years.
Shortly after this project, Jeff and Kevin searched for a commercial space to build their new studio. Jeff had been a staff engineer at Ultra Sonic in Hempstead for many years where he earned a gold record for “Do It ‘Till You’re Satisfied” by the B T Express.
Kevin had been playing bass and keyboards in various groups including Loves Lantern, The Last Resort, Chapel Hill, toured with Capitol Records Janey and Dennis opening for the Bee Gees, and of course, a million gigs with Savoy Truffle, a duo with the great Tom Alessandro.
The studio in Douglaston
Jeff’s friends and former clients were mostly from Long Island. Kevin, having grown up in Queens, wanted to find a location that was more convenient to NYC clients and session musicians. Douglaston, while technically in NYC, was the perfect compromise. Twenty minutes from Penn Station on the Port Washington line, the studio was close enough to watch for the Manhattan bound train from the front door, and casually walk up onto the platform as the train doors opened. By car, it was one traffic light north of the LIE just over the Queens/Nassau border.
Mrs. Rose Tallerico was the realtor who showed us the space. She had a familiar looking face. When she found out we intended to open a recording studio there, she mentioned her nephew was also “in the business”. “He sings with the band Aerosmith.” That’s when it hit us. She had Steven Tyler’s face.
Jeff drew the familiar floor plan for the studio in Douglaston the evening we paid first and last months rent. “All I got to do was move one door about a foot – K Kelly, 1974”.
Jeff and I were smart enough to surround ourselves with people who were good at what they did, but more importantly, were a lot of fun. Jackie Martling was our first true life employee. We had just recorded “The Pot Song”, an Off Hour Rockers favorite, (almost) live at The Neptune Pub. We all had a great time. After the record was released, Jackie asked if we needed any help. He explained he had just broken up with the love of his life and he needed something to do during the day so he wouldn’t drink too much. Not exactly what you’d put up on LinkedIn, but we loved it. Jackie was (and still is) a master “ball-breaker”. He upped our game in that area as well. Just thought of a half dozen stories that I can’t admit to. Moving on …
Rob Bengston was mixing FOH at My Father’s Place when Jeff and I would roll up in the back with the Zimet truck for the WLIR concerts. He had grown up in Douglaston, had heard about the studio and wanted to switch from live mixing to recording projects. Rob had (has) an amazing set of ears. We shared a lot of projects for many years.
Lee Pomerantz banged on the back of the WLIR truck one Tuesday night and wanted me to read a twenty friggin’ page proposal about doing an internship with us. I said “You mean like Dr. Kildare on TV?” It all seemed on the up and up , and he was such a help to us that we hired him after he graduated from SUNY Fredonia. I still use DIY direct boxes that have his initials on them from 1979.
So for a while it was Jeff, Kevin, Rob and Lee. Having learned how to edit tape and produce comedy albums, Jackie had gone on to fame and fortune riding fifty miles a night to earn twenty bucks doing stand-up comedy. Truth is, he did wind up finding a pretty decent gig with this Howard Stern character.
There were two more engineers during the eighties that stuck around long enough to become part of the family: Rob Alexander and Lenny Stote. Jeff moved on to a Chief Engineer position at The Warehouse in Manhattan in 1981, and I can not imagine those last years without the skills and friendship of Rob, Rob and Lenny.
Sara Okrent, Joan Marinacci and Deb Rosenthal helped us navigate the crazy session schedule by taking care of the phones and billing and messages and so much more during the early days.
Then Deb Corshia, who knew more about running a business than I did by a lot, was the office manager during the eighties. She had the unique talent of being able to get the record labels and film companies to pay up! while at the same time making sure the interns living away from home actually ate real food and had a safe place to sleep.
The … uh … house band and singers…
Before there was MIDI, and before there were drum machines, singers and songwriters would come to the studio wanting to record with an experienced rhythm section. Instead they got us. Bill Lettang or Larry Lader on drums, I would play bass, Danny Infantino guitar and Ronnie Lawson keyboards. To widen the circle a bit you might find Robbie Kondor on keys and Neil Posner, Alan Brewer or Arlen Roth on guitar. When singers were needed Stephanie Davy, Deb Corshia, Danny Infantino and Dick Ivans were all set! I wish I had pictures of any of these sessions. Jeff would engineer basics and keep us laughing while I was playing in the band, and I would often take over at the board for the overdubs. These are some of the best memories of my life.
The projects and the people who brought the music…
I am overwhelmed here. If it wasn’t for Ronnie Lawson we would never have met Edgar Winter and his band. If it were not for Alan Brewer we would not have recorded the music to a decade of feature films with Rick Wakeman, Steve Gadd, the Brecker Brothers, Will Lee, Clarence Clemens, Rick Derringer … If not for Ray Lambiase we would not have met Rich and Lanny from The Berries or Jimmy Bralower. If it were not for Arlen Roth … and so it goes….Slippery slope here.
Having just launched this website and heard from a few old friends on Facebook, I can’t believe I didn’t include the great duos: Blair & Durkin, Infantino & Ivans, Alexander & Soref and Joe “Golden Voice” Lapallo & his alter ego Ellison Chase.
I am going to continue working on this history page, perhaps add a discography and other random content in a respectful way. I am sure I will leave people out inadvertently when chronicling all these wonderful memories. I certainly don’t mean to.
to be continued…
After the WRS doors closed…
Jeff’s original room layout remained an active recording studio facility for 35 years – well past his untimely passing. As the eighties drew to a close, The Workshoppe was eventually sold to Cy Curnin, of The Fixx and the studio was renamed “Between The Ears”
BTE was sold to Bill Ricciardi and Chris Cavill in the early 90’s and opened as “Avalon” featuring musician/engineer Bob Stander.
“Station Sound” took the space after Avalon.
The last to use our original space as a studio was “General Studio” with George Fullan.
Lot’s of great music and lasting friendships came to life at 40-35 235St Douglaston NY.
To bring you up to date… it became a Dojo and then a nail salon.