A Master Behind the Masterpieces: Eddie Kramer

“A Master Behind the Masterpieces” will be a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, starting with today’s story about Eddie Kramer.

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Without Eddie Kramer, we would all be living in a very different world.

Granted, we would have still had Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Stones, KISS, Peter Frampton, and others, but their sound would be considerably different than the audio signals we received that have woven each so deep into the fabric of rock history.

Eddie Kramer is the man behind countless, HUGE records through the years. He was behind the board for nearly every Jimi Hendrix track ever, including posthumous projects; engineered five (of nine) Led Zeppelin albums; spent Woodstock (1969) in a trailer behind the stage where he recorded the entire festival; and recorded Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive. The exhaustive list of projects he has been a part of, and/or artists he has worked with, is simply ridiculous. But here are a few more: David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Santana, Derek and the Dominoes, Joe Cocker, Curtis Mayfield, Petula Clark, John Mayall, The Beatles, Bad Company, Lauren Hill, Traffic, Frank Zappa, Buddy Guy, Robin Trower and Twisted Sister.

During the recording of Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin II, an interesting thing happened on “Whole Lotta Love.” Here’s the story, according to Kramer, from his official bio:

“Zep II was mixed over a two day period in New York, and at one point there was bleed-through of a previously recorded vocal in the recording of “Whole Lotta Love.” It was the middle part where Robert [Plant] screams ‘Wo-man. You need it.’ Since we couldn’t re-record at that point, I just threw some echo on it to see how it would sound and Jimmy [Page] said ‘Great! Just leave it’.”

Here’s the song. Jump to the 4:00 mark to hear the part he’s referring to.

Kramer was a musician first. In other words, he knew what he was talking about in the recording studio setting. Eddie, born in South Africa, studied classical piano, cello and violin at the South African College of Music. According to this official bio, “he moved to England at 19, where he recorded local jazz groups in a home-based studio and installed hi-fi equipment as a hobby. In 1964 he joined Pye studios, and recorded a variety of artists including Sammy Davis Jr., Petula Clark and The Kinks…”

Before long, Kramer had connected with a guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix. In the following video, from Guitar Center TV, Eddie shares a great story about Jimi from 1968.

From his book Behind The Glass: Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits, Volume 2, Howard Massey shares:

“Heavy metal may owe its heart and soul to Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, but it owes its powerhouse sound to Eddie Kramer. The South African-born engineer/producer not only worked with both artists in their creative heyday but later went on to produce such second-generation metal mainstays as Kiss, Anthrax and Twisted Sister, as well as – surprise! – mainstream artists like Carly Simon, Santana and Peter Frampton. Clearly, the guy’s got a resume to kill for. More importantly, through the years he’s developed a distinct sonic signature that has made him a true legend in record production.”

In terms of masters behind the scenes, there are few as important as Eddie Kramer. Few people consider someone in his role when enjoying their favorite music. The artist typically gets all of the credit. Is that the way it should be? No, but it’s how it will be.

Eddie Kramer has left an indelible mark on music history, and continues to to this day (see video below).

Most think they’ve never heard him. But they have.

*Kramer also happens to be a pretty mean photographer, and has documented his journey very well. Check out his amazing collection at Kramer Archives.

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