FRANK DOUGLAS (R.I.P.)

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First published in February 2015, last updated March 2015

Legendary HMV engineer, Frank Douglas, passed away on 19th February 2015 after a prolonged illness.

Click here to read Audioculture's 1991 interview with Frank - "The Golden Years of HMV: An interview with Frank Douglas"

Click here to read the Taranaki Daily News 2014 article about Frank - "Frank's tuned in to sound of success"

TRIBUTES

RIP Frank.  I was producing music for EMI in Wellington in the late 60's and Frank and his technical team were responsible for creating the premier recording environment in NZ at the time.  When we needed the latest 'must have' equipment, Frank would go in to bat for its acquisition and taught me the politics in EMI.  He was not only a dedicated 'tech' and 'soundie', but little appreciated for his work in getting the 'right stuff' to make the studio such a creative place to work.  Thanks to all the writers at www.nzmusos.co.nz and others who have documented Frank's story.  Technicians like Frank are sorely unheralded for their efforts, so it's good to see him get the mention he deserves.  My condolences to Frank's nearest and dearest.  I will remember him well. - Howard Gable
I first worked with Frank in 1965.  After doing sessions with various artists I was asked by Salem Records to make an album.  Every Tuesday night for about three months I went to the old HMV studio in Victoria St Wellington, with a drummer (either Bruno, Dave Fraser or Peter McKee) and recorded tracks.  We did it all with overdubs - I played all the guitar and bass parts.  Frank was very enthusiastic and supportive, and we used effects and tricks that he hadn't had the opportunity to use on other sessions - their new echo plate, and half speed recording sped up to raise the notes an octave, like Les Paul used to do.  Although I was only a 21-year-old unknown, Frank treated me with patience, kindness and respect.  I worked with Frank over the next 25 years, and he treated everyone the same way.  I never saw him get impatient or lose his cool with anyone.  He was greatly respected and liked by everyone in the business.  He was truly a legend, and will be fondly remembered by many people for a very long time. - Kevin Watson
I have fond memories of recording at HMV with the Avengers with Frank at the controls putting his skills together in helping to make it more creative.  Once we recorded live at Alibabas and of course most of the recording desk along with tape, mics and all the equipment had to be brought into the premises.  That was Ok except Frank got trapped at the Desk once the Gig started, so somewhere around 3 or 4 am, after all the Fans and American Sailors (there was a Yanky ship in town) had left, only then could Frank get out from behind the desk and then I suppose they had to take it all back to the studio for normal recording work that day.  Such was those days.  Our thanks for your patience and persistence.  Appreciated greatly by all the Band. - Hank Davis
Sorry to hear of this news.  Please pass on our condolences to Frank's family. We have spent many a late night with Frank and the rest of the boys and remember those times with great fondness.  As you possibly know, we live in the U.K., and have for over 30 years and news from N.Z., takes a few days to reach us.  We are grateful that we were informed about Frank's death and hope this message reaches his family in time. - Dave & Sandra Brown (NZ Avengers)
Thank you Frank for the wonderful times we had when recording many of my artists through 1962 to 1974.  Their memories will last for ever as a tribute to a man who believed in his work and engineered and helped produce many of the great recording sounds of that era.  RIP my friend - Tom McDonald
RIP Frank.  Thanks for your encouragement and assistance in my formative years with Sounds Unlimited.  Fondly remembered - Johnny McCormick
I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Frank Douglas.. a lovely man and was definitely one of the pioneers of of his time.  Lots of love Frank, and thanks for all the great recording work you have done for both me and my fellow New Zealand singers and entertainers. - Suzanne Lynch
Always enjoyed my times with Frank at EMI in Wellington. RIP Frank. - Gray Bartlett
A good man and a true pioneer, from whom I learned so much.  RIP Frank. - Alan Galbraith
Frank was the recording engineer in the HMV recording studios and a huge part of the success of the 1960s Wellington band The Avengers of which I was a member.  We were just kids and were allowed to work as long as we liked which was a huge luxury because Frank and Nick (the producer) had endless patience.  All sorts of egos and problems could be being expressed but Frank would let it all flow over him and get on with what he was doing and we are very grateful for what he did for us.  It was a privilege to know him.  Thank you Frank. - Clive Cockburn
Very sad to hear of Frank's passing.  He was a great man and a genuine pioneer of the Kiwi recording industry.  I made my 1st record in 1960 at the HMV studios in Victoria Street, Wellington, where at that time Frank was the sole producer and engineer.  To a young guy experiencing the record making process for the first time, it had lasting a impact on me, and something I never forgot.  I well recall arriving at the studio one afternoon with a couple of my school mates to record a cover of the Everly Brothers hit "Cathy's Clown" for a couple of guys at college, who had formed a record label called "Audion".  After we were shown around the studio by Frank, and as I was playing rhythm guitar on this recording, I politely asked him "Where do I sit Mr Douglas?" He told me to "sit anywhere"...  So taking his advice literally, I found a chair in the back of the studio somewhere and promptly sat down.  Curiously, I couldn't see any microphones in sight which I thought was a bit odd, nevertheless I assumed they were somewhere in the studio and able to record....  After the first take, we all went back to have a listen, and like all musicians, I was keen to hear how my guitar playing sounded on tape.  After it had finished playing,  I said to Frank "I can't hear my guitar Mr Douglas?".  After re-winding and re-playing replaying the tape, he turned to me, and in that unique voice of his, thoughtfully commented, "I can... its PERFECT!".  I well remember the "plate echo" sound they used in recording studios in those days.  HMV was no exception, a real early 60's sound until the Beatles decided "plate echo" had to go!, and recorded "Roll Over Beethoven" without it.  As with most studio's around the world, Frank had all of this "plate echo" gear ensconced at HMV.  As a member of "The Librettos" band Frank recorded all of our New Zealand  records at the HMV studios in the early/middle 1960's.  Frank also recorded Tommy Adderley's first record called "Write Me a Letter" for Lexian Records at the HMV studios.  I think this may have been the first time a local rock recording had an "orchestral strings" arrangement.  I remember Bruno Lawrence was on drums, I was on rhythm guitar, and I think Rod Stone was on electric guitar (Rod would need to confirm this...).  The string section was from the National Orchestra...  In conclusion, it was a great privilege to know and work with Frank.  Gone but never forgotten.  Rest in Peace my friend. - Lou Parun
Have just heard Frank Douglas the Master engineer HMV has past on.  Myself and other band members had the pleasure of working with him on The Tree label 4 tracks late 60's through to the 70's.  A gentleman indeed, RIP. - Dave Duffell
Distinct memories of Frank in the studios, right back to the days of single track recording in Victoria Street.  He was a pioneer and a nice bloke. - Roger Brasell 
I’m saddened to hear of the passing of one of NZ’s finest musical pioneers.  My first ever recording in 1964 was with Frank at the old HMV studio’s in Wakefield Street and over the years we caught up from time to time at the EMI studios in Lower Hutt.  Frank was a real gentleman, an innovator in an industry that in the late 50s and very early 60’s was youth culture at its best and sometimes worst and I loved every minute of it!  Frank Douglas was in the thick of it and a lot of us owe him a debt of gratitude so my condolences to the Douglas family you can rest assured that he will be fondly remembered by the vast majority of us who worked with him.  RIP Frank. -   Frankie Stevens
Frank was the person who made all The Librettos’ records what they were.  He was the unofficial producer who helped us get the sounds we were dreaming of.  He advised us as well as running the mixing desk.  It wouldn’t have been the same without him. - Rod Stone
A great man, and a pioneer who so many owe so much to.  Rest peacefully Frank, and thank you. - Neil Harrap
(click here to email me your tribute to Frank and I'll add it in - andy@nzmusos.co.nz)

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