Jeree's Story

From Al Torrence:

For Don, a true friend.

   [If you're looking for the complete history of Jeree Recording, then look no further than this page. This account was told to me by the man who would know it best, Don Garvin, who owned and operated Jeree's from the beginning along side his business partner, Jerry Reed. I hope this page can serve to pay homage to a place that was an integral part of so many musician's careers.]

   Jeree Recording didn't start as a studio, but rather an idea that was conceived in the basement of Jerry Reed's home in the early 50's. Jerry loved music, and he loved being a part of it. Though not a musician himself, he loved the process of creating it and working with the people who played it. But Jerry was also a business man, and a good one at that. He owned a successful curb service restaurant that would play music for his customers over a loudspeaker while they ate their food. So Jerry had an idea.

   Instead of playing songs of artists and paying licensing fees, Jerry decided to start a small record label that would front money to local bands to record a song. The song would be played at the curb service, the bands got exposure, and Jerry didn't need to pay licensing fees. The idea took off, and local bands jumped at the opportunity to record their music (a task that was much harder in the 50's without the ease of today's recording).   

   The first of these bands Jerry used early on was a group called Ralph Naturale and the Naturales, a group that included lead guitarist Don Garvin. The Naturales utilized Jerry's label to record, and put out a couple songs that Jerry played at the curb service. Ralph Naturale went ahead to open Club Natural in Beaver Falls, a place frequented by artists like The Jaggerz and George Benson. Jerry started to record the shows that Club Natural put on, and Don began to form a friendship with Jerry.

   Don and Jerry in the early days put together a crude version of a recording studio in Jerry's basement, and would listen back to the recordings made at Club Natural. They went as far as to buy the Telefunken e lam 251 (for a price of $600) that is still used at the Music Garden today. Slowly, the basement of Jerry's home became a more elaborate place to record, even garnishing an Ampex mono tape machine and a small radio Western Electric broadcast console.

   Don was drafted in 1964, and the basement studio sat unused as Jerry worked at the curb service. When Don returned home, he joined a group called November (the reformation of the Jaggerz), and they rented a house on the main street of New Brighton from Don's friend. Don sensed an opportunity within the walls of the old Victorian house and made a proposal to Jerry of a recording studio partnership. Jerry happily obliged, saying "as long as I don't have to flip anymore hamburgers".

   The two bought the house in 1974 and moved Jerry's basement studio to New Brighton. Due to another competing studio called "Jerry's Recording", they decided to brand their new establishment, 'Jeree' Recording, and opened the doors officially in the fall of 1975. The original studio housed a 16 track tape machine and and a 1 inch mix down machine that was the top of the line for the day. Sparing no expenses, Don built his own 16 track board that rivaled that of Neve and SSL, using his own transformerless design to ensure audio transparency from sound source to duplication.

   Through the mid 70's Jeree Recording was well on it's way, recording all the local music that was bursting on the scene. The Granati Brothers, The Skyliners, B.E. Taylor, Wild Cherry, Billy Price, Corbin/Hanner, Norm Nardini, and The Silencers were some of the many groups to walk into the old red Victorian house to record their albums. Even national artists Nathan Davis ('If') and Marueen McGovern made their way to New Brighton to record at Jeree's. 

  In 1977 Don joined the group 'Q', and with producer Carl Maduri released the hit single "Dancing man", which make it's all the way to #23 on the Billboard 100. Q's album 'Dancing Man' peaked at #140 and spurred a national tour for the group. But even as the road beckoned, Don felt a duty to stay being and tend to the place he and Jerry built. I once asked Don if he ever regretted not going on tour during those days, and without hesitation he said "you can have the road, I'll take my studio".

   In 1979 The Granati Brothers released their debut 'G-Force' album which garnered the attention of newly formed band Van Halen. The Granati's would go on to tour with Van Halen for the next 2 years, playing shows all over the world in stadiums filled with 100's of thousands of people.   

   The hits kept coming as Donnie Iris and the Cruisers (formerly of The Jaggerz and Wild Cherry) recorded his 1980 'Back on the Streets' album. The record dawned the hit song 'Ah! Leah!', which reached #29 on Billboard 100 and #19 on Billboard Mainstream Rock. Iris' sophmore album 'King Cool' peaked at #84, with it's singles 'Love is Like a Rock' reaching #37, and 'My Girl' reaching top the 25 on Billboard Hot 100, Iris' highest charted song.

   In 1982, the George A. Romero cult classic 'Creepshow' recorded the entire soundtrack at Jeree's using only a Prophet 5 synth, Weber piano, and 9v battery guitar slide (per Don Garvin). Early soundtracks like this laid the groundwork for the famous 80's horror sound that is so iconic today.

   Throughout the 80's and 90's the studio pressed on with additions like a new custom console from Garvin and an updated digital recording system. As studios throughout the Pittsburgh area came and went, Jeree's stood as sturdy as the old brick foundation it was built on, always trying to produce the best music of the day.

   In September of 2000 Jerry died of lung cancer, but not before Don made him a promise to keep the legacy of the studio alive. And even as I first walked into the studio in 2015, there was Don, working away behind his console as he had done for the past 40 years.

   My promise to Don was the same as his to Jerry, keep the legacy of the studio alive. The Music Garden is a place for artist's to grow and feel at home, exactly the same as Jeree's was for all it's artists. I hope to get it back to the place it once was and beyond. So let's see where the road takes it, but at the very least, it's better than flipping hamburgers.