A Studio By Any Other Name: The History Of EastWest Studios
Known today as EastWest Studios the building at 6000 Sunset Blvd. has just about the most colorful history in recording studio lore. From humble beginnings to becoming a mecca for classic recording artists, the sound of the rooms now owned by Doug Roger’s EastWest company can be heard on some of the most important records of all time. Let’s dive into the lively history of the studio and learn what made it the important landmark it is today.
Originally built as a small grocery store called Cash Is King, the structure dates back all the way to 1933. During the 1940s, the building was used as a casino and changed names more than once in an effort to work around gambling and liquor laws of the time. By the end of the decade, the casino had folded and the building was once again repurposed, this time as a radio broadcast studio.
Things start to get more interesting (for recording purposes) when a man by the name of Bill Putnam purchases the building. Putnam, the founder of Universal Audio, was then known as the personal engineer of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Upon relocating to California in the late 50s, Bill had already purchased the neighboring 6050 address (known as United Recording Corporation) and combined the two into an immersive studio complex. The new United Western Recorders was born.
With his reputation for engineering excellent recordings as well as creating brilliant equipment designs, Putnam would build rooms that would change the landscape of music history forever. By hosting the aforementioned Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Ray Charles, and so many more, United Western Recorders racked up an untouchable resume.
“There was a lot of Frank Sinatra recorded in Studio 1, which is our large studio,” says EastWest Studio Manager Candace Stewart. “In Studio 2, a lot of TV themes, we did all of the music for The Monkees, The Partridge Family, I Dream of Jeanie, stuff like that. That’s where the Wrecking Crew worked a lot; Carol Kaye, Mike Melvoin, Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco. In Studio 3, most notably, The Mamas and The Papas and a lot of the album Pet Sounds was recorded there.”
In the early 80s, Putnam would sell the buildings to renowned engineer Allen Sides, who renamed the studio Ocean Way Recording. The studio continued its run of hosting incredible artists such as The Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Tom Petty. By this point, it was safe to say that the studio originally pioneered by Putnam was officially a mecca for artists, engineers, and producers alike. Under the direction of Sides, the same rooms that once hosted Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and Bing Crosby were now capturing the sonic flavors of Madonna, U2, and Michael Jackson.
As Sides turned his attention to studios in Nashville, he sold Ocean Way to Rick Adams; the facilities underwent another name change to Cello Studios. Keeping the momentum of its predecessors, Adams and Cello Studios hosted an even wider range of artists, including Blink-182, AFI, Muse, Weezer, and Jimmy Eat World. Cello continued to track hit after hit in the early 2000s but ultimately ended its run in 2005 when Rick Adams chose to close it down.
“What happened in 2005 when the studio closed was that it really was in danger,” says Candace. “I went to a lot of people to try and save it, and I’m grateful to all of them who tried to help me at that time. Thankfully, Doug Rogers came forward and he saved it and bought it in 2006.”
Making his name with the wildly popular EastWest Sounds virtual instrument and sample company, Doug Rogers had both the industry knowledge and financial backing to save the historic landmark. Over the next three years, the EastWest team painstakingly renovated the facilities, including new bathrooms, upgraded electrical, and several lounges to accommodate the clientele. “Doug had such an attention to detail,” states Candace. “The important part was that he had such a reverence for the acoustic designs for each studio, and he didn’t change the studios.”
EastWest reopened with a bang in 2009, quickly racking up credits for the Rihanna album Rated R, recorded in Studio 3, and Frank Ocean’s much-acclaimed Channel Orange. By the end of the second decade of the 2000s, EastWest had acted as a musical home to modern icons like Justin Bieber and Michael Bublé, and brought back familiar faces like AFI, Muse, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The tale of EastWest, and Cello Music, Ocean Way, and United Western Recorders before it, is nothing short of a staggering tale of musical excellence. This one building set the foundation for the history of recording and continues to break new ground sonically, and foster a culture of smashing successes.