The Styling Section Music Committee

by Stan Mott

Upon moving into the new Tech Center Styling building in 1955 our ears were assailed by demented Musak background noise pumped into studios. It was Lawrence Welk et al tweedly-doodling. It was horrifically distracting to we designers. We’d turn it off. Clay modelers turned it on. We turned it off and removed the knob. Someone got long-nosed pliers and turned it back on. This went on a while…

Until Robert Cumberford and I found a cheaper music company that piped in better music. We proposed to management they go the cheaper route. They did. With the money saved we proposed we form a Music Committee, Robert and me, to buy inspiring music. Management agreed. With company funds, Robert and I bought and played over the company sound system what pleased us; Bartok, “Victory at Sea”, “American In Paris”, “New World Symphony” and other crashers. It was most inspirational! It was the clay modelers who turned the sound off. We used the long-nosed pliers. Then I got a phone call from Mr Earl’s secretary.

“This is Mr Earl’s secretary.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“That music is awfully loud and distracting. Will you please take care of it?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll make sure it’s the first thing on our agenda when the Music Committee meets.”

“I said that music is awful and will you do something…”

“Yes, ma’m, first thing when we meet…”


Another reason we didn’t last long at GM.


Studio Music Stories from Dean’s Garage, The Future Is Back

Let’s Turn It Off

There were always studio music wars. Someone would bring in a stereo or they’d buy one out of the coffee fund. Station battles followed. Seems like in the morning the music would be boring but non-controversal. Then after lunch sometimes Ted Schroeder would put on jazz. Jazz wasn’t too popular, but Ted was the assistant and got his way. When Ted would leave the room for some reason, one of the classical buffs might use the opportunity to put on the classical station. Even though it added a touch of needed class to the atmosphere, it was liked less than jazz. I remember Jack Orava hollering, “What is this?” Nobody usually answered. Probably nobody knew. Then Jack would follow up with, “If nobody knows what it is, let’s turn it off.”


Opus Whatever

After a classical piece ended there was always a respectful pause. The announcer would come on and say that was such-and-such, Opus whatever, played by XYZ philharmonic orchestra conducted by so-and-so. One time, after a piece ended but before the announcer came on, someone hollered, “Now they’re gonna tell us why we were supposed to have liked that.” By the way, Rock was never tolerated.


Is That All There Is?

In Olds One studio some nefarious sculptor recorded Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” back-to-back on both sides of a 90 minute tape. The first couple of weeks listening to that depressing song played for hours on end were the hardest. Haven’t heard it? Click here.

  1. George Tingom


  2. Carl Kofron

    That’s funny—I never thought that the studios had piped-in music! I just thought you guys just drew and collaborated on your designs. How about that.

  3. Ramon

    Lucky you could have something, anything decent. I once was forced to work in a civil servant position where “smooth soul” was the sonic coin of the realm. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it weren’t the same songs at the same time every day. Even now I get aggravated when I hear Stevie Wonder warble “Ribbon In The Sky”….

    That’s pretty funny.—Gary

  4. Glen Durmisevich

    Duet for Violin and Air Hose.
    One of the best GM music stories is when very talented Elia Russinoff would bring in his violin and play a classical tune. One day he did a duet with one of the modelers, Gene Kelly, who was proficient at controlling the sound from the air hose by pinching his fingers.

  5. mark kaski

    mark kaski

    I worked with Elia Russinoff for several years, who along with being a great designer, was a very good, classically trained, violin player. I remember that he was not too fond of the jazz music that the chief liked and would constantly change the station. The chief never knew who was doing it, and would get mad and change it back. This went back and forth for a long time and was great entertainment for the rest of us in the studio. Russ would finally win the war when he would bring his violin in and play for us in the studio.

    Russ would later be put in Pres Brunning’s adv. studio in the basement, along with Charlie Nitus, who made violins. Russ would try them out in the stair wells where all the walls were tile—that would cause the music to reverberate throughout the building, sounding fantastic. There were times when 15 to 20 people would be standing in the stairs listening at lunch. Outside visitors walking down the halls would get a strange look on their face, wondering what was going on, but would be enjoying the music.

    Another favorite place for him to play was in the bathrooms. The walls in there were tile, too, and Russ would go into the men’s room and serenade violin music to unsuspecting people in the stalls. This also created a crowd of people in the bathroom listening, and then clapping.

  6. Chris In Australia

    I got tired of asking/telling/yelling at my guys to turn that **** down. I fitted a variable resistor and hid it in the speaker.

    Set it to a volume I was comfortable with and reassembled it. They could turn it up to 11 (thanks Spinal Tap!) on the radio, but the volume stayed where I wanted it.

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