RIP: Robert Lindahl, audio engineer for Kingsmen, Paul Revere & Raiders

Robert Lindahl

It’s unlikely that any major newspaper will have an article about the historical significance of the role Robert Lindahl played in the creation of one of the most cherished musical recordings in American history. As an audio engineer, he recorded one of the great archetypes of rock and roll music, yet in his hometown newspaper, his death was given a minimal mention. Will the rest of the world pay attention? I have no idea, but here at the LOUIE REPORT blog, I’m happy to acknowledge his role within the LOUIE universe.

Robert Lindahl died on January 9, 2006 at the age of 83, a victim of a congenital lung disease known as Alpha-1 Antitrysin Deficiency. In his hometown paper, the Oregonian, a very small obituary on him mentioned that he was born in 1922 in Portland, graduated from Scappoose High School and was president of Northwestern Inc. Motion Pictures & Recording Studios for about 40 years. This obituary also mentioned that he married Marlene Gregory in 1949, who outlived him, had two daughters, one son, two brothers, three sisters, and six grandchildren.

Of course, such a brief overview only provides a small fraction of his life story. In the early 1960s, Northwestern Inc. was considered one of the finest recording studios in Portland, Oregon. During this period there was a local high school band that performed regularly at a local teen dance club known as “The Chase” operated by KISN disc jockey Mike Korgan aka “Ken Chase.” The big song that was performed by ALL the bands in the Pacific Northwest region was an obscure Richard Berry song made popular by Rockin’ Robin Roberts and the Fabulous Wailers, a successful rock band based in Tacoma, Washington. This little high school band decided they wanted to record their own version of this song, so they pestered club owner Ken Chase, who also happened to be their manager, to make this happen. Ken Chase scheduled a Saturday morning session at the Northwestern Inc. recording studio, and Robert Lindahl, owner of the studio, agreed to engineer the session.

The actual recording session was far from an idyllic collaboration. There was some hostility as Chase and Lindahl shared some heated words as both men had very different ideas about how the final product should should sound. Robert Lindahl was used to taking a more traditional approach in the recording studio, while Ken Chase had something else in mind with a radical mix that de-emphasized the voice.

Truth be told, the Kingsmen were originally very disapointed with the end result, as they thought it was a very sloppy take of the song, recorded poorly. After the session ended, the band was shocked to discover they would have to pay for Ken Chase’s production of both “LOUIE LOUIE” and the B-side, “Haunted Castle.” Apparently, Ken Chase didn’t feel that he needed to pay the $36 (or $50, depending on who you talked to) owed to Lindahl, as it was an expense that should be paid directly by the band.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of folklore spread about how this recording came to be, often with the false claim that lead singer Jack Ely sang into a microphone suspended from the ceiling. There were only a few people in the recording studio that day, and I’m fortunate to have interviewed most of them for my upcoming MEANING OF LOUIE documentary.

Robert Lindahl not only recorded the Kingsmen’s version of LOUIE LOUIE, he also recorded a version of the song by Paul Revere & the Raiders, another local band from Portland, Oregon, mere days apart!

As a special treat, I’ve decided to share some video excerpts from my Robert Lindahl interview, so you can hear a small sample of his side of the story, direct from the original source. Enjoy!

View Quicktime clip (1.5 MB)

View MPEG-4 clip (9.8MB)

View Windows Media clip (7.9 MB)

9 comments to RIP: Robert Lindahl, audio engineer for Kingsmen, Paul Revere & Raiders

  • Erin Connelly

    Hi there,
    I’m an employee of the National College of Natural Medicine, and I work in a building that used to be Bob Lindahl’s recording studio. My co-workers and I are trying to figure out what recordings were made at our building (corner of Hooker and Naito in Portland, OR), and I wondered if you had any info about Northwestern, Inc. after it moved from their Broadway location to the Hooker/Naito (or Front, as it was called in those days)location. We thought that Louie, Louie might have been recorded here, but after some sleuthing, my co-worker Kevin read an interview with Lindahl that placed the recording just a few months before Northwestern Inc. moved. Any info you might have about Northwestern Inc.’s activities after Louie, Louie would be much appreciated – we’re all obsessing quite a bit.
    Thanks!

  • Steve Veenstra

    Hello,
    I had dealings with Bob Lindahl in April 1976 when I bought Nortwestern’s 3M 8 track tape recorder. I still have it. It seems like Bob was getting out of the recording business and just wanting to do duplication services. Not sure.
    Let me know that you received this E-mail.
    Steve

  • Steve Veenstra

    Do not know if my message got through. I had dealings with Bob Lindahl in April 1976 when I purchased Northwesterns 3M 8 track recorder. I still have it.
    Steve

  • Ken

    I worked as an intern around 1971-73 in that studio. I used to practice splicing half inch tape with a razor blade on a cutting block.
    I had heard louie louie was recorded there at one time…one of the engineers told me

  • Łomża Callado

    It’s super webpage, I was looking for something like this

  • 劈腿

    I personally believe there is a knowlege to writing articles that only a few posses and frankly you have it , you genius.2

  • Bill Western

    I was “afternoon drive” DJ and also music director of KISN. I also played many record hops and dances around the area. I booked The Righteous Bros, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jan and Dean, Tiny Tony and the Statics, Merilee Rush, The Tokens and many others. I also presented nearly weekly “record hops” and some of these featured local high school bands including “The Kingsmen”.
    All of the KISN DJs did these dances and we got dozens of free commercials on the station to advertise the events. Tom Murphy was the greatest DJ KISN ever had but he could not usually participate in the largesse because he had to be on the air in the evenings. I, on the other hand, was the most successful of all of the others in these endeavors because I had the best sound equipment. My best friend, Gordon Sorensen, worked at Otts “HI-FI” store and outfitted me with AR-3 and JBL Speakers and 4 60w Dynakit power amps. I had the power to blow the doors off any venue when most DJs were using a turntable with a speaker in the lid.
    I played a “record hop” at the Trapadero ballroom in Vancouver, WA and the kids asked me to play a record taken out of their jukebox…they told me if I played it “everyone would get up and dance”. The record was Richard Berry’s version of Louie Louie.
    I didn’t mean to, but I accidentally mixed it in with my set of records and took it back to KISN. The next Monday, while sorting the disks back into the music library I came across the Richard Berry record and decided to play it on my radio show that afternoon. Well, the phones went wild and everyone wanted to know where to get a copy. I called the “One Stop” distributor in Seattle and found it was no longer available but they had about 1,500 copies of the song by Rockin’ Robin Roberts and the Wailers on Etiquette records. I told them they’d better send them to Portland. (I understand they sold out in two days).
    A few weeks later The Kingsmen,” a group of kids from Beaverton High, worked as an intermission act for one of my record hops. Of course by then everyone in the Portland area wanted to hear “Louie Louie” and they learned it by listening to the copy of the Rockin Robin Roberts version. That’s why their song is a near mirror image of that version rather than the Richard Berry original.
    Later they asked me how to record a copy of the song and one Saturday in early April of ’63 we went to a small studio a few blocks up the street from KISN studio and recorded the song. It was recorded in a tiny room on a Magnicorder PT6-series 6, with sel-sync. The recorder was housed in two brown colored field cases, one for electronics and the other for tape drive. For some reason I recall the tape machine was set on the floor. The microphone was a Shure 545 microphone hanging in the center of the group. (I remember it was the same kind of mike I used in the record hops). It wasn’t a very elaborate setup and, as I recall, there may have been something equivalent to egg crate material on the walls. The studio was only about $20 per hour and although there was a mistake in the recording I just thought it was going to be a recording for their folks. After the session I left the tape with the band and headed back to the station. If I’d had any idea how many times I was going to be hearing the song in my lifetime. I’d have probably put up another $20 for a retake. I will say, that even after nearly 50 years, I still get a thrill whenever I hear it because I was there when music history was made.

  • It’s really hard to know exactly what happened that fateful day in 1963. Bill Western comments that the microphone used was a Shure 545. This post from the Neumann website indicates that the microphone used was a Neumann U47.

  • EP

    Just for the record, in all the interviews I’ve conducted for the documentary project, I’ve NEVER heard any of the Kingsmen, their producer Ken Chase, or engineer Robert Lindahl mention the name “Bill Western.”

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