09 February, 2009
Tom Dowd was an American recording engineer and producer for Atlantic Records. He was credited with innovating the multi-track recording method. Dowd worked on a virtual "who's who" of recordings that encompassed blues, jazz, pop, rock and soul records.
Born in Manhattan, Dowd grew up playing piano, violin, tuba, and string bass. His mother was an opera singer and his father was a concertmaster.
Dowd graduated from Stuyvesant High School in June, 1942 at the age of 16. He continued his musical education at City College of New York. Dowd also played in a band at New York's Columbia University, where he became a conductor. He was also employed at the physics laboratory of Columbia University.
Dowd took a job at a classical music recording studio until he obtained employment at Atlantic Records. He soon became a top recording engineer at Atlantic Records and recorded popular artists such as Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Coasters, Ruth Brown, and Bobby Darin (Dowd recorded the legendary "Mack the Knife") and captured jazz masterpieces by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Thelonius Monk, and Charlie Parker. His first hit was Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd a Baked A Cake". It was Dowd's idea to cut Ray Charles' recording of "What'd I Say" into two parts and release them as the "A" and "B" sides of one 45 rpm single record.
Dowd worked as an engineer and producer from the 1940s until the beginning of the 21st century. He recorded albums by many artists including: Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Derek and the Dominos, Rod Stewart, Wishbone Ash, Cream, Lulu, Chicago, The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Bonamassa, The J. Geils Band, Meat Loaf, Sonny & Cher, The Rascals, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, James Gang, Dusty Springfield, Eddie Harris, Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Booker T. and the MGs, The Drifters, Otis Redding, The Coasters, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, Arlan Feiles, Joe Castro and Ruth Brown. Dowd received a Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in February 2002.
He died of emphysema on October 27, 2002 in Florida, where he had been living and working at Criteria Studios recording studio for many years.