Saturday, December 29, 2012


Just a few days into their second US tour, The Beatles rolled into Atlanta to play to 34,000 people. Opening the trip with their famous Shea Stadium performance to an estimated 56,000 screamers, not a note could be heard over the din.

Atlanta Stadium would be different because of one key factor: Baker Audio, and its Georgia Tech-educated boss, F.B. “Duke” Mewborn. Mewborn handled sound for the show, and his set-up included something that every band utilizes today but was unheard of in the mid sixties.


“There were no monitors anywhere else on earth at that time,” said Red Wheeler, a legendary Atlanta rock and roll sound man, now living in Vidalia.

Aiming speakers back toward microphones just wasn't done because of the shrieking feedback loop that would ensue. Mewborn got around this by employing cardioid mics which had a restricted pattern that rejected ambient sound coming from the sides or below. For special events at the stadium Baker had included four Altec 1570 field-level amplifiers, each cranking out about 175 watts of vaccuum tube-powered juice, or about 500 watts in all. These he used to power two stacks of Altec A7 speakers, each with 15-inch woofers.

Never before had the Beatles been able to hear what they were playing onstage. The show includes a couple of between-song remarks from both Paul and John concerning the sound. They were probably pleasantly surprised at having a frame of reference in terms of what was being projected out front. Despite this luxury, the age of modern sound technology in large venues was still a few years away. The degree of shoddiness with which the group had to cope with for these big gigs would never be tolerated today. It certainly influenced their decision to quit touring the following year.

The Atlanta show is a step down in fidelity from the Hollywood Bowl tapes but it is an interesting listen. As with all of their shows from this period, the crowd noise is on par with a 747...

No comments: