Myles Cochrane/Tri-City Weekly
Posted: 12/20/2011 09:36:59 AM PST:
Humboldt's pro-grade recording studioHaving worked for decades with
recording-industry standouts, Jimmy and Susie Foot have been providing Humboldt
County recording artists with something that most rural counties consider an
improbable dream: a high-end, professional-grade studio to record music in a
Bongo Boy, the duo's multi-functioning recording studio in a residential
neighborhood of McKinleyville, has been hard at it in on the North Coast since
the beginning of 2002.
Producing a band can be a tricky thing, Jimmy Foot said. As someone who has a
ton of experience in different recording situations, someone who has guided the
album process successfully from start to finish numerous times and someone who
is himself a musician, I have a lot to offer those who are (recording) for the
first time. Beginning as a surf-rock musician in Southern California
during the mid-1960s, Jimmy Foot had quite a memorable experience in his first
go-around with a recording studio.
My band (The Argons) and I ended up being recorded by Bob Keane, who was
working with Bobby Fuller on 'I Fought The Law', he said. In the studio --
watching the lead guitar being overdubbed -- I was bitten by the recording
bug. After playing British-style rock with The Argons, the Bongo Boy
co-owner eventually discovered Bob Dylan, a find that would switch his focus to
folk music. He then moved to New York where he met his future wife, Susie First.
Through some of her contacts, I did some work as a studio musician for Paul
Vance ('Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini') and Leon Carr (famous
late jingle writer), Jimmy Foot said.
The husband and wife eventually left New York for San Francisco in 1970.
I had a band named Sparky that played lots of free concerts in Golden Gate
Park, Jimmy Foot said. We designed a sound system where we cut off a bit
of our long hair and glued it to the first lightweight Sennheiser headphones,
giving us in-ear monitoring in 1971. Everything went into a rag-tag mixing
system we devised with echo, fuzz, octave divider and reverb. We recorded over a
hundred gigs. My first record released was 'I Can See It' with psychedelic rock
band The Magic Mind in 1974.
In San Francisco,, Susie Foot eventually earned a gig as a staff engineer at
Wally Heider Recording. In between her own albums, she worked with LaBelle,
Herbie Hancock, The Pointer Sisters, Santana, Phoebe Snow and many others.
Back then, Susie and I worked together producing soul and funk with The
Athletes, Jimmy Foot said.
The Athletes actually featured Vicki Randle, a former singer with Kevin
Eubanks in The Tonight Show band.
Continuing their experimentation with multiple genres, Jimmy Foot became
interested in reggae.
I got to jam with Earl 'Chinna' Smith when Soul Syndicate was recording at
Wally Heider's, he said. I joined the first reggae band in the Bay area,
Jah Love, which became Reggae Jackson.
It was then that the Foots met producer Bob Johnston (Bob Dylan, Leonard
Cohen, Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel) and he became interested in Reggae
Jackson. The industry standout produced an album of theirs in 1980 that blended
reggae with African and Latin rhythms.
In 1985, Bob Johnston teamed up with Susie's mentor, colleague and engineer
Fred Catero to produce my next band, The Rhyth-O-Matics, Jimmy Foot said. We
opened for artists like Jimmy Cliff, Madness, Fishbone, Tito Puente, Etta James,
David Lindley, Olatunji and Mickey Hart at large venues.
In the 90s, while Jimmy Foot was touring as a sideman with Harvey Mandel
(electric guitarist who played with The Rolling Stones), Susie Foot returned to
the old Wally Heider building to manage Hyde Street Studios.
She set up an apprenticeship program and trained engineers and oversaw a
major studio renovation there, Jimmy Foot said.
Hyde Street Studios became the place to record rap and hip-hop. Susie Foot
booked Digital Underground, Tupak Shakur, Too Short and other Bay area rappers.
While on a vacation to Patrick's Point, Jimmy and Susie Foot would discover
a 'Rod Deal & The I-Deals' cassette at Singing Salmon Music in
Garberville. Shortly after that, The Rhyth-O-Matics hired a professional crew to
videotape their next Reggae on the River performance.
Jimmy & Susie produced Rod Deal's "Truth & Rights" album at Hyde
Street Studios in 1991, with Terri Becker engineering. That album has
become a classic, and is still being sold around the world.] (JF)
In the early 1990s, we started building our own personal studio and started
Bongo Boy Records to distribute Rhyth-O-Matics records, Jimmy Foot said.
As the technology became available in the late 1990s, we expanded the studio to
include replication with the first-ever robot with color-CD-printer available.
Inspired by the movie 'Rockers,' we liked the idea of making CDs hot off the
presses in small runs that artists could afford -- that concept became Bongo Boy
as we know it today.
Since moving to Humboldt, Jimmy Foot has played in Djialy Kunda Kouyate and
toured with Jah Sun, Ishi Dube, Ras Attitude and Joe King. (He's now in
local band, 'Asha Nan' - SF)
It's all those years of experience that Susie and Jimmy Foot pour into their
I try to never dismiss any sort of artistic request or idea from an
inexperienced artist because I know every artist has their own vision and
method, Jimmy Foot said. As a producer, the best times are a combination
of experience, experimentation, innovation and spontaneity.
In all of the albums the Foots have produced, they've rarely had any bad
experiences except for the occasional upset band member whose poorly played part
was removed from a mix. Since Bongo Boy found a home in McKinleyville in 2002,
the Foots have built quite the reputation and have adapted to industry changes.
Coming from San Francisco, we've been amazed at how many talented artists
there are here in Humboldt County, Jimmy Foot said. We've done 60-something full
albums since then and hundreds of single songs and demos. Artists can come in,
lay down basic tracks, go home and record that solo 357 times, then pop it back
here into the mix.
The producer said he's seen touring artists come in to do vocal tracks and
take the files with them, artists upload and download tracks for long-distance
sessions and that Bongo Boy does a lot of voice-overs for film projects.
We've kept up-to-date with equipment and technology which has evolved and
continues to evolve rapidly, Jimmy Foot said. When we moved here in 2002,
computer-based recording was in its infancy. Now everyone and his sister has a
multi-track recording system on their I-Phone. Recording artists in Humboldt,
like everywhere else, have become more technically savvy. One thing that
doesn't change is the creativity.
In addition to a quality, relaxed atmosphere to record music, Bongo Boy
offers a variety of services like CD/DVD duplication, CD package design and
layout, and transferring old formats like cassette and VHS to CD and DVD.
We have been hit -- like most businesses -- by rising costs and competitive
Internet pricing and lower profits, but we try to focus on the art and the
service, Jimmy Foot said. As an engineer, I want the process to be as
relaxed and natural as possible. I never want to say 'no' to an artist. I'm
there at their service, as a professional, to deal with technical issues so that
they can just play music and be creative. I had a Rap group here that had been
to a studio where the engineer told them they couldn't cuss. Something like that
would never happen at Bongo Boy!
And the euphoric experiences just keep on coming for Jimmy and Susie Foot.
I had two little girls book an hour in the studio to record their original
song for a local radio battle of the bands, Jimmy Foot said. These
girls were like 9 and 10. They came in like pros, asked for a hip-hop beat and
knocked out their song in a couple of takes. They came close to winning the
Recently, Bongo Boy updated to an exciting new platform with some new
processing tools like Melodyne editing and new MIDI functionality.
We recently released the 'Ska Santas' Christmas CD with up-tempo
instrumental-ska versions of songs like 'Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer,'' 'Let
It Snow,' 'Frosty,' 'Santa Claus is Coming To Town' and more.
The album is available locally at The Works, People's Records, and
Bongo Boy in McKinleyville provides current and up-and-coming recording
artists in Humboldt with a tool that most musicians consider a necessary step in
the path to stardom. Susie and Jimmy Foot even served on the Board of Governors
for NARAS (the Grammy organization), and Jimmy Foot taught audio for the film
department at Humboldt State University from 2001 to 2002.
It's safe to say that artists working with the Foots will be walking to the
To learn more, visit bongoboystudio.com.
Check out Jimmy Foot's article about his work with famous Dylan/Cash/Cohen
producer Bob Johnston in TapeOp Issue #80, Nov/Dec 2010.
If you want to check out some of Jimmy's original music, go to www.cdbaby.com/jimmyfoot