Wachteligence: Dinky Dawson Loud and Clear

By A.J. Wachtel
June 2010

Dinky Dawson follows a path of greatness with his aural innovations and celebrity: from twisting knobs during England's 1960's music explosion to becoming soundman extraordinaire for Fleetwood Mac and J.Geils to bringing state-of-the-art equipment to the Channel and helping to establish it as a premier performance space in the 1980's, it's clear that this legendary limey has countless compelling and mythical stories.

AJ Wachtel: As a young sound engineer in England you worked for a famous sound company whose equipment was used on the roof of Seville Row for The Beatles' last live performance. What did you do during their performance and what do you remember most about that show?

Dinky Dawson: I think it is time we straightened the history here. I might have dropped off some gear but I never saw the performance. I was busy and more interested in Fleetwood Mac's needs at this time. This is the time when Peter Green was influencing the music scene including The Beatles. Check out “Here Comes the Sun.” The best time to have seen The Beatles live was right after they came back from Germany, back on February 12th, 1963 at the Azena Ballroom Gleadless; tickets 6 shillings. They were so tight as a band and my friend Peter Stringfellow told me the first fee Brian Epstein asked for was 50 Pounds Sterling for them to play. It peaked at 100 pounds but Peter finally paid 85 pounds and everyone was happy. It was excellent and wild at the same time.

AJ: Every band performing live today owes you a debt for being one of the first soundmen to mix a live show from out in the audience rather than offstage or down in the orchestra section. How and why did this change take place and what was your role in it?

DD: My first trip to the USA mixing from a booth upstairs off to the right of the stage at the Fillmore East was eye opening. Hanley Sound from Boston, the contractor at the Fillmore, and John Chester (tech engineer) had run balanced line microphone cables attached to a huge box of transformers at the stage end and mixing console. This was to send the microphones that were high impedance down a balance line so no interference occurred. The problem with this set up is it is too heavy to transport around on gigs. During this tour, I met this mover and shaker Howie Harwood from Shure Microphone Company. He had brought to the gig in Detroit a new set of microphones called the Unidine series that had a small transformer built into it and this changed live entertainment forever. By the time we played Boston again I had my friend Marshall Goldberg, the Tea Party soundman, pick me up this new one cable with 16 pairs of cables individually wrapped and made by Belden Corporation. He also picked up an aluminum box that would host 16 female (at that time Cannon connectors) now a standard called XLR and 16 male in-line connectors. I then wired everything to make a 100ft 16 pair multicore snake. I really built this to get away from the stage and Peter (Green) throwing his foot pedal at me when he hears something he doesn't like in the mix.

AJ: You were head sound engineer for the Channel. A huge stage and your own great sound system. Tell me about some good blues shows that were there.

DD: So many good ones, but my favorite was the Charlie Watts Orchestra. Very different from the blues Stones and not as raw...clean, precise musicians. I also enjoyed Albert Collins and Roomful Of Blues with the Persuasions on 6/1/88.

AJ: You were soundman for Fleetwood Mac and J.Geils when they were two of the top blues bands. What other blues artists have you been involved with nationally and locally?

DD: B.B King tour of Russia 1979 and one nighters with blues artists since Fleetwood Mac like John Hammond and Bonnie Raitt.

AJ: What are you up to these days? Recently, you were back with Spanky Macfarland (Spanky and Our Gang). Do you still work with her?

DD: I am working with Spanky and the New Gang. Jim Carrick, Karen Dumont, Chris Matheos and Eddie Ponder. Karen is “Ma Blues and Gospel,” she fronts a 65 person choir in Arcada; Jim is a top Florida folk artist and he can play a guitar to say the least. We are at a Beatles convention signing autographs at the Meadowlands on July 31st, and at B.B. King's place in New York the first week of August and then to Las Vegas and L.A for a couple of gigs. Denny Dias and Gene Parsons will join us on these shows. I'm also putting together a Channel Reunion concert series at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA on September 20th, October 1st, 15th and 29th

strong>AJ: If I asked you your top few favorite blues shows you've ever mixed what would they be, nationally and locally, and what musicians have you really been proud to have been involved with?

DD: Fleetwood Mac, B.B. King and Duster Bennett; Royal Albert Hall and throughout England in 1969. Locally, Bonnie Raitt, John Prine in Lenox, MA. John Hammond, Central Park, New York, 1973. I would say everyone I have worked with were special in their own way. All Fleetwood Mac are special. John and Mick are the best rhythm section for blues and rock you have every heard. Peter Green, the most incredible blues guitarist in the 60's.

AJ: How has the blues scene changed over the years and what's going on right now in your eyes?

DD: Blues hasn't changed at all. It still says the same messages with the same beat and some people are better at interpreting the blues than others and that creates new stars. Blues travels better since satellite radio started and small intimate coffee style venues are catering to the blues.

AJ: Any strange stories you want to share about the blues and music worlds?

DD: On one occasion, for raw blues inspiration, Lemmy from Motorhead ordered for his dinner a plate of Ben Wa Balls, vibrating dildos and a few more marital aides served by a shapely model. That was the most electrifying set Lemmy did at the Channel.

Questions or comments for AJ? Contact him at [email protected]

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