Owl

Columbus

Owl promotional brochure, c. 1975. See below for more

Owl recording Studios was the brainchild of Youngstown Ohio's Tom Murphy. Tom moved to Columbus Ohio after high school and began assembling equipment in 1972 with partners Don Kyre and Mike Wheeler who had played in a Columbus band called The EbbTides. In September of 1972, Mike Wheeler was playing guitar with Osiris, and Tom brought his recording equipment to their gig (at Mr. Brown's Descent near Ohio State University) and recorded them. That introduced Tom to Osiris members Sterling Smith, Dan Lawson, and Dave Hessler, who would later become partners/stockholders in Owl.

Mike Wheeler pulled out of the Owl premise in the Summer of 1973, and Tom enlisted Sterling and his friends (The Load and The Grayps) to help him build the studio in a (then) 165 year old house that had once been a stagecoach station in northeast Columbus. The downstairs of the building was converted completely into a recording studio, with living quarters upstairs. In this country setting, they leased a Scully 8 channel tape recorder from Bill Hanley (Hanley Sound) that was one of two that had recorded the entire Woodstock festival. Jon Townley designed the logo (an Owl with tape reels for eyes) and Owl Recordings Studios Inc. was now in business.

Very much a studio "of and for musicians," a creative and supportive atmosphere produced a number of great records, and helped a few artists to national prominence. The first Owl "45" was The Load's "Now We'll Say We Tried," which Elektra records had liked in a demo two years earlier. While not representative of the band's larger output, it was still the milestone of the studio's first in house effort. Soon, clients were putting out records, either on Owl's label, or under their own label name.

A quick list (which will be expanded as we gather more info) included Barbara Paul's (Barbara and Paul Magree) album, Charlie Bleak, The Total Experience, Dwight Jones, The Buckeye Politicians, Frank Pierce, Raven ("Back To Ohio Blues)," One St. Stephen, Molkie Cole (from Cleveland), Darkhorse, Joy Token, Jeff Smith, Bill Foley, Tom Wachunas, Cleveland's "Polystyrene Jass Band," Ron Gillum and The Country Swingers, The Challengers, Ebony Expressions, "Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr" (released on the Capsoul label), and Paul Hlebkar. "Hot Ice" would go on to national success after their sessions at Owl. "A Good Example" was an album done by Terry Van Auker and Tom Zinser, who had enjoyed success in "The Wildlife" and "Owen B."

Dwight Yoakum was in high school when he did his first recording session at Owl, and of course, has gone on to great success as a national recording artist. Strongbow's recording session at Owl netted them an album on Southwind records, and Wee (Norman Whiteside) enjoyed regional prominence with two singles ("I'm All changed" and "Try Me)" and an album titled, "You can Fly On My Airplane."

In 1975, Owl acquired a 16 channel MCI recorder, and Tom was building a self-designed console to integrate with it.

Owl also did a number of on-location records of gospel music, recording church services and then sweetening and mixing at the wish of the clients. A number of those sessions resulted in albums that were sold within those congregations.

In contrast, The Shredded Wheat album, "The First Time You Masturbate" was produced in-house and sold through advertising in The National Lampoon. Off color and fairly tasteless, it did contain the energetic original song "Figbar Rock" (which had no off-color content), a staple of the latter day "Grayps" performances.

The Load recorded two albums at Owl, "Praise The Load" (released 1977), and "Load Have Mercy (never released on vinyl). Both have subsequently been released and digitally re-mastered by Laser's Edge, a progressive rock label.

WCOL-FM's Terry Wilson become a strong ally of Owl, and produced a show called "Homegrown In The Studio" which featured interviews and music of local talent, both from Owl and other studios.

Owl explored a venture to build a studio above The Bottom Line nightclub in New York City, but when the situation collapsed (late 1977), several of the partners decided to head west to Los Angeles. Robin Jenney and Ed Mikusa stayed in Columbus and anchored the Sunbury Road location for several more years, while Tom Murphy, engineer Alex Vertikoff, and The Load (band) headed west. The last years of Owl's Columbus output saw recording for the nascent Nikelodeon Channel, Spittin' Image--with vocal wunderkind Mimi Rousséau (who would ultimately release an album on MCA). and more artists to be listed soon. "The Ballad of Woody Hayes" and the Rainbow Canyon CB's "Franklin County Woman" were two very popular singles that got alot of airplay and sales in Owl's last days.

Tom Murphy's passion for recording evolved into what is now Track Record, a very successful studio in North Hollywood, California. Robin Jenney went on to engineer a number of platinum selling R & B records for the likes or Roger Troutman and Zapp, and others. Alex Vertikoff engineered for Terry Reid, The Rolling Stones, Lisa Hartman, and Philips & McCleod, and is now a published photographer.

Almost everyone who was involved directly with Owl has stayed in the music business or is still active in some phase of music.

Owl discography

45s

2551 (740501)

The Load

Now We'll Say We Tried / She Calls My Name

May '74

WMO 1

Wee

I'm All Changed / Stay

May '75

WMO 2

Wee

Try Me / Teach Me How

May '75

No #

the Price Singers

Lord Search My Heart / The Lord Says There's A Brighter Day Ahead

June '75 (Q 564-31)

1792

Gary Platt

If There's a Reason / You and Me Together

790

J. C. Highway (Richard Keller)

You Gotta Good Chance / This Song's For You

791

Ebony Expressions

Farewell My Love / Mighty Generation

Oct '76 (Q-6101-22)

FD-100

Jupiter's Release

Never Never (Never Met A Girl Like You) / Good Strokes

Nov '76 (Q-6111-9)

No #

Wee

Can You Boogie Real Hard / Find Me, Love Me

Aug '77 (Q-7084-22)

(Incentive label)

Associated Press

Jungle Walk / When He's Gone

(Incentive label) 401

Jeff Smith and Universe

The Hidden Secret / Back Home Again

August 1977

19772

Buddy Davis and the Sensational Showmen

Bomp / Pretty Music

August'77

197710

Columbus

Power And Feelin / Not Even A Woman

Oct ‘77

197711

Rainbow Canyon C.B.

Franklin County Woman / Please Mister Carter

Nov '77

19781

The Balloon Band

Very Well / Wait Until

Mar '78 (Q-8031-10)

VE-102

Dean Francis Funk - Harmonic (with Jupiter's Release Band)

Faces in the Street (Short Version) / Faces in the Street (long version)

May 1978 (Q-8051-19)

19796 (95-70)

Charles Solomon

What A Friend / Morning Train

1979

2370

Za-Brook

You Need It (We Wanna Funk) / ZAM (Funkin' In The Key Of E Minor)

Apr. 1979 (Q-904002)

LPs

482-19

Molkie Cole

S/T

Aug '74

5012-12

Shredded Wheat

S/T

Jan '75

553N4

One St. Stephen

S/T

May '75

No #

Tom Wachunas

Spare Changes

'75 (NR-6370)

No #

the Challengers

Country

'75? (M-102469/70)

65X111

Raven

Back To Ohio Blues

May '76

ST 2557 (Owl Intermedia)

Load

Praise the Load

Nov '76

7093N6 (Owl Intermedia)

A Good Example

Old Happy Places

1976

7124N17

Wee

You Can Fly On My Aeroplane

1977

2370

Noah's Aardvark

S/T

Nov '78 (Q-811098)