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Stone's Crossing : No Contest

Jeff Purvis' Facebook Post 2016-03-18

In the early 70’s my band, Stones Crossing, was looking for a place to record some of our original tunes. We didn’t have a lot to spend, and we found 700 West Studios through a classified ad in the paper. We went out one Sunday afternoon to the old farmhouse to have a look, introduced first to a three-year old blond kid painting a cat bright yellow on the couch with poster paint. It turned out to be an auspicious entry into the slightly askew realm of Moe Whittemore- inventor, composer, musician, and wizard-in-residence. For the next few years we became regulars at the studio, recording, mixing, and sometimes just hanging out, but always amused – and occasionally exasperated – by the antics and escapades of its proprietor.

Moe had been a successful engineer with RCA, but left in order to pursue his dream of recording local artists. It’s hard to believe, but Indianapolis actually had a thriving community of musicians and composers at one time, long ago killed off by the homogenizing toxin of loud corporate radio and properly-coiffed small-dicked producers. Moe was there from the beginning, and his home-styled discount facility provided many of us opportunities we never would have had otherwise. During our tenure some of us sold a few songs and records, and a few of us were signed to national recording contracts. Some did better than others, but each of us benefitted from Moe’s unique talents and personality.

For example, he wasn’t above including his own production choices in a mix, whether we wanted it or not. He was never loathe to hide his opinions of a tune or performance, but went to great lengths to work with artists he thought worth the effort. He elevated flatulence to a performance art, the glint of mischief in his eye ever-present. It gleamed especially when he’d caught you in one of his practical jokes.

I showed up for a vocal session one afternoon, and he pointed to a grocery bag in the control room.

“That’s for you,” he said, deadpan.

“Oh?” I replied. “A gift?” I picked the heavy-ish bag up and peered inside, my eyes adjusting. I bellowed as the unmistakable shapes of a couple dozen severed chicken feet became clear, mixing with their metallic clammy smell.

“What the hell?” I shrieked as I threw the bag down.

“Yeah,” he guffawed. “We butchered a bunch of chickens this morning. I kept those for you.”

And he had. I don’t know why. I certainly didn’t want them and made him get rid of them before the session started. But that was life working with the mad carnival-clown genius at 700 West.

Eventually our paths diverged and after twelve years the studio closed down. Moe still contacts me from time-to-time. He called last week and sent me a CD of some of his most recent compositions. He’s still amazing and full of hilarious, eccentric fire. My life was incalculably brightened by its blaze…chicken feet and all.

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