Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


LIGHT, Enoch

(b 18 August 1907, Canton OH; d 31 July 1978, NYC) Bandleader, recording entrepreneur, label boss. He led Enoch Light and the Light Brigade in theatres, hotels, radio etc; toured Europe; his biggest hit was 'Summer Night' '37 with vocal by Johnny Muldowney, on Vocalion. Later he did studio work on violin, including Your Hit Parade on radio; he recorded versions of current hits for sale in dimestores, and made the charts on his Grand Award label '57 with dixielandish 'Roaring Twenties' albums by the 'Charleston City All-Stars'.

Light also recorded for Grand Award the incredibly versatile pianist Dick Hyman, during a fad for 'honky tonk' piano, as Knuckles O'Toole, Rip Chord, Willy 'The Rock' Knox, and other names. Hyman said that Light released some of the same recordings under more than one name!

Light was always interested in the technical side, and Grand Award bragged about 'Phase X', which was nothing more than the phantom center channel used in stereo mixing to avoid a hole-in-the-middle effect. He formed the subsidiary Command Performance label with George Schwager in 1959, soon shortened to Command, and sold both labels to Am-Par (ABC Paramount) in October that year. Several volumes of Persuasive Percussion, Provocative Percussion etc on Command were top five LPs, also bongo records by 'Los Admiradores' etc. using an exaggerated ping-pong effect with first-class engineering. He was one of the first to record on 35mm movie film instead of tape, an advance at the time, allowing the capture of a wider frequency range with less attenuation on the master tape, the technique also used by Everest and Mercury. Command recorded guitarist Tony Mottola, and first-class sets of Beethoven and Brahms symphonies by William Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, as well as Bruckner, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff etc. Light was associated with Command until '65, recording big-band sets, movie themes and so on. When ABC put out some quadraphonic records, they were on Command, but quad was a flop. Unfortunately ABC was operated by chowderheads. Large quantities of Command records were badly pressed and dumped c.1970 at bargain prices; the Pittsburgh's recordings then disappeared and the orchestra could do nothing. Steinberg said in an interview, 'Gangsters! That's what they are, gangsters!' Later in the mid-1970s ABC threw away its multi-channel master tapes to save space, so even if Steinberg's work for Command is ever rescued, it will never again sound as good as Light intended.

Light had started again with his third label, Project 3 in 1966, finally responsible for more than 30 chart LPs '57-70 with acts like the Terry Snyder All-Stars and the Command All-Stars as well as the Light Brigade, Enoch Light and the Brass Menagerie, etc; but he also brought Mottola with him, and recorded Ralph Sutton, Pearl Bailey, Bobby Hackett, Stan Freeman. Much of what Light did would be described today as 'bachelor pad' music, but as we have seen he also aimed higher. The PR 7000 series presented Renaissance music, such as Scherzi Musicali, 16 songs by Claudio Monteverdi, some of them never before recorded, released in 1967, the 400th anniversary of the composer's birth: the New York Chamber Soloists were joined by vocalists including the beautiful light tenor voice of Hugues Cuénod (d 6 December 2010 in Vevey, Switzerland at age 108), with notes by James Goodfriend, then music editor of Stereo Review magazine, and printing the lyrics to the songs in both Italian and English. Whatever Light did, he tried to go first-class, with the packaging as well as the engineering.