Matt: 00:00:00 Welcome to the mix with Matt and Dan. Today. I have a very special guest. My father, Rusty Brutsché. Say Hi. Hello Matt. How are you doing today? Good, good, good. I’m glad you’re here. This is something we’ve been planning for a long time and I’m really excited that we are actually getting to make this recording the first of what I hope to be many. One of the things we hope to share today is you. One of the things that you’ve done in your life is actually live in incredibly interesting life with lots of different famous people around you. A lot of really cool technology that you were able to be passionate about your entire career. And what I’m most importantly going to focus on during our time together, uh, is really the business side of this, right? The more, uh, the people who listened to the mix, the marketing mix, they care about business.
Matt: 00:00:53 We care about entrepreneurism. I think of you as to things. I think if you, as a pure entrepreneur, and I think if you as a product guy, right, you invented how many products over your career with the company invented? Maybe, I don’t know. Twenty, 30, 40, 50, I guess. Yeah. And you had successes and had failures and successes were worldwide, right? That’s right. In some of your products that you built in the seventies and eighties are still being used in the market today. Let’s try to repeat the Vo Five, which is a automated stage light that we developed is still being used in television and in, in Los Angeles. Right. And just to give a little bit of a summary, we’re going to dive into all of these details and more a Rusty Brutsché, was the founder of Shoko. Right. And the founder of very light show was the one of the first touring sound companies and the seventies and eighties.
Matt: 00:01:51 I was actually co founder with two other co founder that we’ll get that right. And we’ll make sure we mentioned their names. Your cofounders were Jack commies and Jack Maxon. Right. And so at the time you guys were building a sound systems in your garage for the touring, the rock and roll touring market. Right. And so you ended up tutoring personally. You were as advertised. You were the sound guy for leds up. I mixed all of led Zeppelin shows from 1971 until 1980. Okay. And then Jacques Maximin was on tour with three dog night or maximum was on tour or three dog night. He also did a Paul Mccartney’s 1976 wings tour. Yeah. He also did the bgs tour in 1980. He, uh, he mixed the rolling stones, several tours of the rolling stones in the seventies. Yeah. And James Taylor, he was excellent. Mr. Some people, we’ve heard about it, the viewers and the listeners here, they’re, they’ve heard these, these names.
Matt: 00:02:49 Yes. The thing that I find the most interesting and you know, there’s probably people who care about what happened backstage that’s not that interesting to me. There’s probably some that happened with the bands and all of those little historical notes. Unfortunately for the listeners, if they’re listening for salacious stories that happened during those times, it’s not going to happen. Right? The things that we’re going to focus on is how does a group of guys who are building stuff in a garage in Dallas, Texas in 1969, somewhere around there start a company that goes worldwide and innovate some of the most profound innovations in that space, that really, that really haven’t been innovated past very much. How did it all happen?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:03:38 It’s really been at the right place at the right time is probably the simplest way to say it, right? Um, we, uh, we were all involved in music and sound and the two sort of came together really with woodstock in 1969.
Matt: 00:03:58 Yeah. But when I think of you guys being interested in sound, there’s a lot of people who are interested in sound, right? I mean there’s a. If there’s more of anything in the world, there’s probably more sound guys. Then there is enough sound to go around. Yeah.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:04:14 Why you? Well, I think is because I actually built sound systems from an early age when I, uh, I was born in 1945 and I grew up in Dallas. My Dad was a and mother were born, both born in Dallas, but my father was in the army air force and in the World War II and I was born in an army air force hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi. And January first 1945 and then we moved to a back to Dallas for a shortly after I was born. So I was basically raised in Dallas and consider myself a, a dallasite. And I was raised in the fifties so you know, when I was five years old, that was 1950 and when I was 15 years old it was 1960. So I’ll live the ozzie and Harriet lifestyle. And my father worked for the phone Dallas for at and t was an executive and we just lived that 19 fifties life that you see on television with, you know, she relays and pink cadillacs.
Matt: 00:05:20 The only way that I can relate to that is, I mean, I understand it from the movies and the TV shows and all of that kind of differentiation in my world. My generation specifically was we were, had an analog childhood, digital adulthood. Right. So we kind of saw all of those transitions and I think that that’s probably as parallel to kind of the dichotomy of what you went through. Well,
Rusty Brutsche: 00:05:43 we were still very much analog, you know, everything was vacuum tubes and uh, there was the idea of something digital didn’t exist well until probably in the nineties, you know, I was, you know, way long before the digital revolution yet. So tell me more about how you got your first interaction with music. Well, I always liked music. I liked rock and roll music. And um, when I was a 15 years old in 1960, I met a friend named Charlie grable who, uh, was a guitar player. He, he, he had a fender stratocaster guitar and um, I would just totally drawn to the whole idea of playing guitar. And so, um, he was forming a band and he said, well, we need a bass player, so I’ll teach you how to play bass. So I said, okay, is that how music was kind of passed around?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:06:42 Yeah. Or is that weird? Like now you would just go to an instructor like you would? Yeah, well there wasn’t, it wasn’t any way to do and you just had to pick it up and learn. And there was no instructor economy. No, there wasn’t. And uh, so I, I, uh, I found a, used a fender precision bass and offender basement amplifier. A friend or someone had one around and they were offering it for sale for $400. So I went and asked my father if he would loan me our fee would guarantee a loan for $400, I could buy this maze. And it was a huge amount of money. And shockingly, he agreed when I had no, I didn’t know how to play it or anything. I just said, well, I just want to do it and I really think I can do this. So he let me do it.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:07:33 So I bought it and uh, Charles and taught me the basic, got me going with a few basic runs and stuff and what I, what I think about started playing. Yeah. When I think about the stories you’ve told me in the past, I know that this is a big moment because of how frugal your father was as true dad was. He was, uh, he wasn’t cheap. He was just frugal. He just made every penny count and he wasn’t one to spend money on anything frivolous, you know, we didn’t have a radio in the car until, you know, for years because he didn’t want to pay the extra money for a radio. But, uh, he, for some reason he let me do it and uh, it really changed my life, I would say is probably one of the most pivotal moments in my whole life because it got me going towards being a musician and playing rock and roll music.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:08:25 And uh, the very first song we learned, we found a drummer and we found another guitar players. We had this four man group. We called ourselves the bills and uh, we started with the walk, don’t run by the ventures. That was the first song we ever learned and uh, we used to play it over and over again and then we kind of branched out into the music of the day, buddy holly songs and all of the surfer songs of the day. And we started actually getting gigs and playing. I started playing weekend gigs, a fairly early on earning money, so we would earn anywhere from $50 to $100 a piece playing two nights on the weekends and that was a lot of money back then. So I was able to pay for everything I wanted out of my earnings from playing music. So for whatever reason, genetic timing life, like whatever the world, the way the world spends, you’ve always been able to monetize the music business.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:09:26 Yeah. For some reason we, we, uh, I mean a lot to do with that. Like why do you think you were able to do that? Well, I think we, uh, had a, we had a vision for wanting to play and um, we really wanted to earn the money. It was a, it was a great way to, to, uh, to pay our way through high school. And then I was able to buy my first car with my earnings from the band and then when I got to college I was able to pay my way through school playing on the weekends because as we got bigger, bigger bands and better bands, we got paid more money so we were up where we are in maybe two or three or $400 a piece on a weekend. And uh, so that it made a, it made for a lot. And it also taught me early on about keeping up with the money part of it because I kept all the books and kept track of all the expenses and issued the paychecks to the band members and tracked all the joint expenses and allocated.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:10:32 Each man’s shared his stuff. And I kept all those ledgers. In fact, that’s still got some of them. Were you like an inherently like responsible kid or. I was responsible and always had, I was always good with numbers and um, it always drove me crazy. Um, let’s actually, I’ll tell you how I got into that doing the money is that one of the other guys in the group was more of an accountant type, but um, and so he didn’t, he started out keeping the books and we found out after awhile that he wasn’t keeping the books. He was just taken all the receipts and putting them in a drawer. And so there wasn’t any record keeping going on. Yeah. And what I know about you is that, that just drove me as the Zurich. Yeah. Not gonna worry. There was a second a flux in your life, right?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:11:22 That’s right. So I took over the books and a straightened all that out and kept up with it and also a loved sound and I had started out with a put together kind of recruit a home home system. It wasn’t stereo when I first started. It was mono because stereo hadn’t been invented yet and it was a very simple system, but had a turntable and amplifier and a preamp in one speaker. And, uh, that’s what I would use to learn music. Whenever we wanted to learn a song, we would buy the record. There was record stores down on lover’s lane, there was a record store and had all these listening rooms in it and this huge collection of records. And so we would go down there and hang out in this record store and we would go in those listening rooms and we would listen to all these different records.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:12:20 And then if we liked one, we would buy it and take it home. And then I would play it on this system I had and I would teach myself the baseline. And, uh, I remember Freddie king had an album called hideaway. He was a blues guitarist that grew up in Dallas and we, uh, knew him fairly well and I’m actually played shows with him on occasion. And he had an album called hideaway, which was all instrumental songs. Hideaway was one of the songs and there’s a bunch of others and I learned all those songs and I played that album hundreds and hundreds of times. I played it so many times. I literally wore the grooves off the album. It was totally slick when I was done with it. And, uh, it was one of those albums that most every guitar player of my generation that you talked to you I’m sure will tell you that freddy kings hideaway album was one of the cornerstones of their career, that they learned how to play all those songs and that was part of their teaching moments.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:13:20 So you kind of picked up the bass, not because, you know, if it had been, what if the guy had said, you know, I really need somebody to play the oboe. Yeah, right. I mean, you know, I mean, you would have gotten through the oboe. Right. I would have, if, if, if the rock’n’roll players at the time had been playing the oboe, wouldn’t have done it if there wasn’t any Freddie king out there. A little image. Right? Little, uh, yeah. Uh, you know, kind of the. That’s actually a good sociological thing, right, because like does the environment create the person that is the person who created the environment and clearly there’s some influence from society here. Absolutely. Yeah. So we uh, I started um, you know, once you have a band in each band member in rock and roll, the parlance I’m talking about here is that once you have the bass player and a couple of guitar players and a drummer, then you have to have singers, you know, and typically these people in the band would sing and if you have to sing, you need a sound system because there you’ve got an amplification for everybody else other than the drummer, but you don’t have amplification for your vocals.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:14:23 So we had to build a, a sound system. So I started. What do you mean you had to build the sound system? Like, well there wasn’t any way. There was nothing on, there was no place to go to get one. You had to head to make it yourself. And. But I mean like what does that mean? Like putting well or on like could you buy parts like you can buy like Ardwino parts today or was it like, yeah, you could buy speakers, the actual speakers themselves and then you’d have to, you’d have to build a cabinet.
Matt: 00:14:52 But how is that a word like wattage’s and voltage and.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:14:56 Well, you just, we wanted it loud so we would buy the maximum it was available at that time. One hundred watts was about it as far as speakers that come and try and get to say we, we, we would, uh, we built a cabinet that had 2:15 inch speakers in it and then we would power it up with a, an amplifier that either a high fidelity amp we would buy or something like that. And uh, uh, there was a company in that era called Altec lansing and they were the classic sound reinforcement company the day that sold equipment into arenas and places for voice or for basketball games and stuff like that. Not Music, just the spoken word. And so altec lansing had mixers, microphone, mixers and um, and they had speakers and stuff, but we would use their mixers. But we would buy shure microphones and then we would build our own cabinets and we’d find her own power amplifiers.
Matt: 00:16:00 Right. And I mean was this a collaboration thing? Was this something that everybody was kind of taking part in or were you just the guy that just had all the stuff?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:16:10 I was pretty much insofar as our band when I was the guy, because I just had the interest in when I had sort of a technical bent and I just had a real desire to do it, so I just started doing it.
Matt: 00:16:21 Right. And so you kept all this at Your House and Nadia, my grandmother. Your mother never complained about stuff
Rusty Brutsche: 00:16:30 she never really did and me and my room was packed full of wires and speakers and guitars and all that stuff and I just, I just did it in there and I worked in, in the garage and build stuff.
Matt: 00:16:43 They’re stringing all these things together. Building the thing that you wanted and then kind of immediately putting that into market. Right? Because you had a place to go play it and then you were getting feedback from the audience. Like, oh, that sounded better than all these other people because you had invented this thing that nobody else had.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:17:01 Well, I mean that in the, in the day mean other band would have some sort of sound system because you had to have it for vocals. But I always felt we had, you know, probably the best one around. And as time progressed, we, uh, Altec lansing did make a speaker call the voice of the theater, which was a speaker that was originally designed for a motion picture theaters and it had an addition to a 15 inch speaker. It had a corn, a compression horn for the high frequencies. And that was the first time we’d ever used that. And that was a big improvement because I’m a 15 inch speaker is not going to be good reproducing their high frequencies like a horn does. A horn is designed to reproduce those frequencies because it’s going to have a small compression driver in this, got the aluminum horn that their driver goes on and couples the sound from the driver to the air.
Matt: 00:18:04 So what I find interesting though is that you are equally playing music. And practicing music and it had that kind of thing going and then you also had this kind of technical infrastructure where you were really building to meet the need and then you are actually going out and getting the support of whether that’s indifference or whether that’s a whole thousand people cheering for you. You had people who are willing to pay you money in order to go out there and perform. And that’s right. And we played a fraternity parties and society parties. I mean this is like the three corners of the triangle of the music industry as I know it. There’s like the practice economy, right? Where you get to become the world’s best teacher. You could go out and become the technical economy, which is kind of what you did. And then there’s the talent economy where you, why did you not? Did you, were you guys writing songs or did you never have the courage to do that? Or did they just not click? You know, we, uh,
Rusty Brutsche: 00:18:58 yeah. The band that I was in kind of morphed into two or three different groups of people through high school. We kept the same band together and then when we graduated from high school some half the guys left and went off to college outside of Dallas, so we ended up having to start kind of recruiting other people, so in the sixties was the band members were a bit different. That’s where I met a guy named Jack Commies who was a guitar player and that’s when I built a larger sound system using the outtake, a seven speakers and for power amplifiers I used a tube amplifier made. It was called a Dyna Kit. It was a 60 watt amplifier that came in kit form and you put it together and
Matt: 00:19:50 out of like the back of the magazine, they were like, we have this thing and then you order it, and then I coupled that with the. With the ALTEC mixers, the six channel, I’ll take your system like a Frankenstein system because you’d been building this and building this and now I would say it got more refined.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:20:06 It became less of a Frankenstein system and became more refined, but it was picking parts. The best parts I could find from difference areas. There was no single vendor to go to to get everything. You had to kind of put it together yourself.
Matt: 00:20:22 So you were 15 years old. You got your first Bass Guitar. Yeah. Right. And then by the time you’re 15 to what, 17, 18, you’re going around and developing. You got a lot of time as a kid. You’re hanging out at the record store, you’re playing music. You had a pretty great life at this time, right? Pretty solid. It was solid. We were, we, we were, it was a great time, middle class America, kind of all of this stuff that you would think. And it was before the sixties,
Rusty Brutsche: 00:20:48 so you didn’t know the sixties was the time of the big upheaval with the Vietnam War and all the, all that. But the fifties I would say through the early sixties, uh, was pretty much the ideal realistic time because everybody, they’d come back for more. War was back to work and happy to be alive, happy to have survived. And it was just a period where everybody was really focused on, on family and just getting in so that their normal life. And so you said a lot of guys went to college and they went to college out of state and yeah, I went to Smu. Yeah. I want to see me. Right. And so why did you choose Smu? I went to Smu because I didn’t want to stop playing in the band. Really? Yeah. So it was that strong of a force in your life that was when you were making money.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:21:38 So money and I just didn’t want to give it up and so I uh, and I wanted to go to engineering school and Smu had an, an engineering school, a good engineering school. So I went there. Yeah. And why engineering was it because you are actually engineering like a lot of people, especially even me in my life, I was like, how do I know what I want to do because I didn’t necessarily have a signal or that type of clarity. Yeah. Um, well I, I always liked mechanical things. So when I was in, in high school, in addition to playing in the band, I also, I built a go kart with my father. My Dad and I built it together. We made it out of wood, but it used a briggs and stratton lawnmower engine on it and I used to drive the golf cart up and down the alley behind the house and I did all the work on it and I got good at, you know, making it, making it work.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:22:33 It was basically built out of a used lawn, more parts, bearings and shafts and stuff like that. And in high school I got interested in cars and I, uh, I bought a 1950 mercury convertible body from this girl that I met who had, who had a boyfriend that was gonna rebuild the car and it pulled the engine out of it, but it didn’t, he, something happened. He wasn’t there anymore and she wanted to sell us. I bought it for $50. It was a nike thing, was huge at Wade, like 6,000 pounds and the but it was a mercury convertible. And um, my friend and I went to the junkyard and found a 50 1950 mercury in the junk yard. And we pulled the engine out of it using a, a attractor that happened to be at the junk yard and we pulled the engine out of it and put it in a truck and brought it home.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:23:39 And I rebuilt the engine and put it in the mercury. Really? Yeah. And um, I got everything to work except I couldn’t figure out the electrical system. So in those days, in order to get your car worked on all the mechanics who were at the local gasoline station. So the gas stations had a mechanic and that’s where you went to get your car fixed. Yeah. So, uh, I knew this mechanic at the. We used to go to a humble station or he was pre exon before Exxon was called humble. And uh, there was uh, stationed down there. And uh, I went down there and I knew this guy, his name was Bob Wright. And I asked him if he would wire up this car for me that had put together. And he did. He wired it up and it worked. We turned it on and it would actually start. And I actually got it where I could drive it around. I drove it to school and it was my first car. So I decided, uh, after doing that, that I’m wanting to be a mechanical engineer because I enjoyed cars so much that I think I thought it would be an emmy. Right. And I was also doing sound systems. Now I thought about being a double e and I thought, no, I really want to be a mechanical engineer.
Matt: 00:24:59 I mean like, were you famous around your people at this point or whereas is just what all the kids were doing. That’s a little out there, you know what I mean?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:25:07 Yeah. Um, I wouldn’t say I was famous, but I’m pretty well known. Well now I don’t know about that. I mean I was just a average kid. I would say
Matt: 00:25:21 lots of kids were doing this. These were the tools of the time. I mean, is this the video games have your Eric, because it was so drab and boring that this is what you did.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:25:31 Well, a lot of people worked on cars, you know, cars were easy to work on back then because they weren’t, you know, a va in the mercury. That engine that I rebuilt for the, for the mercury convertible was called a flathead a design and it was a very simple. He was really liked the lawnmower engine that I had on the go kart, except it had eight cylinders instead of one, but the basic design of the valves and all that stuff with the same, so it was pretty, it was just a in the carburetor was simpler and so it was just, it wasn’t.
Matt: 00:26:07 There’s a theme there that we’re going to talk about more when we come back with the mix with Matt and Dan. We’re going to take a small break once you guys listened to my daughter, practice her guitar for a couple of minutes. We’ll be back. Yeah, yeah. Welcome back to the mix with Matt and Dan. Today I’m interviewing Rusty Bruce J. my father, uh, we are talking about his illustrious career right when we jumped off before the break we were diving into, um, his exceptional childhood and having reflected on a couple of things since you told me those stories. I’m not so convinced you were not famous within the people that you knew.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:27:52 I don’t, I don’t really think about being famous, but I, I, um, I was certainly a industrious and I was always busy. Yeah. I didn’t like to hang out very much. I was always doing something
Matt: 00:28:06 but see from a bigger picture that’s more relevant to my life in the way I see it is, you know, entrepreneurism, it may have been big back then, but it’s on fire now and it’s coupled by the backbone of information in the Internet and seeing so many of these people who were in a garage become billionaires and all of this kind of hype around it. And a lot of the patterns that are coming out and entrepreneurism and innovation is the idea of iteration and taking a lot of things. I make stupid bold claim sometimes in one of those is as working on the Internet 20 hours a day and doing search engine optimization and digital marketing my business, I see that information folds right and typically what I mean by that is that you typically, one of the ways that information moves forward and this has been documented by other people as well, where good ideas come from, I think Steven Johnson or Jackson or somebody wrote about it, is that ideas are like two things that are not in the same world.
Matt: 00:29:06 Coming together to create this new thing really is a good way to innovate. Right. It’s a good way to move things forward. That’s right. And so if you were naturally as a child going through and doing 94 things, we didn’t even touch on all the things you did. You were a cheerleader at the time. You threw discus at the time you built your own car. This was all before college. I was 16 when I got the car running. I mean I don’t want to label you a savant, but I. I would say that you are energized and you’re one of those kids that’s not like others.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:29:42 Probably not in a, I was always a self teacher, you know? Uh, I was always able to dive into something and one way or another kind of find the information I needed to kind of get going and make it work. Right. And I did that with the car just to kind of dough that I had been working on the lawnmower engine, so when I got the bigger one, The v Eight, I just dived into it and took it apart and figure it out how it worked. And it was simple enough in those days that I could do that. I probably couldn’t do that now because it’s so complicated and everything’s electronically driven and processor controlled that you know, you so much harder to do. But with other things like cars or harder,
Matt: 00:30:28 yeah. You can buy classic cars and go way back as other technologies now that you can mess with, but you have to have. This is kind of where the education system lags, right? If you can self educate, there’s never been more. That’s the trait that matters is the ability to self educate and now it’s easier because the internet, you can just go google, you can learn anything, right, and you can learn any skill, you can learn any tools so you can have master craftsmen teach you how to swing a hammer and you can get there much faster. You might have even gotten lost in today’s age because of so much opportunity to self educate.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:31:02 Well you have to kind of find what you like to do and I was always real passionate about whatever I got into. So I was really most passionate about music and audio, but I was also passionate about cars and I love, I love mechanical things, taking stuff apart, putting it back together again at that thing. So all of that. You’re
Matt: 00:31:24 17, 18, you’re driving around this car that you built, right? And people are like, Oh yeah, where’d you get that? And you’ve got a story. There’s a little hype and a little Kudos for the work you’ve done. You know, I think it’s important to have stories to tell about your life, right? So you’re going through this whole thing and then you are going to decide that. So now the backbone of why you want to be a mechanical engineer is a little bit more clear. It wasn’t like your father was standing over you saying you need to be an engineer, you need a lawyer. This was sourced from your life. Like the things you were interested.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:31:57 I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, so it was never any doubt about that. So when I went to Smu, I enrolled in engineering school and I remember the first day we got there, we had an orientation and the guy got up in front of us and there was a bunch of us in the group in the freshman class there. And he said, well, you know, about 80 percent of you guys won’t make it past the first year in engineering school. Only about 20 percent of you will become engineers because most of most of you will go off and do other things. And I remember sitting there and looking and thinking, I said, well that, that’s not going to be me. I’m going to be an engineer and no question about in my mind. And so it turned out he was right. Most guys went to business school.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:32:40 In retrospect, I kind of wish I had gone to business school. I didn’t give it near enough respect at the time then that I learned about later. But, uh, you’re not the only engineer who has done that, but I, uh, I was committed and I never, I never wavered. I just chug, read through it. And uh, it took me five years to get through because Smu had a, a, what they call it, co op program where you went to school 12 months a year, but you worked in industry, uh, for two or three months period. So you’d go to school and then you’d have like a three month semester we’d work and then you go back to school for a semester and then you go back to work. And so I went to work at dresser industries, which was an oilfield supply company that made drilling bits, oil, field drilling bits.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:33:33 And um, that was probably one of the most momentous decisions I made to go to work there because I met a man named George Mason who was the head of the engineering department at Dresser and he was a, an electric. He was, he was a mechanical engineer, but he was a, a ham opera ham radio operator. He did it as a hobby. Yeah. There’s the amount of people who do that. Yeah. And he was an expert in vacuum tubes and he was a really great electric electrical engineers, a well’s mechanical engineer. And he taught me a lot about audio and he built a, an amplifier mixer for one of my subsequent sound systems. And so he got involved a, became a really great friend and a real mentor is probably the most powerful mentor that I had in my life. And why, um, well my father had died in 1968.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:34:39 Okay. Are, see, how did he pass? He, uh, he, he had a lung disease and he was in the hospital for about five years before he passed. And um, he, uh, so George of was, um, he was an important figure in my life at that time, this because of what I was going through, right sometimes invite any kind of help you out and give you some mentorship. He was just a really good guy and I learned a lot from and we were, we became lifelong friends and uh, he, he lived a nice long life. He was, he was a world war two veteran. He had been in Europe, you know, as a army infantry, infantry man, and she had purple heart and he was just a classic World War II generation guy. Absolutely brilliant person and probably the best one of the engineers I’ve ever, ever saw.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:35:39 He was just extraordinarily great and in the sense that he could like work problems out in his head or he, he, he was just incredibly creative and just, he just, uh, he had, he could just make things work, you know, he’s one of those guys that could design something and it just worked. Yeah. And you know, it’s hard to do. It’s one of the things about engineering is that you can sit there and design something all day long and then try to make it work and it doesn’t work. Right. And it’s, it’s, it’s hard to find people that can, that they can redesign things and make them work well, and that he was one of those extraordinary people. He was also quite broad and his ability, because he not only was been great at mechanics, but he was great and electronics of the day. Right. And he, he, he, early on started computer programming.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:36:31 He, uh, he wrote his own computer programs for a lot of his. He designed a lot of the machines that made the drill bits and he, uh, he actually did a lot of early computer work, which was way he was way ahead of his time with that because this is still in the sixties, right? I worked there from 1964 to 1968. Okay. And what did you do for them? Well, I was, I was in the engineering department in those days. I did mostly a drafting. I would do drawings of things and also do experiments in the engineering lab on various lubricants and ideas to make drill bits last longer. Right. You know that the drilling bit, um, for oil field drilling is really hasn’t changed a whole lot since it was first invented. It was invented by the Hughes tool company and when the, when the patents ran out, dresser started up their own drilling bit business and that’s what this group was that I was with.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:37:36 And um, it, it was a quite an interesting challenge to figure out how to make a drill bit with stand the environment of drilling down into the earth and lasting long enough to, you know, to make it worthwhile because it was such a huge deal to replace the bit because you had to pull the drilling pipe out of the several thousand vs whatever it fit on there. So the bit that would last longer than the other bit was that it was a big deal. So our goal was to figure out how to make drilling bits last long. Did your genius contribute to this world at all? I was just, I was just a kid, you know, here, just sitting there and that was just putting mud in the, in the hopper and running the test on the bearings. So you were there for Labor? I was there for Labor.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:38:24 I got it. I got it. So, uh, so that’s 1968. How old were you? Well, let’s see, I graduated from Smu in 1968, so I was uh, I was 23. Okay. So you were going through school, you were playing music and you were working a job. Yeah. Right. And socializing and doing all these things and so it makes sense that you wouldn’t have a lot of time to sit there and pontificate and write music. No. And that just, we, none of us were talented that way. Right. We basically were what they now call cover bands. We just played the song to the day and um, and, and we would play parties where people basically just wanted a band that would play. Yeah. Because maybe there’s only like, nowadays that market instead of having to like source of band is probably taken care of with your home audio system, right?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:39:19 Because now you’ve got the mix. You get better music, it’s better quality instead of having some smelly teenagers roll in with all their stuff and setting up on the patio. I mean, there, there are bands nowadays that’s specialize in the electors beatles cover band or there’s 1980 music cover bands and stuff. I mean in my thing about this right way was this like babysitting for the guys, like the girls could babysit and make a little money, but the guys will have rusty over and hope play in his band and we’ll give them 50 bucks now. We played for specific events. We would play for a fraternity party or there were a lot of uh, social clubs in Dallas and they would have their various parties that were very, very formal dances and stuff. And we would play for that. But we would go to ut and play for fraternities down there and we would go and play parties and other cities.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:40:15 So we would actually travel around Texas. Okay. And you’d Blade Trinity would actually have a little money and they’d pay. We get paid. Yeah. And then we also play, there was a nightclub called Louann’s, uh, over on Greenville Avenue. We used to play over there and there was a nightclub called soul city and we occasionally would play there too. Okay. And I built the sound system for Seoul city and put it in. Okay. And I’m in it or it was a permanent installation. How much did you make doing that? I don’t remember that much. But he paid you get paid for it. And so did you understand that you needed, like, did you undersell that because you thought it was so awesome or. I probably did undersell it and um, it, you know, one of the guys in my band, Jack commies was a partner with another guy that opened the club.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:41:07 And so I was involved with it because I knew them well and also would operate the system at night. But he was great because a lot of really famous people went through Seoul city in that period of time as I can to. Turner played there all the time. And Kenny Rogers and as he began his career, he used to play there. I’m the organ player. Jimmy Smith would play there. Um, so we, we was great to see professional musicians up close like that. Stevie wonder came through one time. I remember being really impressed with his bass player playing through your sound system. Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. And did you get any feedback from any famous people? Yeah, they loved it. In fact, there was a club owner and boser city named Merle kimberly came and heard it and liked it so much that he hired me to come and put one in his glove and Moses traveling sound guy and I was traveling sound guy. So I went to Boser city George case and my friend helped me and we installed a sound system down and Boser city and the whiskey a Gogo.
Matt: 00:42:11 What about support, telephone support? What are they doing when this thing breaks?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:42:16 Um, you know, I don’t know what Merle had a sound guy and uh, I assume that after I installed it
Matt: 00:42:24 he kept it running, but why would the sound guy not be the guy? Like what makes different. Well, I just had
Rusty Brutsche: 00:42:30 the, I had it put together in a way that was unusual I think and he just sounded good
Matt: 00:42:36 may. And was that like kind of sourced from the idea that you were traveling? So maybe your stuff was a little bit more robust or. No, and it was because he had heard it in Dallas and liked it. No, but I mean like you were going around setting up gigs using your own sound system that was. And so you were building things that were more practical because you maybe had to transport the sound system with you. I think that’s probably right. I also was
Rusty Brutsche: 00:42:59 pretty good at making things sound good. I’ll, I don’t know why, but I always was able to put stuff together that sounded good. So um, this particular sound system that I was using, those in that period was two or four Altec, a sevens with these dynamic 60 watt power amps, tube amps, and then the altec mixers and that combination of equipment to Santa Good.
Matt: 00:43:25 Yeah. But for time, from a personality point of view, don’t you think that maybe it could have been that you have a little bit of an obsession on stuff and when it doesn’t sound good, you have this capability deck, rip it apart and fix it? Yeah, I would definitely obsessed and I definitely worked at it. Yeah. Because a lot of people are like, oh, that doesn’t sound good too. We’ll just turn it down. Or like they don’t actually think I’ve realized this, like going out into the world and talking to other people is that most people don’t think, oh, I’m going to rip this apart and rebuild it from the ground up, or I’m going to spend 12 hours researching exactly why this is broken. Yeah. And then going to fix it. And that’s a personality trait that you have.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:44:09 It is. I also had a motto that I was always, everybody always accused me of, but I always believed in and that was that I believe that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So I always went for the maximum,
Matt: 00:44:25 you know, for. But that translated to all parts of your life. That was like, you buy one can of Spaghetti, you might as buy five cans. Well you only have to go to the store at the time as the, uh, as a child of you, I have, this is a genetic thing, has been passed along and has been beaten out of me by my wife. Right. Um, well you ended up having to have a lot of storage and then if you don’t eat them fast enough, they go bad. That’s a few downsides that the theory. But yeah, I got it. If you, uh, if you eat lots of spaghetti then this is not something you turned on and off, like this is a core characteristic trait. It is a. I always thought I always wanted to push it as far as I could write and build something really robust. Yeah. Yeah. And I want it to work. And going back to when you were traveling in your band, how many people did you ever play for? It was like, what was the biggest crowd size?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:45:19 Um, probably, uh, I dunno, maybe two or 300. 400 people. Maybe pretty. I mean, that’s not. Yeah, we played big parties. Yeah. And we had regular customers that would hire us over and over again and I also handle all the bookings and kept up with all that and we collected all the money, paid for everything. And I bought a, you know, as the, as the band progressed on, we as a group would by the sound system and I would divvy it up and charge. Each guy has share that sort of thing. But it, uh, it worked well and in, in it, um, it was something that gave me a lot of experience in, um, you know, Holland and around because we also had a truck, a band that we carried all of our equipment in and I drove the van and set the equipment up because all the guys in the band would pay me $5 each extra per gig. And to do that work for that 20 bucks, I would load the gear up and set it up and tear it down because it, another 20 bucks
Matt: 00:46:30 a true hustler talk. We’re going to talk more with Rusty Shay when we come back. You’re listening to the mix with Matt and Dan. Why don’t you guys take a minute and listen to my son practice his drums.
Speaker 3: 00:46:47 You just coming in and sneak. Sneak. I don’t like to know when you mean.
Matt: 00:47:17 Welcome back to the mix with Matt and Dan. Uh, today we’re interviewing rusty. Uh, you know, we talked about a truck that you had, um, where you were getting paid and make it a bit of money becoming
Rusty Brutsche: 00:47:30 one of the ogs hustlers, right? Kind of finding ways to make money along the way and stay motivated. That’s right. And it also taught me all about moving equipment, you know, lifting it and packing it into a truck and making it hold up. Yeah. And thinking about those sorts of things which would later on become very important. And um, I about this time, this was a while I was at Smu, which was between 1963 and 68 was when we had our largest band. We had about a seven piece band. We had a horn section. This was the bills and we had moved on from the bills. We were now called the soul society souls, the sand. We a had a horn section and a Hammond organ and we played the rhythm and blues of the day, you know, reading and blood, sweat and tears, outfits or anything.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:48:25 Oh yeah. Oh, absolutely. We had our matching outfits, edital suits we had made because you have the, did you have sequenced dance steps? Um, well we’re, none of us were particularly coordinated, but we did try to move around and look good and we wore a beatle. Boots, we real excited when when the Beatles came, they had those little pointy high, high heel boots and we’ve all bought some of those. How do you get back in what, 1967. Eight here you, how do you find a beetle boot that fits you? I don’t remember. He was, I’m sure it was some sort of custom thing probably had in New York or someplace where they had had big sizes, but we, uh, we had that and we, um, we decided about that time. We would try to cut a record. We didn’t really have a lot of original material.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:49:16 Had a couple of songs we’d written, but we were basically doing cover. What was the name and one of the songs you’d written? Um, I can’t remember. They were really forgettable, right. Do you remember any of the lyrics? No, nothing. They were awful that, uh, we did do a cover of a, a knock on wood, one of our, one of our big tons. So we went in to this recording studio in Fort Worth and I met an engineer, that guy that owned the studio. It was a guy named Jack Maxon. Yeah. And um, I immediately connected with him because he was a bigger audio freak than I was and he had built this studio in Fort Worth all by himself and hand wired the whole thing and everything himself and it was just a complete order and magnitude up from what I was doing. Completely different guys. Pretty parallel in age or was he a little older?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:50:11 He’s about four or five years old and I was just one generation in front of you? Yeah, about a half a generation but pretty close. And He, uh, he has totally loved audio to a more than I did I think even. And we just became friends and I started working a little bit at his studio. He was starting to teach me how to do some stuff because I wanted to learn about recording because recording was a different world and sound systems as you were. It’s a different thing. And it was a yet a four track studio, which he had an ampex tape recorder and had four separate tracks. And that’s. So whenever you recorded something, uh, you could record it on four separate tracks nowadays, you can have as many tracks as you want, but back then a four track studio in that time period was about 1966, 67 was pretty much state of the art.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:51:07 And um, I just was. And so we started working together, uh, on my sound system designed to. And uh, as, as we got to about 1968, 69, um, we started getting a call from a local promoter guy named Terry Bassett was with a company called concerts west. And this was a promotion company that had originated in Seattle, Washington. And they had opened an office in Dallas and they were promoting rock shows in various arena. And you promote Iraq. Explain to me what promoting a rock show means like, well, in 1967, what it meant was, is they would go to a band like creedence clearwater revival or someone like that, and they would strike a deal for a set amount of money for the credence clearwater to come play a show. So they might agree on a $25,000 fee, so then the promoter would go and they would find a venue and they would rent a venue and then they would pay all the expenses to set the show up and to pay all the stage hand bills to get everything going.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:52:21 And they would take the risk of selling the tickets. They would have to promote the show by the radio time, figure out how to best promoted. And if nobody came to promoter would lose all the money, the band would get their 25 grand. Well, as concerts west got going in, his rock and roll started to take off. This became an incredible money maker because as these bands got bigger, like credence, they was, they would sell out every show, no problem. And so concerts, west became very, very successful, right? And as time went on, they would promote the biggest artists in the world, but they, they opened up in Dallas. And the big problem was when it first started, as they moved out of small venues into large venues, there was no sound equipment to do the Gig and they couldn’t get, they couldn’t play these big shows without having some way to get sound loud enough for the audience to hear. That
Matt: 00:53:26 brings up a really a point that I’ve always thought about and wanted to kind of talk to you about the early bands, you know, like the ones that you kind of see on the stage with a simple microphone. They were really unbelievably talented, right. To be able to go through a crappy speaker system that they had at the time and be able to deliver value to the audience was no small feat. That’s right. All right. So like you could almost say that that era of musician was just insanely. Was it the type of music that they were singing that just worked better in that environment? Or was it something that they just had so much talent that it’s kind of hard to deny that?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:54:06 Well, the very first shows that we’re in large venues were done by artists like Elvis. And the Beatles who were already huge and we’re strong performers and very magnetic personalities on their own. So even though they would go and they, you know, in those big, like the Beatles at Shea Stadium and those type of early shows, the audience really couldn’t hear a single note because the sound systems were so small that it was just literally hopeless. So it was just more of an emotional, you know, the girls were screaming the whole time through and it was just more of a, uh, an emotional event than a musical event because there wasn’t any real music that anyone could hear.
Matt: 00:54:58 All right, so the listeners heard it here first, right? Nobody heard a single note. That’s not one note because no way you could do it and 60, however many people there were at Shea Stadium, it’s a physics problem, right? Like they were there, there was a lot of culture going on, a lot of culture, a lot of people claiming that they were there, there is no quality, right? They were there for the screaming. That’s right. They were there for the, which at the time coming out of the fifties, coming out of the sixties was probably a thing to see.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:55:27 Yeah. Well the Beatles came on the scene in 1964. Right. So by the time they played that show in New York, Shea stadium was probably 19, 65. I don’t remember the exact date of it. It was early on. So what? Concerts West when they started up in Seattle, they was actually started by a guy named Pat O’day who was a disc jockey at a, at a radio station in Seattle, who, who’s early focus was on top 40 radio by playing the top 40 hits of the day. And he started doing dances on the weekends because he could promote the dances through his radio show. And he built up this huge business of doing these teenage sock hops dances. And um, how many, how many people would go to a sock hop? Uh, they would be maybe 500 or so. He was, it would be in a fairly small vineyard.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:56:23 Pay To go, you pay to go. It was actually a money making deal and there was artists, there was local bands up in the Seattle area that actually became famous for playing the stock show, a sock hops, teenage dances and stuff. And so as the, as the business started to develop in the band’s became bigger, like the beach boys came on the scene. This Pat O’day realized that they could play bigger venues and get bigger crowd, that they had no way to do sound. And so when the Terry Basset came to Dallas and they opened their office in Dallas Bassett started and heard about the sound system we had in this band who, you know, the sole society. And so he started renting that sound system for some of the shows. So you just got a call from him one day and got to call, can you do it?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:57:10 And so I said, sure. I went over there. And, and how did he find you? Because he had connections or um, he found this, I don’t know how you found. We now will you know that this relic called the white pages. Do you think he used the white pages? No, no, he, he, uh, I don’t know how you knew the white pages were residential phone numbers based on address and phone? Yeah. No, I don’t think he did that. He probably ask around or something. I don’t know how he found out, but uh, we were in. The first gigs they were doing were, were auditoriums have like 2000 people. And did he call you at, were you living with pneumonia at the time? He actually called jet commies. Who was the guitar player in the, in the, uh, he may have done it through Seoul city.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:57:56 He may have come from the soul city sound system that we did. Maybe that’s how it came up, I don’t remember, but one of the first gigs we did was in the mcfarlin auditorium. Yeah. Which was on the Smu campus and it was a theater. They’re a classic percent iom theater, maybe 2000 seats. And so I just took the sound system there and set it up and I’m Maxon was working with me by that time we’d become friends and so we both went down and did it together. Hold on. You had a sound system, you’d been playing venues you had not been playing, 2000 person knows. So I had to add to it. Yeah. So you had to go. So I had to borrow amplifiers, some people and I went and rented more a seven speakers and to fill it, 2000 person value. And how many cycles did that take to get it right?
Rusty Brutsche: 00:58:46 I mean, did you just never. It never sounded that great. It was always, you know. Yeah. Not so good as good as you could get. Yeah. But another thing that was going on then is that a jet counties and angus winds partner in the, in the, uh, Seoul city venture, um, started promoting shows on Texas our weekend they would rent market hall, which was a big industrial facility that had been used for conventions and stuff is kind of basic big convention hall. Yeah. And they would sell tickets for $10 a piece to all the kids coming up here for the, our weekend, they’d have beer and stuff and they would have bands like, there was a real famous band called the hot nuts that played sort of off color songs and stuff. And they were perfect for that kind of thing. And so they would sell two or 3000 tickets.
Rusty Brutsche: 00:59:43 They’d be two or 3000 kids in there. And I was doing the sound for it, right. And so I would, I would go rent every Altec, a seven that I could find in town. There was a local outtake dealer. Now I’d ran all the ones they had and I would string these speakers up on the wall and I would go borrow power amplifiers from people and from their stereos at home and stuff. And um, I will do this. Do the Gig. Yeah. And one of the, uh, bands that came through was the beach boys one year and they, they brought their own sound system and it used, it was. And they brought their own recording engineer who was, who was acting as their live sound engineer at the time, and he has really nice mixing console that he’d built. It was a studio console and, and he had these speakers that were made using James B Lansing speakers, jbl speakers, and I’d never heard of them before.
Rusty Brutsche: 01:00:43 And they descended. Unbelievable. I mean, they were so much better than all the stuff I had. I just couldn’t get over. It. Never like a third the size. So I, I made up my mind after that shot, that boy fiber, if I ever am able to, I’m going to use some jbl speakers, you know? Yeah. And so, uh, after we did the chosen mcfarlin auditorium, um, after we did a couple of them Maxon and I decided we would encounter these Jack Academies and Jacques Maximin and myself decided we would go into the sound business. And um, that actually, I guess I should back up because about this time we were doing these shows. Woodstock came along, which was 1969. Yeah. And there was a sound company up up east. It was called Hanley sound. It was run by a guy named Bill Hanley and he was the first guy to put together really giant sound systems.
Rusty Brutsche: 01:01:45 He used our ALTEC lansing part, altec the same stuff I was using, but outtake also had really big speakers that they use for big installations and so bill Hanley put together really big sound system. Why would concerts west come to you rather than go to him? Because he was up in New York, right? So he just didn’t. They were in Dallas, so there’s just no market in Dallas and nobody was doing it. No, I. You were doing it at the level and then kind of at the front of the market, wave hitting the market and so have you had past. Somebody else would have come in behind you and filled in because the demand was. The demand was there. So it would have been filled somehow. Right. So after Woodstock, Jack Academies and Angus Wind decided they would promote a festival in Dallas called the inner, the Texas international pop festival, which was 1969 September.
Rusty Brutsche: 01:02:47 And so they did that and they hired Bill Hanley to do the sound. And so Hanley came and did the sound for the texts international pop festival and that was the first time I’d ever seen him first. That was the first time I’d ever seen a sound system that big. Right. And he, he built scaffolding that was like 40 slash 50 feet in the year out of, you know, normal. Yeah. Construction, scaffolding. And he put all this speakers up on the scaffolding. Right. And he had giant mcintosh power amplifiers. They had mackintosh made a 350 watt tube amplifier at the time. It was extremely expensive and he had 15 of them and he had, he built a little room in the scaffolding by wrapping plastic wrap this queen around the scaffolding and made this room and use window air conditioners, try to cool it because 15 of these 350 watt mackintosh amplifiers was putting off enormous amounts of heat.
Rusty Brutsche: 01:03:51 And this was in September in Texas. It was hot and everything was overheating. So he was trying to cool these things and I was just amazed. And I the idea of 15, 350 watt amps was, you know. Yeah. Like blew your mind mind, but yeah, I was totally into it, you know, so there was one of those things I didn’t know as possible, but I was for you were, you were in. Yeah. So after seeing that I thought, you know, I think we can do that. I mean I, I was once like one of those things when, when, when you see it, you realize I can do that. But I think that gives some context. If people who are listening, like I’m kind of familiar with a lot of these things because I’ve seen it, you’re talking about basically going into an open field, right?
Rusty Brutsche: 01:04:35 Would, that could house, you know, nowadays 100,000 people, but there’s nothing there. Nothing, there’s no infrastructure, there’s no wiring to plug into, there’s nothing. And so the idea of this, all of a sudden needing these things and then kind of going, it’s like going as place and then forgetting that you needed something and then having to bring it. And so it just creates this, Oh man, I’ve got to read the energy of like creating that out of nothing kind of self fulfilled. Right. Like, it immediately builds its own thing. Um, I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but it immediately re you realize all the parts that are missing with very, very much signal and clarity, right? Because it’s a very like, oh wow, this thing is overheating. We have to build a massive air conditioner in the middle of September because there’s nothing else around.
Rusty Brutsche: 01:05:24 Let’s try. Yeah. Okay. And so what, what Woodstock and these pop festivals did is that they ignited the whole concert touring thing because that’s when it became obvious that these bands could become big and they could sell out big venues. Yeah. And the, the outdoor venues like woodstock and all that, as you just pointed out, were extremely difficult venues to do because you had to create everything from scratch, you know, and it made it impractical from a money making point of view to go there first. Or they went was hockey arenas because they were all over the country and they would, they were 15 to 20,000 seats. Right. And they had enough infrastructure there where you didn’t have at least had a building you could walk into. And had air conditioning, but there was nothing else, no sound, no lights, nothing. And so if you had not solved this problem technically or somebody along the way had not solved this problem technically, then all the people who’d gone to that show in 1964 would have gotten tired of just going to the show to listen to each other scream, right?
Rusty Brutsche: 01:06:38 Sure. It had to been like more value delivery and the bands and the people doing it. If this was going to stick, everybody was gonna have to take it seriously. Yeah. And I give Bill Hanley the credit for being the guy, the father of that, of that movement, because he was the first one to put together a sound system big enough where that many people could actually hear the sound. Right. And so that was a huge watershed moment when you’re able to actually go to the Shea Stadium Gig and actually hear the music that was being, you know, there’s 500,000 people at Woodstock. Right? And the sound system was obviously, I’m sure the back row of the 500,000 probably wasn’t that great, but it was pretty darn good for the majority of that audience. And at, at the Texas pop festival, the sound was good and there’s like 100,000 people at that show, right?
Rusty Brutsche: 01:07:29 So it, it, it, it was really a watershed moment. And then when, when the, when they started doing arenas where they could weigh at 15 to 20,000 people, then that was a, that became a big business very rapidly. So after we did, um, after I saw the beach boys at market hall with on this exercise, Oh, you week in and got the Jbl idea in my mind. And after Max and I did a couple of gigs with concerts west at memorial or at the Ad Mcfarlin auditorium and Smu campus, we decided we would go into the sound business academies also wanted to do it. So the three of us formed market. You had people, you decided that you’re going to go in and do this. So this is a
Matt: 01:08:16 mixed with Matt and Dan. And when we listened to our next episode, we’re going to dive in to that story and more and we’re going to get into the details of how you were at the right place at the right time and help build some amazing companies that really helped the entertainment industry to get its message out. Thanks. Thanks for listening and we’ll be back.