Bill Szymczyk : biography
William Frank "Bill" Szymczyk ( born February 13, 1943) is an American music producer and technical engineer best known for working with rock and blues musicians, most notably the Eagles in the 1970s. He produced many top albums and singles of the 1970s, though he retired from the music business by 1990. He re-emerged in the late 2000s, taking on select projects including the 2007 Eagles album Long Road Out of Eden and the 2008 epoynmous debut of Brian Vander Ark.
Unlike many music producers, Szymczyk has no background as a musician. He was originally a sonar operator for the U.S. Navy and took some audio production classes as part of his Navy training. Besides his work with the Eagles, he has produced hit songs and albums for such diverse artists as B.B. King, Joe Walsh, and Elvin Bishop.
Bill Szymczyk was born in Muskegon, Michigan on February 13, 1943. His mother worked as a nurse, and his father held several jobs, including factory worker and maintenance at a school. Growing up, his first introduction to music and electronics was when he built his own crystal radio from a kit. Using his radio, he became a fan of blues and R&B while listening to a station out of Nashville, Tennessee.
He joined the United States Navy in 1960, where he worked as a sonar technician. It was in the Navy that he took his first course in radio and television production. Upon leaving the service in 1964, and without much of an idea of what to do for a post-military career, he enrolled at New York University's Media Arts School.
Bill Szymczyk's has frequently been noted as the sort of producer which pushes bands to expand their musical horizons; he has been brought in with the specific intent of changing a band's sound. He himself has credited this tendency to his lack of musical knowledge, stating: "I'm a professional listener. I listen and I react. I never was a musician, so I don't bring any preconceived prejudices to the table; I don't favour the guitar over the keyboard, and so forth. I just listen and try to figure out if I have anything I can bring to a song."
For his work with the Eagles, he has been cited for his innovative mixing of drums, laboriously working to get the right microphones and placements for just the right sound. Rather than recording harmony vocals individually, and mixing them together later, as was common, Szymczyk preferred to capture the Eagles singing in ensemble, often spending many hours to record each phrase "just right".
For the Elvin Bishop hit, "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," it was Szymczyk who suggested the inclusion of the song on Bishop's Struttin' My Stuff album, feeling the blues-oriented album lacked a pop single. The song would go on to become Bishop's biggest hit. Such a pattern was repeated throughout his career. The Eagles brought him in to refine and improve their "rock" sound, and all of their biggest selling albums and songs were Szymcyzk-produced. Martin Turner of Wishbone Ash has called him "my all time favourite producer". While the two did not always get along during recording, usually over Turner's bass-playing style, Turner does credit Szymczyk with giving the band a more commercial sound on one of their most successful albums, 1974's There's the Rub.
All credits as producer unless otherwise noted.
B. B. King
- Live & Well (1969)
- Completely Well (1969)
- Indianola Mississippi Seeds (1970)
- Live in Cook County Jail (1971)
Silk/Michael Stanley/Michael Stanley Band
- Smooth as Raw Silk (1969)
- Michael Stanley (1972)
- Friends and Legends (1973)
- You Break It... You Bought It (1975)
- Ladies Choice (1976)
- Stagepass (1977)
The James Gang
- Yer' Album (1969)
- James Gang Rides Again (1970)
- Thirds (1971)
- James Gang Live in Concert (1971)
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