Featured Employee: Founder and CEO Bill Putnam Jr.
Bill Putnam Jr.
I was more interested in the electronics than the people [my dad] was recording. I wanted to go to the factory, UREI, where the engineers were.
Were you in school at the time?
Yes. I was at Stanford studying signal processing but also interested in business. I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start a business but not sure what I wanted to do. I knew that I didn't want to enter the venture capital-funded Silicon Valley rat race. I was more motivated to do what I wanted to do, something fun and cool and long-term. It all kind of came together at the same time. We took the leap. Although many of the initial conversations were about making analog gear, I very much wanted to take what I was learning in my PhD program at Stanford and bring that into the equation. I saw not just an opportunity but something that was really compelling personally to mix the two-get the benefits of analog and the benefits of digital, and create an homage to both.
When I interviewed Brad Plunkett, he remembered you visiting your dad at work a lot. Did you go to work with your dad often?
All the time. In fact, frankly, I was more interested in the electronics than the people he was recording. I wanted to go to the factory, UREI, where the engineers were, where I could talk to people like Brad Plunkett and Dennis Fink, and learn. I had a real insatiable appetite for learning math and electronics.
When I was about eight or nine, I got a job testing transistors and sorting them. I think I made 75 cents an hour; it might have been one dollar an hour, which at time seemed huge. I used to have lunch in the employee lunch room; my mom packed me a lunch. I guess this was in the summer. I'd go two or three days a week for about six hours a day. In the lunchroom there was a sign posted that said that minimum wage was $2.85 at the time, and I complained to Dad that I was being paid below minimum wage.
Do you have a memory of being starstruck or having an amazing musical experience with your Dad?
Not in the studio. One of the most amazing musical experiences that I remember was when I was very young, maybe six. My parents made me put on a suit and tie. I remember having dinner at a diner and then going to see Duke Ellington. My Dad was really close to him and talked about him all the time. We got to the show early and went backstage and I got to meet Duke and his band and then sat in the front row. I would say that I was more impressed with all the live music that my Dad took me to-lots of jazz, like Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington-than the recording sessions. It's more fun than going to the recording sessions, which were frankly grueling. I remember going to Bing Crosby as a little kid; it was boring. They'd start and stop. The live music my dad took me to left more of an impression from a musical standpoint and set the tone for my love of music.
Does your eight-year-old son, Liam, like to come to work with you?
He loves to come to Universal Audio and loves the people and says that he wants to work at Universal Audio someday. Maybe we'll hire him for a buck an hour, but I think he's already more savvy than I was and wouldn't go for that.
Do you have a favorite UA moment?
Oh, yeah! When there were seven of us working in my 16-by-16-foot garage. We endured some crazy things. On Dave Crane's first day at work, he and I had to install all of the electrical wiring outlets in my basement, which we were trying to turn into an office. It was amazing to have people who showed up for their first day of work and were willing to get their hands dirty and do what was needed. Rey Rivera [engineer] put the wood floor down with me.
I love where we are now and all the people, but I have a special nostalgia for those early days in the basement and garage.
Scott, Bill, Sue, and Jim accept the posthumous Grammy awarded to their father, Bill Putnam Sr. with Phil Ramone (center).
E.T. Thorngren, Marsha Vdovin, & Jerry Harrison
|Michael Brecker, the greatest jazz sax player of his generation has MDS disease and needs to find a donor. His immediate family members are not suitable donors. It may be you that could help save his life. Please read this letter from his wife, which explains what you can do to help.
Here are some important donation resources for musicians, post Hurricane Katrina:
|New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC)
Make donations to:
SWALHEC/NOMC Relief Fund
Bank: Iberia Bank
Routing No.: 265270413
Account No.: 1707009057
|Healthcare for Musicians
Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center Foundation, Inc.
103 Independence Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506
|Jazz Foundation of America
Send donations to:
322 West 48th Street 6th floor
Or donate online.
Make donations to: MusiCares Foundation
3402 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, Ca 90405
Or donate online.
|International Association of Jazz Educators
|New Orleans Public Radio station WWOZ's Website contains list of musicians that have been located and aids musicians with housing.
|NOAH Leans is a new organization set up to aid with employment and relocation of displaced musicians in the New Orleans and Houston areas.
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