RIP Kearney Barton

Well, This is a bummer! I had the pleasure of meeting Kearney a few years ago. I was working with Matt Sullivan from Light in the Attic (a label that I’ve done tons of transfer work for) and we went to Kearney’s house and went down to the basement to see what was in the archives! I told Matt that day that those tapes represented the history of recorded music in the Seattle area and needed to be preserved. I got him in contact with my friend John Vallier at the University of Washington Media Library and he arranged for the University to accept at least half of Kearney’s archive for preservation. Several Grants were applied for to raise the money to preserve and make this archive available to the public. Alas, no one has yet stepped up to the plate. LITA and UW are pressing forward, at least, in the cataloging department. Hopefully one day we can make these things available. The real bummer is that Kearney had a story for almost any tape you pulled out of the archive. I wish I had those stories on tape!

Tape Op reference

This is from the Seattle Weekly

“​We received news from the fine folks at Light in the Attic Records today that legendary NW engineer Kearney Barton passed away last night at the age of 81. Barton has worked with LITA in recent years on Wheedle’s Groove, and other projects. I don’t know nearly as much about the man as LITA founder Matt Sullivan, so I’m gonna let him do the talking here. You can read his entire tribute to Barton over on LITA’s web site.

Matt Sullivan, founder, Light in the Attic Records:

To say Kearney was a pioneer of the Northwest sound would be a massive understatement. Maybe he was the inventor? Whatever the tag, we miss the man. He taught us about the Frantics, the Sonics, Little Bill, Don & The Good Times, and so many more, but the one that really blew our minds was Black On White Affair’s “Bold Soul Sister, Bold Soul Brother,” recorded by Kearney in February ’70 and released on his Topaz label. It’s the tune that led me to Kearney’s doorstep in 2003, hoping to convince the wizard to let us license the single for inclusion on a comp of Seattle soul from back in the day. I quickly discovered the man had a heart of gold and a sense of humor that would make your grandfather proud.”


this was posted to my northwest engineers chat group

“I got an email from Patty (K’s niece) last night. Kearney passed away
(1/17/2012) at about 8pm. He had been on hospice since
September, and recently started having trouble swallowing. The
hospice folks made him comfortable and he passed peacefully last night.

Patty indicates that there will be some sort of service. He certainly
touched my life, and I’m sure he touched yours too; he was that sort of guy.

Kearney graduated from Seattle’s Franklin High School, class of ’49.
That would have pegged his birthyear around 1931, which would have
made him right around 80 last night (his birthday is late
december). He worked for one of the radio stations that had a
recording studio (KXA?) that studio was eventually sold to
Electricraft, who sold hifi gear and had their fingers into many
assorted audio pies. Eventually (soon) Electricraft got tired of the
recording biz, and they sold it to Kearney. That was the birth of
Audio Recording. When I met Kearney (as a student at Franklin), he
was in a storefront at 170 Denny Way, in the shadow of the Seattle
Center. That space later became the Ron Bailie School of Broadcast,
and later the Seattle School of Mixology (a different sort of
mixing!). Sometime around 1964-1965, he moved to 2227 5th Avenue, in
the shadow of the monorail, and eventually it ended up in an addition
to his house near Children’s Hospital. I believe that was the
studio’s home for the last 30 years.

Let’s see now, my concept of heaven for a recording engineer: the
gear just works. any microphone you want, as many as you want.
recordings sound like you want them to… regardless of media or
method. Musicians are always on time, on key, and their chops are
primo. There’s no need for money anyway, so no worry about getting
paid. You just make great music and have a great time.

Note: vintage microphones are still Vintage Microphones, even in
Heaven, and God has the primo pair of M49s.

RIP Kearney, you done good!”

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