Randy LeRoy has always been a music lover. As a teenager in rural central Illinois, he taught himself guitar by listening to the FM radio stations, playing along with groups like The Doobie Brothers, Edgar Winter and The Marshall Tucker Band, and he and his buddies would be constantly blasting tunes off the radio or 8-track through his ’68 Oldsmobile’s Clarion Graphic EQ booster and Jensen Tri-Axe’s. Randy soon joined a local band called Theory, who played cover versions of now classic rock and funk tunes by Foghat, Bachman Turner Overdrive, The Ohio Players, and The Eagles. While in high school, Randy also worked at a music store called The Sound Bank in East Peoria where he taught beginner level guitar lessons and borrowed instruments and sound gear for Theory’s weekend escapades.
Getting Started: Early Days of Engineering and CBS Records
It was during college when Randy transitioned from guitar player to audio engineer. He began focusing on studio production and engineering while at Middle Tennessee State University just south of Nashville, TN. MTSU offered classes in audio engineering, publishing, music business, and songwriting. Away from school he was cutting publishing demos on Nashville’s “Music Row” in CBS Song’s basement studio, editing radio spots on ¼” tape for a company called Starliners and hanging out in small studios around town. Eventually he was offered a job with CBS Records as an A&R coordinator. Looking back on it now, he views this as the job that really opened doors to a future in engineering and mastering recordings.
As a part of the record company staff, Randy was surrounded by people with years of experience in radio promotion, marketing campaigns, and the design of artwork. When his bosses realized he also had a strong background in audio production, he soon found himself involved in the local showcase productions and label recording sessions. “As an A&R coordinator I was privy to what studios were being used for all projects,” Randy says. “I learned which producer used which engineer, musicians, and background singers. It showed me where and how the money was being spent in the production of an album.” Working before the advent of home recording technology, Randy got to spend time in high-end facilities like Emerald, Stargem, The Dog House, Masterfonics, Sound Shop, Treasure Isle, Studio 19, and even legendary studios like The Record Plant in LA while working for CBS. Randy worked with a variety of the label’s many noteworthy artists such as Ray Benson, George Jones, Ricky Van Shelton, Tammy Wynette, Vern Gosdin, and Exile. “I was fortunate to get to witness some of the best performances I’ve ever heard in the studio or on stage,” Randy says on his years with CBS. “Those were good times.”
Mastering at Masterfonics and Final Stage
In 1987 Sony was in negotiations to purchase CBS, and Randy explored ways to transition to becoming a full-time engineer. Glenn Meadows from the Nashville-based mastering house Masterfonics offered him a job as his mastering assistant. Randy soon found himself sitting next to Glenn in every mastering session, watching, listening and learning. Before too long he was cutting reference lacquers, assembling and quality checking masters, helping out engineers during mixing, and even mastering small projects on his own. “At the time, Masterfonics had Tom Hidley control rooms, the latest cutting-edge digital recorders and mastering systems, and all the major label work you could imagine to support it all,” recalls Randy. On a daily basis, the Masterfonics staff would be working alongside notable country music producers like Jimmy Bowen, Tony Brown, James Stroud, Jerry Crutchfield, and Barry Beckett.
One of the most memorable projects from Randy’s time at Masterfonics was The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken Vol. II, a two-CD set of The Dirt Band playing with an all-star cast of musical talent. Produced by Randy Scruggs, this project was delivered with cases of mix master tapes and interlude dialog. It took the Masterfonics team a week to listen to, master, and assemble the correct takes and interludes. Released in 1989, the project garnered three Grammy awards.
In 1991 Randy left Masterfonics to start his own mastering studio, Final Stage Mastering. Located in Sound Stage Studios on Music Row in Nashville, it was at Final Stage where he worked on more Grammy nominated and winning projects throughout the 1990s and 2000s such as Relient K’s Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right… but Three Do, Allison Brown’s Fair Weather, Nappy Root’s Humdinger, and Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song, to name a few.
At Final Stage Randy approached mastering differently. While working at Masterfonics, all of the mastering was done digitally through JVC digital consoles and assembled with JVC editing systems. At Final Stage, he built a strong analog mastering chain to complement the digital path and workstation environment. As technology changed mastering studios at this time, Randy kept up with current trends and adapted, and 19 years of managing Final Stage gave Randy the opportunity to be recognized as one of Nashville’s premier mastering engineers.
Moving to the DC Area to Join Airshow
In 2010, Sound Stage Studios was going through a sale and Randy decided to pursue new opportunities in his mastering career. In June of 2010 Randy left Nashville to become the Senior Mastering Engineer at Airshow in Takoma Park, MD. Since arriving at Airshow, Randy has mastered projects from some of the biggest names in country, bluegrass, folk, Americana, and gospel such as Jim Lauderdale, Bryan Sutton, Jamey Johnson, Dale Ann Bradley, Colin Hay, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Gold City, and Larry Cordle (Solivan and Sutton releases that Randy mastered were both nominated for 2015 Grammy Awards for Best Bluegrass album). And last year Randy handled mastering duties on legendary “newgrass” vocalist and bassist John Cowan’s album Sixty (read more about the project in a recent profile of Randy in Pro Sound News). “The move to Airshow has put new life into my mastering career,” Randy says. “I have my Nashville clients that have been with me for years, but it has given me exposure to a new group of musicians and labels in the DC and Mid-Atlantic regions as well as internationally.” Nate Clendenen, Taylor Ferrell, The Grey A, Sons Of Serendip, and Chelsea McBee are just a few of the area artists Randy has been involved with upon coming to Airshow.
Check out Randy’s credits at All Music Guide as well as selected credits and his favorite piece of gear here. To book a session with Randy please get in touch with our Takoma Park studio manager Mike Petillo at (301) 891-9035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.