This interview of Reference Recordings’ Tam Henderson by Stereophile Magazine‘s John Atkinson was done in 1989. But, we came back across it today when speak3raudio.com tweeted it today, so we thought it would be fun to share it here!
Tam Henderson, Reference Recordings
By John Atkinson – June, 1989
When we met, I had intended to ask Tam about a major project Reference Recordings had undertaken to record Fats Waller stride-piano pieces both direct-to-CD and direct-to-DMM-LP. Both processes are hardly straightforward, and Tam and Keith Johnson had expended considerable ingenuity to make them happen. Unfortunately, the test pressings revealed that the Bösendorfer computer-controlled player piano, which was essential to realizing the project, had had a defective damper pedal and the entire project had been, well, not canceled, but at least postponed. I asked Tam, therefore, what had led him to start a record company. Surely it didn’t spring, fully formed, from a vacuum…?
Tam Henderson: More or less it did. But if I could go back and change one decision that I made in my life, I would not have gone into the record business. Even though it now appears that it’s successful, it’s been very, very difficult. But as to how I got into it? Well, my background is not in technical matters at all. Early on in my school days I wanted to go into electrical engineering, but when I got a taste of what that involved I realized it really wasn’t for me. My only real love in life has been music, even as a child. I played a little piano, but not enough to ever be professional. I got a very late start in studying music—only at college—and I found out that even though I didn’t have a great background in music, I could study music history. I got a degree, but then learned there’s nothing much you can do with a BA in music history except perhaps get an MA, then a Ph.D., and then teach music history…