Joan Baez Vol. 1 Production Notes

Production Notes

In July 1960, Joan Baez headed to New York City to make her first album for Vanguard Records, the label started in 1950 by Maynard Solomon and his brother Seymour. Had she signed with Columbia, the studio might have been more salubrious, but the venue was the Manhattan Towers Hotel located in a 'dingy block on Broadway'.

The songs were recorded in the ballroom, which was available every day except Wednesday, when it was used as a bingo parlour. Baez has described the venue as a huge room with a musty smell, and how she sang and played standing on 'the dirtiest rug in New York'. Despite this unpromising environment, Maynard Solomon was a highly experienced producer and made a vivid recording.

The set-up consisted of three microphones, left and right for stereo and a middle one for monoaural. Six of the songs featured Freddy Hellerman of The Weavers on guitar. Baez was such an idealist that she felt that having another instrument other than her own guitar and voice would be somewhat 'commercial', which she did not mean in a positive way. However, she was eventually convinced this extra instrumentation would enhance her music.

After appearing at Newport, Baez was becoming increasingly confident and managed to record the ballad 'Mary Hamilton' in just one take. As she recalled later: 'That's the way we made 'em in the old days. As long as a dog didn't run through the room or something, you had it'.

She would record for a few hours and then she and Solomon would go out for a break and refreshments. In three days they managed to record no fewer than 19 songs, 13 of which would be used for Joan Baez.