It would have been hard to not like Tommy Hanson Funny, welcoming and clearly a master at his craft, Tommy made all the musicians and especially me, feel very at home within the studio that was his second home, Chicago Recording Company. I can honestly say, I barely remember being nervous with him in command. While Matt Warren and Tom O’Callaghan also were integral parts of the process and resulting sound, no one had the experience in the studio and with recording that Tommy Hanson had. The boards at the studio to me looked like an endless number of buttons and slide switches that appeared massive in number and overwhelming to control. But, Tommy made the whole thing look easy – from the recording itself to the mixing. Tommy was much more than a studio engineer as he provided ideas for the sounds themselves, for the mix downs and for the dynamics he worked to convey in the music. Perhaps most importantly, he gave ideas on the vocals which became the heart of the song. In essence, he acted as much as a producer as the recording engineer.
For me, as a novice singer in the studio, it was a particular honor to work with someone of Tommy’s caliber. He was always so supportive yet exacting. He would have me do the parts until they were to his liking and when I pleased his ear, it was truly thrilling because it sounded amazing. He worked to give my signature sound which he called “sexy” and which required massive breath control to create the sound he was looking for. He clearly believed in me and liked my vocals and that just made me want to sing more and to continue improving. He supported me doing my own background vocals in octaves which were easier than other harmonies and ended up sounding great. With the other musicians, he was equally as exacting and all the while supportive, working grueling hours to ensure the best sound for each tune. If the process became tense, Tommy had a way of making everyone laugh and then continuing to drive the recording forward towards the end that we all envisioned.
I think Tommy never got the credit he deserved for his impact upon the music for which he was the engineer. Those were day of everyone wanting to take credit for whatever they could whether they deserved it or not. That’s too bad because he truly created a House sound that was stunning.
I will never forget Tommy Hanson. A true success in the music industry, the work he did was not only legendary but it is now part of Chicago House history. Like Matt Warren, music truly was his life. Tommy Hanson – RIP – you are missed – 1958 -2015.