Caribou Ranch

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Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:25 pm
Location: Colorado mountains, USA

Caribou Ranch

Post by sturoc »

While growing up in the upstate NY Catskill mtns area we knew of Caribou only thru Lps recorded there.
Our own focus at the time was to someday build a Studio in the mountains in a large old barn of which there were many (and still are, albeit slowly falling down).
It was the beauty of the surrounding mountains, the peaceful isolation, and the prospect of inspiration year round that drove our desire. We did our best to build and operate for own purposes but we always pushed for going commercial someday. Little did we know that Jimmy Guercio was already implementing his own plan to do just that way out west !

Guercio found the spot thru a friend while traveling in Colorado. That friend remarked that his uncle, at one time owned an old ranch outside of Boulder... maybe it was for sale.
It took two years for Guercio to secure a deal to buy it. 3000 acres of a small green valley that ascended all the way up thru forested mountains to the high peaks of Colorado Rockies Yet was only 45 mins to Boulder and another 30 mins to Denver's airport.
The ranch had been a working horse farm for many decades. Stagecoach (1966) was filmed there. With several cabins, a lodge and mess hall plus numerous other outbuildings, there was one that stood out: a large gambrel roofed barn - it was exactly what Guercio had been looking for .

And it was that barn that would become the centerpiece of the ranch. It slowly underwent structural additions and interior work. Bill Szymczyk and Joe Walsh (who lived nearby) needed a place to complete recording of Joe's Lp Barnstorm and convinced Guercio to let them use the barn even though it was not finished. Then Tom Hidley ( owner / designer of TTG Studios and the Westlake studio complex among others) was given carte' blanch by Guercio to do whatever it took to create a first class facility. Tom designed the Control room and made changes to the big room creating a virtual 'dead' studio. He had custom built baffles and absorbers made, some of these were massive panels on wheels. The ceilings and walls had them as well as the drum booth area. This 'dead' design was popular when building studios at that time (1970s) Record the sound of the instrument unaffected by the room it was being played in, tweak it in the mix.
Caribou became the #1 place to record. All inclusive of the $16,000. @ wk rate: up to 10 people, 24 hr studio access, Engineers, instruments, meals ( late nites included), lodging, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, horses, fishing poles, transportation to & from the ranch.
Some artists didnt like being so isolated but the majority fell right in the groove of no distractions, being catered to in that down home mountain style. It shows in the quality/massive quantity of music written and produced there.

Sadly in 1985 the studio was hit by a fire that smoldered thru the walls below the control room and then erupted above it causing enough damage for Jim Guercio to decide it was over and not rebuild. He removed all the gear. The famous ex George Martin Neve 8016 console went to the University of Denver, then on to Vintage King who restored it and sold to Prime Studios in Austria.
Guercio and family lived quietly on the ranch for another 30 years. Then he sold the property a couple of years ago to members of the Walton family who have no other plans but to preserve it. Prior to closing the deal He auctioned off many items from the studio including among others the grand pianos used by Elton John, Billy Joel etc, those huge baffles and absorbers, a B-3, a Gibson Explorer bass used by Terry Kath (Caribou was Chicago's home base for many albums), various furniture and even the control room door !

This place was truly one of a kind at the time. Sadly it's golden era has long passed due to technology and a changed industry. But the innovation of the 'destination studio' and the uniqueness of its location gave birth to soo many great recordings.

Enjoy these links:
Comprehensive site about Caribou from one who worked there.

Tom Hidley's only known interview

A look back at Caribou
Currently in early advance planning stage for new private mountain studio.
Colorado USA
John Sayers
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Re: Caribou Ranch

Post by John Sayers »

Yes, I remember it well and the Hidley designs of the time. ;) Was a major influence on my studio designs at the time.

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Re: Caribou Ranch

Post by DanCostello »

Ah, the good old days, when you could afford to buy 3000 acres for a studio and charge over $2000/day for the use of it.
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Joined: Fri Nov 29, 2019 5:28 pm

Re: Caribou Ranch

Post by baldenglish »

I don't know if any of you are interested but it seems someone from Caribou has put up a FB page, and they post pics, session info and assorted Caribou related info.
Some really cool stuff if you are into studio history!
I like rock, and also roll!

That Bald Guy - online mixing
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