To Bobby Darin fans, Tom Dowd will always be the man who put the bubbles at the beginning of Splish Splash. Dowd was a certified genius in the recording studio, an artist who’s firm grasp of technique and technology made him a sought after talent in the music industry for over 50 years.
Born and raised in Manhattan, Dowd was the offspring of musical parents. His father was a concertmaster and his mother an opera singer. An exceptional student, Dowd excelled in math and science at Stuyevant High School, and graduated in June of 1942 at the tender age of 17. Too young for the draft, he went on to City College, studying during the day and playing in a band at Columbia University at night.
At Columbia he succeeded on two fronts, first by becoming a conductor, and second by being picked to do highly classified work in the university’s physics laboratory. When he turned 18, he was immediately drafted and given the rank of sergeant, and was assigned to continue his secret work at Columbia—work that later would become known as part of The Manhattan Project.
Dowd’s entrance into the music industry came as a result of being unable get college credit for his classified work at Columbia when he left military service in 1946. Desperate for work, he took a summer job at a classical music recording studio. And the rest, as they say, is history.
With his scientific background and sharp mind, Dowd showed himself to be a quick study in the studio, mastering the art and science of recording in no time at all. Before long, this young kid was the guy to get, if you wanted to make a great record.
His work at Atlantic included sessions with The Clovers, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, The Drifters, Ray Charles, and of course, Bobby Darin.
He continued to work his magic in the studio right up until 2002, not just as an engineer, but also as an arranger and a producer, adding the Dowd touch to releases by artists such as Ornette Coleman, Dusty Springfield, Dr. John, Cream, Cher, Eric Clapton, and many others.
The 2003 documentary Tom Dowd and the Language of Music is a riveting portrait of the artist, his life, and career.
Tom Dowd (Selected Discography):
Filed under: Bobby Darin, bobbydarin, Nat Adderley, Splish Splash, Atco, LP, Album, Darin at the Copa, Copa, Atlantic, Tom Dowd, CD, Ray Charles, That's All, Single, Chicago, bio, engineer, Aretha Franklin, Cher, Cream, Dr. John, Drifters, Dusty Springfield, Eric Clapton