Two Bruces and the Search for Sonic Honesty
The year was 1977 and a 28 year old Australian audio wiz named Bruce Jackson, was in his 6th year as Elvis Presley’s sound-man, pioneering elements of modern day live-audio along the way. In New Jersey, a 28 year old rocker named Bruce Springsteen was hitting his stride, writing and recording an album now commonly ranked among greatest of all time, “Darkness on the Edge of Town”.
That same year, in a small, rural, mountain town in central Japan, a young acoustic guitar company with a soul for craftsmanship and an eye on the future, was confronting the seemingly unsolvable problem of amplifying an acoustic guitar - to sound like an acoustic guitar.
When Elvis died later that summer, Springsteen turned to the already legendary Bruce Jackson to run sound for his upcoming “Darkness on the Edge of Town” tour. A tour that would include several massive, sonically-challenged arenas - venues that Springsteen had purposefully been avoiding.
When Jackson joined Springsteen and E Street Band in 1978 he soon learned why the Boss had been steering clear of those cavernous forums. At every new venue, Springsteen would have the E Street Band play while he led Jackson to every section, row and seat of the arena. Springsteen wanted to know why the sound was not as good far away as up close, and if Jackson and his audio crew could do anything about it. Jackson’s reply? "We can do a lot about it".
Jackson worked with Clair Brothers Audio to design a ring of delay loudspeakers positioned closer to those farthest seats, to augment all the high frequencies lost over the distance.
This made for a much crisper, cleaner, higher quality sound in those far reaches, effectively capturing and projecting Springsteen’s dynamic live show in all of its intimate, raw, vocals-in-your-face glory. Jackson would also work with individual members of the E Street Band to perfect their live sound, such as isolating the rotating Leslie speakers of Danny Federici’s Hammond B3, or developing a new and improved mic system for Clarence Clemons’ thunderous sax.
It was in this spirit of Springsteen and Jackson’s mutual quest for live-audio perfection, that Jackson showed up at sound check one day with a Takamine guitar equipped with its new Palathetic pickup and FET circuit preamp system. After an extensive A/B session with other, much more established acoustic brands, outfitted with every possible configuration of after-market pickup and stick-on transducer available, Bruce Jackson deemed the Takamine’s sound clearly superior. The Boss agreed, and over 4 decades and thousands of live shows later, Takamine Guitars continue to earn their place on the Springsteen stage.
Aside from his work with Elvis and Springsteen, Bruce Jackson would manage front of house audio for Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Barry White, Jefferson Airplane, Ozzy Osborne, Three Dog Night, The Jackson Five, Cat Stevens, Glen Campbell, Procol Harum, Lou Reed and Fleetwood Mac.
Tragically, the world lost Bruce Jackson in 2011 but his legacy as innovative audio genius lives within every modern-day live concert we attend. As his longtime assistant and fellow Australian, Bill McCartney puts it; “If you ever marvel at the hanging speakers that provide the crystal sound in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House, or the hanging curved arrays of multiple speakers at any concert anywhere in the world, thank Bruce Jackson”.
And may we add, for being among the first to shine a light on the sonic honesty of Takamine Guitars: Thank you Bruce Jackson.