When the going gets weird...
Jim DeVito is a Recording Engineer, Producer and owner of Retrophonics Studios.
As early as 1964 Jim started recording bands and friends on Wollensak and Grundig tube tape recorders that were available at the time. While touring in the Midwest in 1972 he was invited to the first Westlake studio — in Ortho, Iowa — the control room looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, That was it—he had to Captain that ship.
He befriended Dave Harrison at Studio Supply in Nashville, who found Devito a job at Hounds Ear Studios, doing anything and everything required of him—and that means everything: cleaning the studio toilets, running tapes, and all manner of other odds and ends until he was eventually allowed to touch stuff! Late night sessions provided his education: Larry London showed him how to mic a drum kit; Charlie McCoy; harmonica; Pete Drake did the same with pedal steel; and Jerry Reed would borrow him to record demos to an Ampex 8-track in his little office studio. Jim credits Richie Cicero, Dave Harrison, Ernie Winfrey and Steve Katz (to name a few) with being especially helpful to his career at this time.
In 1978, he purchased property and started to build Retrophonics recording studio—which is still under construction! From that point forward, Devito became “go to guy” in North Florida, working not only in the studio, but doing live mixing with everyone from the punk band Fear to Bob Hope!
His associates and contemporaries were shocked when in the late 70s he started to produce punk bands that weren’t really allowed in the doors of any other southern studios at the time. Because of his openness to this new music, Devito became one of the main punk producers of the Southeast, working with acts such as Stevie Stiletto and The Doldrums.
His production methods and sounds are an amalgam of country southern punk and pop music. Rough edged and simple, he has become the recordist for artists like JJ Grey, Mofro, Stan Lynch, Swamp Cabbage, Spider Monkey, Big Sky, Rocky Blaze and Donavon Frankinreiter to name but a few. Even Gainesville native Tom Petty has stopped by every now and then to try out new ideas.
Devito’s tools of preservation are Ampex, Studer and Otari tape recorders all fed by pre 80s discreet transistor and tube technology and Vintage microphones, necessary ingredients of the greatest records ever made. The Retrophonics aesthetic is simple: unslick and old school wherein ubiquitous wires reinforce an atmosphere of un-preciousness. Vintage guitars naughtily lounge about as they occupy the only available seating. Antique microphones await their next assignment comfortably cushioned by carpet shag. Fully operational yet raggedy 50’s tweed Fender amps safely stack 3 high, every piece has it’s own voice, and Devito knows all of it intimately.