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Chess’ donated device a reel puzzler

The old monaural two-track recorder is display Chess. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

The old monaural, two-track recorder is on display at Chess. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 7, 2011 8:05AM

Many years ago the widow of a former Chess Records engineer dropped off a clunky two-track recorder at the Blues Heaven Foundation, which is located in the Chess studio.

Even the foundation is unsure of the machine’s roots.

During a recent visit to the studio, former Chess arranger-producer Gene Barge looked at the machine, now displayed in the former second-floor control booth. He said, “This is one of the original pieces of equipment we had. We had two of these. This is monaural. You’d put the reels on, thread it, do some adjustments on bass and treble. That was the extent of it. That was just how unsophisticated it was. You can see how far technology has come.”

A close look at the machine reveals it was manufactured by International Radio and Electronics Corporation in Elkhart, Ind.

Chess was a locavore before it was cool.

IREC was started in 1947 by Clarence Moore, an Elkhart minister.

The company first built rugged open-reel tape recorders for missionary use all over the world. While in Quito, Ecudaor, in the early 1940s, Moore invented the cubical quad antenna. Moore suffered a fatal heart attack in 1979. He was 74 years old.

In the early 1950s the company’s name was changed to Crown International, and large Crown installations were made at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Disney World in Florida. So the “International Radio” machine at the 2120 building almost assuredly was in use during the 1950s glory days at Chess.

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