GRAMMY Award-winning and Country Music Hall of Fame artists Oak Ridge Boys have returned to the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville to celebrate the holiday season at home this year with a 32-show residency as part of the resort’s annual “A Country Christmas” event, supported by long-time front of house engineer Marko Hunt on hand with a variety of TELEFUNKEN microphones for drums, percussion, acoustic instruments and guitar amps.
“We have Telefunken mics set up for our drummer, Austin Curcuruto. We’re older guys for the most part, but he’s in his early 30s and he’s a great drummer, and can play any kind of style,” Hunt says. “He prefers a nice fat snare. That’s really my preference, especially with the kind of music we do — it just fits in better.
“Some other mics that I’ve tried just didn’t catch the bottom of the snare as well as the top end. The Telefunken M80-SH really works for that. I can get a nice deep snare sound because of that short SH I can get on a mic stand just right up inside of all of his drums and right where I need it on the snare. Austin is very particular and will tell me if they’re not exactly in the right place. He really loves to hear that fat snare sound in his ears because of that mic.”
The Oak Ridge Boys originated in the 1940s as the Oak Ridge Quartet and became popular in Southern gospel during the 1950s. The name was changed to the Oak Ridge Boys in the early 1960s, but they remained a gospel group until the mid-1970s when they broadened their image and concentrated on country music. Current singers are Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.
Hunt notes that he must be well prepared for a band that tours widely, playing in all sorts of different halls and concert venues: “For me it’s usually a different hall every day. Recently, we were out one night here in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame theater, which is a very nice theater with a very nice PA. It was like mixing in a studio and I had a great time with that. The very next night we were down in Louisiana playing in a big round full sized arena. I have to go from one date to another with different PAs and that Telefunken mic on the snare helps me every day coping with different systems in different rooms. Other places in the drum kit are salt and pepper, but your snare drum really counts.”
He employs a TELEFUNKEN M82 on kick drum, explaining, “First of all, I mount it internally. It’s on one of Kelly’s SHU mount systems. I’ve got that mounted where it’s sitting probably back about maybe 10 inches from the batter head. And I always point it a little bit to the corner where the batter head meets the shell. That’s an old trick that Gary Loizzo of Styx taught me. It just takes off a little bit of that initial compression of the kick drum so you’re not overdriving the diaphragm and gives you more of the shell. It’s not like the M82 can’t take it, but for me it gives a bit more of an open sound. You can run the EQ switch on the kick drum setting which gives you a snap, I’d say somewhere between 3K and 4K. But I prefer to run it flat so I can adjust it depending on the room and the system every day.”
Hunt has TELEFUNKEN techniques for the guitar amps as well. “One of the things with the M80 is I’ve also got a ribbon mic on there too. It’s a Cascade fat head. The fat head has a scooped sound to it. It’s got a lot of low and a lot of high, but the M80’s got a great mid range. It’s not like a bitey midrange. It’s just a nice smooth mic. The two compliment each other very well. I’m sitting there in the room and when he walks up for a solo, I can just balance out the two and bring out what I need to cut the mix in the room that I’m in at the time. But that’s the thing I like about that M80, it can make the guitar just punch right through, but it’s not a biting edge for Darin. He’s got a vintage Fender amp and also different guitars. It depends on what guitar he’s playing to how I will blend those two but that’s why it’s important for me to have that mid-range in there.”
Steel guitars are a different matter. “Not everybody gets to mix these steel guitars. And I’ve been around them since I was a kid. One of my best mentors in life was Bill West. He was a steel player and I’ve been around them for a long time. They have a very wide frequency range. They’ve got big fat low end strings and you’ve got 10 or 12 strings on them. A lot of high end too. But they can be usually bitey sometimes. And that could really take your head off. The M81 has got a slight roll off on the high end. I found that the 81 works for me really well in the steel amp because I can get that full range of body out of the steel without it being too edgy, so I can get that nice full fat sound. Whenever Rex Wiseman’s steel buddies show up, they are always amazed, “Hey, I can actually hear the steel guitar in the mix.”
Hunt has worked with TELEFUNKEN mics for many years and concludes, “Their mics are very robust, even after they’ve been on the road for a while. But if something goes wrong, well, I just recently needed a new grill and a couple of days later I had had them in the mail. It’s a very, very customer oriented company and I appreciate that. When something goes down, you don’t need it next month, you need it in a day or two.”