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A Friend & Colleague’s Tribute To The Late John Vrtacic

"The industry has lost a pillar"

By Bob Brooks October 26, 2009

John Vrtacic, March 27, 1948 – August 19, 2009

An ELDER is gone.

I have never been one to think too much in terms of chapters closing because my attitude has always been, let’s go to the next chapter.

But when the world of music and the recording industry lost John Vrtacic to cancer in August, the industry lost a pillar.

I became aware of this man from Europe in 1976 when I became the General Manager of The Little Mountain Sound Studios; taking over from Jeff and Jeannie Turner, who interestingly enough were taking over the studio I built in 1972 with Creative House on Homer Street in downtown Vancouver.

Crazy business!

I knew that I needed a cracker jack tech whiz as my first and most important employee.

A friend said that I needed to check out this new fellow in Toronto by the name of John Vrtacic. I did, and the conversations began, first to convince John to even talk to me and then to convince him that Vancouver and Little Mountain Studios were where he should be.

It took an Air Canada ticket to get him out to Vancouver to check us out and I will never forget sitting with John and Roger Monk, my senior engineer, at the Salmon Restaurant on Burrard Inlet on a perfect late August evening.

Still, the situation required more persuading phone calls, including some serious conversations with his wonderful wife, Alice, to convince them that Vancouver was indeed their destiny. Two more tickets waiting at Toronto International, and finally, cautious John and Alice arrived in Vancouver.

And our amazing 33-year journey began.

I’ve been asked many times following the extraordinary success track of Little Mountain Studios who I credited most if all those hits and acclaim. It was always expected that I would name people like Bob Rock or Mike Fraser; and truly their role in the fame of the studio is known by everyone.

But my answer was always swift and emphatic – John Vrtacic was the “key man” to that success.

John sought perfection. He was the stickler for pre-maintenance (he actually believed in warding off Murphy’s Law before it struck!), and always kept an eye toward making everything work better every time and all the time.

Little Mountain was one of the first studios in the world to work with the then-new Sony 3402 (tape machines, if you can remember back that far) and then there was all of the blood, sweat, and tears (what a name for a band!) that we went through with software glitches and anything else that could go wrong.

The phone and Telex (remember those?) bills went through the roof as John conversed with Sony about the software glitches, and he’d work crazy hours with no extra compensation to get those machines to perform as they were designed to do – working optimally in the “real” world that we lived in every day.

John beat down the problems and made those machines cook!

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James Cadwallader says

John’s “black box” lives on today as Radial Engineering’s JDV. Those who have an original Vrtacic DI say it still sounds better than the Radial.

Michael Behm says

Great story Bob

Dean Beitel says

I just saw this and feel so bad to know that a true craftsman has left us .I will always think fondly of the times we interacted on church audio design and installs and i knew no one that had more indepth knowlege of his craft .

Endre lukacsy says

I was fortunate to have been befriended by John in my early days of working as a 2nd engineer at the Little Mountain Sound Studios. The wealth of knowledge and experience John passed to me will never be forgotten. John was more than just a co-worker, he was a beautifully sprited true friend. John’s memory lives on in my studio [Night Deposit Studios] as John was my designer and technical director. John left the Night Deposit his life’s audio accomplishments in all aspects of his acoustic designs, wiring, right down to his amazing accurate speaker bridges. I miss you John!!!

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