Live Sound
Sponsored by

In Profile: Jim “Redford” Sanders, Three Decades In The Trenches

“This business is not for the squeamish. You can get squashed like a bug, but if you can survive it, you can make a comfortable living, you can work half the year. You’...

By Kevin Young January 25, 2010

Jim “Redford” Sanders, hard at work prior to a show at Red Rocks

When he speaks to me from Milwaukie, OR, Jim “Redford” Sanders sounds like just about the most positive, personable human you’re likely to meet. “I’m living the dream,” he stated. “I’m a very, very fortunate man. I’ve traveled the world, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, driven many motorcycles, and clapped my hands in the Sistine Chapel to check the reverb.”

In short, he’s a man who loves his job and always has. Right now he’s out doing Front of House for Frankie Valli. “I’ve known Frankie since 1983,” he said. “I’ve probably mixed more of his shows than anyone on the planet.”

Born in Grants Pass, OR, a small city of 25,000 roughly 100 miles from the California border, Sanders knew he wanted to work in music very early on. Pretty much right away, he started making money from music as well, if not in an entirely orthodox manner. “When I was a kid I had this Philco transistor radio. Grants Pass had two radio stations; farm news, you know, if somebody’s cow got out they covered that, and a Top 40 station.”

The radio got him in trouble in the fourth grade. “They thought I was gambling,” he recalled. Strictly speaking, he was. Telling his classmates, “I’ll turn the radio on and the next song that comes on I’ll tell you its name, the band, and I’ll sing it for you.” Long story short, he separated a lot of kids from their lunch money that way.

Then, in 1964, something crazy happened, he said – something that happened to a lot of people that year – “I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (a CBS television show), and I said, I want to do that, right there.” At age 11 he got his first drum kit, and a year later, started his first band. By 2000, he had come full circle, mixing Ringo Starr for roughly 100 shows.

Once out of college, Sanders continued in music, working with a country rock band playing clubs. Unlike some musician/engineers, however, Sanders couldn’t wait to move from behind the kit to behind the board. His first “teacher” was a man named Jack Barr. “I walked into this club and he had a console, a house snake and a real PA. I’d never seen one before. I didn’t even know what mixing was, to tell the truth.” On days off he’d hang out, and Barr would give him a turn on the desk.

Soon enough he told his band he wanted to get off the stage and mix them instead, but they vetoed the idea. “They said, you know, you don’t really have any experience.” Of course, given the fact they didn’t even have a sound person at the time, Sanders’ experience, thin though it might have been, was certainly greater than the alternative. “So I quit the band,” he said.

Suddenly unemployed, he got out the phone book. “I turned to ‘S’ for sound. There were 10 numbers. I got in my VW Fastback, pulled my hair back and off I went looking for a job.” Where he landed was Northwest Sound, then one of the largest audio companies in the world. They had the Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN), Joni Mitchell, Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller, and Neil Young. And while over time he’d mix a lot of those Northwest artists, he started out pushing a broom in 1977.

Read the rest of this post


About Kevin

Kevin Young
Kevin Young

Freelance Music and Tech Writer, Professional Musician and Composer
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.


Have something to say about this PSW content? Leave a comment!

Scroll past the ”Post Comment” button below to view any existing comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Tagged with:

Subscribe to Live Sound International

Subscribe to Live Sound International magazine. Stay up-to-date, get the latest pro audio news, products and resources each month with Live Sound.