Bill Szymczyk


Self-proclaimed professional listener

William Szymczyk was born in Muskegon, Michigan on February 13, 1943. Szymczyk’s future career as a producer had its origin in the U.S. Navy where he took a course in radio and TV production while he was serving as a Sonarman Petty Officer.

Once he was discharged from duty, he accepted a position making acetate copies of recorded demos at the Dick Charles Recording Studio. He later recalled listening to a studio session with Carole King and Gerry Goffin which got him hooked. Within a year, he became one of the studio’s engineers.

His first break came when songwriter Helen Miller referred him to an uptown studio called Regent Sound, owned by Bob Lifton. Under Lifton’s tutelage, Szymczyk wound up managing the studio. A few years later in ‘67, he met R&B producer Jerry Ragovoy, who was preparing to open a new studio called the Hit Factory. Ragovoy needed talent, and Szymczyk accepted, becoming the Hit Factory’s first regular engineer, where he also learned how to be a producer.

Jump To Discography

When a staff producer position opened up at Paramount-owned ABC Records, he took it.

While there, he heard the music of blues artist BB King who was under contract with ABC. Szymczyk asked to make a record with King and, after some pushback, was told he could do it if he pitched his idea to King himself.

Szymczyk’s plan was to try another band behind King to produce a more energetic recording. King took to the idea but considered it a risk. The two agreed to do the first half of the album with King’s regular band and the second half with new musicians. The result was Live & Well (1969) and the last song on the second side, “Why I Sing The Blues,” made a dent on the charts. This success convinced King and ABC to try again. Completely Well (1969) was released later that year and won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance. Afterwards, ABC gave Szymczyk the power to sign his own acts, and one of the first was the hard rock James Gang with singer-songwriter Joe Walsh, with whom Szymczyk became close friends.

Around this time, ABC merged with Dunhill Records and Szymczyk had to move to Los Angeles. The move was short-lived as an Earthquake struck the city and Szymczyk decided to leave LA. In early 1971, he moved to Denver and started a record label with Larry Ray, a colleague from New York. Tumbleweed Records was the result. After some financial trouble at the beginning, Szymczyk and Ray began production on clients like Walsh, The J. Geils Band, and others.

Three years later, Szymczyk became involved with Walsh’s new band, the Eagles, after hearing about creative differences with their then producer, Glyn Johns. Szymczyk was asked to step in, but he didn’t want to offend Johns; so he called for permission and received the reply, “Better you than me, mate!” The Eagles and Szymczyk booked Criteria Studios in Miami and finished On The Border (1974) in three weeks.

The next album, One of These Nights (1975), took 18 months to complete. From there, each record began to take longer and longer to make. Producing for the Eagles became Szymczyk’s full-time job. Hotel California (1976) began with just a handful of songs, and the band developed the rest during studio jam sessions. The Long Run (1979) took nearly three years to make, and all the while the band’s inner turmoil was boiling over. The band broke up a year later and the projects they were working on collapsed.

Due to his financial success from the previous decade, Szymczyk’s production work tapered in the 1980s. He officially retired in 1990, though he re-emerged in the mid-2000s to work on the Eagles album The Long Road Out of Eden (2007).

Bill Szymczyk (as producer)


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