T H E  1 9 4 0 ' S
  Tom Dowd as a boyColumbia University

A native of New York City, Thomas J. Dowd was born, raised and educated in Manhattan. His father, a concertmaster, and mother, an opera singer, encouraged his love for music and stressed self-discipline in his schooling. Graduating with a strong foundation in math and science from Stuyevant High School in June of 1942, Tom, unlike most of the boys in his class, was too young for the military draft and thus able to continue his education.

He went on to attend City College at night and play professionally in the band at Columbia University (eventually becoming conductor), where he soon attained a position at the university's physics laboratory. Working for the Office of Scientific Research Development (OSRD), the teenager found himself under the guidance of such men as John R. Dunning, Bill Havens and future Nobel Prize winner James Rainwater.

Upon turning 18 years old, Tom was drafted into the military and immediately commanded the rank of sergeant. His assignment remained the same, though, continuing the secretive work in the physics labs of Columbia University. He operated a cyclotron, changed targets, performed density tests of different elements, and recorded statistics as part of the Neutron Beam Spectography division.

As much of this early nucleonic research was done in New York, the code name for this clandestine work was derived from the Manhattan Engineer District, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to which Tom was assigned. It was not until August of 1945, when an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, that the rest of the world first heard about the "Manhattan Project."

With his knowledge of radiation exposure and detection devices, Tom was sent to monitor a pair of nuclear explosions in the Pacific before returning home to civilian life in 1946. Unable to get college credit for the highly 'classified' work at Columbia, the frustrated young man took a summer job at a classical music recording studio. As fate would have it, a musician's strike was looming, causing an onslaught of recording activity that initiated Tom into the recording industry.

In 1949, as he recalls, "The recording strike came and went and all of a sudden I received a call from National to do a new artist, Eileen Barton. We only recorded four sides, in one three-hour session, and I never saw the girl again. But, the first record they released was 'If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked A Cake', which went on to be a monstrous hit."

At the forefront of a new generation of recording engineers, Tom put microphones on each instrument and pushed the limits of the direct to disc recording technology. With his innovative approach, and a growing reputation for making 'hit' records, he quickly made friends of musicians, and began recording such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Turner and the Ravens. The young man from Manhattan had a new career.