If you read our last post, you know that the Motown Museum was our first excursion in Detroit. Tickets were purchased in advance for the earliest tour on our first day.
When we arrived, a bit early, there was a group of people prepping for a video shoot in front of the museum. We asked one of them what was happening and were told that Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor from CBS, was preparing a segment about things to do in Detroit. We didn’t know of him, but will watch for his segments on CBS Sunday morning.
While waiting we asked the same person where else they were highlighting that we might want to go. He recommended the Third Man Records Tour that they had done the previous day.
A person from the Detroit Tourism Bureau was also there and genuinely thanked us for coming to Detroit. He approved of our general list of coming attractions and recommended that we also go to Buddy’s Pizza, home of the original Detroit Pizza.
We had places to go and an afternoon free before our first baseball game. I was able to get tickets on my phone for the Third Man Records tour and we were off.
Jack White grew up in Detroit and is a singer and songwriter who performed with his wife in their band called White Stripes. They performed together during their marriage and for a time after their divorce. Eventually he went on to a successful solo career. (If you haven’t heard of him – I hadn’t either – but I was definitely in the minority in Detroit. Randy knew of Jack White but listens to a lot more music than I do.)
Jack White formed Third Man Records to allow him to press his own music onto vinyl. He called it Third Man because, prior to making his career music, he supported himself by doing upholstery. At that time he was the third upholsterer on the street.
He upholstered this bench for the business as a tribute to his past.
Jack White records to tape and then produces his vinyl records. Over time others asked to have Third Man Records produce their records.
Taped recordings are digitized through a special computer.
A lathe produces the master stamper. These lathes are very rare because vinyl records had their time decades ago and is only recently having a resurgence. This 1970s lathe was purchased from a German sound engineer and he and his group came to Detroit to train Third Man Records engineers on its use.
They have also been contracted to do vinyl reissues of earlier albums. The master tapes, with more advanced technology available today, allow the new listener to hear aspects of the music that previous technology did not produce.
Some musicians (including school groups) are allowed to perform live and go directly to vinyl. Those records include all the quirks that can happen in a live event.
Third Man Records allow the artist to choose custom colors and designs. Price adjusted for complexity!
Pictures were not allowed while we were in the factory, but we stood for a while and watched two people complete their part of record production. They began with an orange colored composite chub – roughly the size of a tennis ball. A second person kneaded color pellets into the chub. It was then pressed and the musical track stamped onto the vinyl. When the record came out of the machinery it was an orange disc with a starburst of contrasting blues and purples expanding out from the center.
Eighty employees produce 10,000 records per day. Not all are as highly customized as the one we observed. We saw other options that were single color, or split colored.
We were told that black vinyl has always produced the best sound but the development of new composites has narrowed the gap in quality to be almost insignificant.
Every single record goes through audio and visual quality control and 95 percent pass. We saw individual records being put into their covers one at a time. That process is not automated.
If I’ve given you enough (or more than enough) detail – read on! If you’d like more of the science and technology behind stamping vinyl records, I found this very good 7:00 minute video filmed on the Third Man Records site. Access that video here
After our tour we went to a nearby restaurant called Hopcat. It had been recommended by our dinner waiter the night before.. Hopcat was ranked #21 of 591 restaurants in Detroit on Trip Advisor, so seemed worthy of a visit.
We saw on the menu that Hopcat has French Fries ranked in the Top 10 in America by the Food Network Magazine so of course we had to try them.
Yes, they were good!
After lunch we made our way to Comerica Park to take some pictures before the game.
In a couple hours we would be there watching the Seattle Mariners play the Detroit Tigers.
Comerica park opened April 2000 costing $300 million and includes an impressive front entrance, a carousel and ferris wheel.
There was a statue of Ernie Harwell, a major league baseball sportscast for 55 seasons. Forty two of those years were with the Detroit Tigers.
It was Pink Out the Park night highlighting the fight for a cure for breast cancer.
Before the game hundreds of women who had experienced breast cancer walked around the field. A woman seated next to us said that she may only go to one game a year but that game is always the Pink Out the Park game.
We all received a pink pullover and experienced a variety of events.
Both teams and the umpires held signs for women they knew impacted by breast cancer.
If you notice the Little Caesars advertisement on the video board – their world headquarters are in Detroit just a few hundred yards from the stadium.
One interesting deficit (in our opinion) of Comerica is that they do not post out of town scores on any of their boards. We have seen those scores in every other ballpark we have been in.
The Mariners won game one of the series.
Fireworks at the stadium concluded our first day in Detroit. We had a short walk to our downtown hotel.
Next up: We go on an Architecture Tour of Downtown Detroit and have authentic Detroit Pizza at Buddy’s.