Bill Hanley's claims to fame include providing sound for the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, being at the controls at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when Bob Dylan went electric, and touring with the Beatles, but the list of accomplishments goes on and on.
"Newport Jazz, Folk, [President] Johnson's inauguration, the anti-war movement," Hanley said, listing just a few of them to WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe. "It's been a wild ride!"
Hanley, now 83 and living in Merrimack, started the Hanley Sound Company with his brother Terry in Medford in the 1950s. His work turning antiquated public address systems into elaborate and powerful sound systems was far ahead of its time.
"I tried to bring this to classical music, too," he said. "[Long-time Boston Pops Orchestra conductor] Arthur Fiedler fired me, at the Hatch Memorial Shell. He didn't like the idea, I had a lot of microphones on the violins. Well, I believe that people should be able to hear the instruments!"
He noted the Boston Symphony Orchestra now has 40 microphones, one for every violin on stage.
The location of his first studio on Salem Street is now a Dunkin', but a marker was placed outside the restaurant in 2013 to honor Hanley's work.
He described the goal of his storied career simply as "doing big special events and having them happen well, audio-wise"—but he's also got a more poetic explanation of what he's done all these years.
"Transmission of joy from the stage to the audience, to the last seat in the house," he said.
"The Last Seat In The House: The Story Of Hanley Sound" is also the title of a book and film by Hanley's friend and promoter, John Kane.
Kane is hoping sales of the book will help Hanley eventually get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He's also started an online petition to get the Rock Hall to acknowledge Hanley, who he's been researching for years.
"In my view (and others) Hanley was a primary force in bringing quality sound to the forefront of the evolving music and political arenas," Kane wrote on the petition website. "When primitive public address technology was the "norm" for various events, the influence of Bill Hanley and his company "Hanley Sound" of Medford Massachusetts elevated the live sound through various innovative methods and application."
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports