Musician, arranger, composer and owner of Philadelphia’s premier recording facility, The Studio, Larry Gold has worked on countless hit records over the last four decades.
Born in 1948 in Kensington, a blue-collar neighborhood in the heart of North Philadelphia, Larry’s first instrument was a toy guitar he plucked off the shelf of his parents’ five and dime store – he was six years old at the time – and taught himself how to play. A year later he was handed his first cello by a music teacher at his elementary school. It was love at first sight, and Larry spent hours each day practicing Bach and Brahms – even as he cut school to go see Elvis Presley movies.
By the age of 13, Larry had soloed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and at age 14 he was accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music. Though he was determined to become a concert cellist, like his idol Pablo Casals, Larry “got caught up in his generation.” It was 1964; Larry wound up in a blues-rock band playing electric bass. When his teachers at Curtis found out about his extracurricular activities they gave him a choice: classical music or rock and roll. He was seventeen – for the moment, rock won. For the next few years Larry pursued other alternative musical combinations, but made ends meet playing in the House Band at Philly supper club the Latin Casino, where he backed up the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis Jr. (who tried to fire him for having long hair). He also played on countless sessions for early Philly R&B acts such as Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp.
At the same time, Larry also started to work seriously with three young Philadelphia soul music visionaries: Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who were just coming up with the idea to form the label that would become Philadelphia International Records, and brilliant writer/producer/arranger Thom Bell. It was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. Philadelphia had always had its share of great musical talent in Jazz and Rhythm and Blues, however, there had never before been such a collection of talented and driven musicians (with the means and the market to succeed) in the City of Brotherly Love.
Not surprisingly, Larry thrived in this rich musical soil. Gamble, Huff, and Bell weren’t just making hit records. They took the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement, added in Black Power politics, gospel-style spirituality, mixing elements of classical orchestration and the Big Band sound, and packaged it up as neatly as Berry Gordy had at Motown a decade earlier. They also had a brilliant ability to figure out what the people wanted to hear. The result? One of the richest soul music genres ever: the Sound of Philadelphia.
This finally proved to be the right learning environment for Larry. Throughout the late sixties, seventies, and early eighties, he was a member of the Sound of Philadelphia’s house band, MFSB, playing his cello on almost every record made in Philadelphia, including hits by the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes, Billy Paul, Dusty Springfield, the Spinners, the Stylistics, the Delphonics, Teddy Pendergrass, the Trammps, Patti LaBelle…The list goes on and on. All the while, Larry quietly honed his production and arranging skills — which would come in handy in the years to come. Ultimately, Larry earned his first gold records writing string and horn arrangements for Teddy Pendergrass and
McFadden & Whitehead.
All good things come to an end, sadly, and the Sound of Philadelphia was no exception. By the early eighties, the hits were coming less and less frequently, until, finally, nothing. It was a hard time for musicians in Philly. Resourceful as always, Larry turned his talents to composition. He wrote music for animated films by acclaimed cartoonist Paul Ferlinger – earning an Oscar nomination for the animated short It’s So Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House. Larry and Paul also collaborated on many short films for the children’s television show Sesame
Ultimately, though, Larry just couldn’t stay away from
Rhythm and Blues. He opened a small studio in 1985, with the idea that it would lead him into more production. Soon he had a room in Studio Four (later to become Ruffhouse Records and eventually Jazzy Jeff’s A Touch of Jazz studio). Before long, some of the old Philly Soul guys were coming over to visit. Within a few years, Larry was full-time producing, writing, and helping new acts develop, all the while moving from studio to studio.
Then in 1996, Larry finally took the plunge. Envisioning a place that would offer state-of-the-art recording acilities, a positive, laid-back vibe, and enough space to “bring the old Philly string section back together in one room,” he began construction on The Studio, his own, long-dreamt of space.
Meanwhile, he also went back to one of his first loves – writing arrangements. His first shot was out of the
park – Brandy and Monica’s hit “The Boy is Mine,” produced by Rodney Jerkins.
As the Studio turned into a base for a variety of artists,
Larry wrote string arrangements for most of the acts recording there.
First, the Roots, a hip-hop band with old-fashioned musical chops, began coming around. Next came Erykah Badu, Common, Jill Scott, Musiq, Bilal Jaguar Wright, and the Jazzyfatnastees, as well as many others. Larry’s musical knowledge and talent — along with his hippie ethics and ready ear – have become invaluable to Philadelphia’s new
generation of soul stars and hopefuls. Add in the Studio’s comfy velvet chairs, view of the Philly skyline, and hand-painted decorations and you’ve got yourself more of a home
than a recording studio.
Some of the many string arrangements that Larry has done include (the already mentioned) Monica & Brandy’s Grammy
winning duet and #1 single “The Boy is Mine;” The Roots’ Grammy winning single “You Got Me” (featuring Erykah Badu);
and Jennifer Lopez’s #1 single “If You had My Love.”
Last December, Larry arranged, conducted, and played cello for Jay-Z’s performance on MTV Unplugged with the Roots.
In the last few months, Larry has recently worked on rrangements for Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Floetry, and Beat Club’s artists Ms. Jade, Sebastian, and Shelby. Larry has also worked with producers Rodney Jerkins, Jazzy Jeff, Timbaland, Andre Harris and Vidal Davis, Ali Shaheed Mohammed, Cory Rooney, Bob Powers, Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barrias, James Poyser, and ?uestlove.
Larry is very excited to be releasing his BBE record Don Cello, a compilation album featuring some of his favorite artists from the good old days through today, including Black Thought (and the other members of the Roots), Timbaland, Res, Floetry, Musiq, Glenn Lewis, the Jazzyfatnastees, Carol Riddick, McFadden & Whitehead, and Bunny Sigler.