A Microphone’s Story: Thirty-Seven Years and Still Going Strong, Bill Massey’s Electro-Voice 635A
A Microphone’s Story
by Bill Massey
I first heard of the Electro-Voice 635A from a fellow radio announcer, Jim Stone, over at WHAL in Shelbyville, Tennessee. This would have been in the middle or late 1960s. He was away at Michigan State University in Lansing working on a Master’s in Radio-Television when he called one evening and was quite excited about the fantastic new little dynamic microphone that had just come out from Electro-Voice. We were already familiar with the old 635-it was being used as a board mic at nearby WMCP Radio in Columbia, Tennessee, and was doing a terrific job. He was telling me that an EV salesman was traveling about the country using a new little 635A to drive nails into a board and then connecting it up to an amplifier input to demonstrate that its capabilities had not been diminished in the least.
About that time I was working as a weekend announcer at WJJM Radio in Lewisburg, Tennessee, and teaching mathematics and history at Franklin High School in Franklin, Tennessee. I also began to see the 635A appear on television in all sorts of capacities-from singers’ mics to ones appearing in newscasters’ and reporters’ hands. All I knew was, I had to have one for my very own, but I had to wait a couple of years as I was about to get married and it was going to take every penny I could raise to set up house-keeping on a teacher’s salary. I continued to disk-jockey in Lewisburg on weekends, but then our children began to come along. Finally, in 1970 I purchased my 635A and it was “love at first sight.“ The mic matched my voice perfectly. I carried it up to WJJM and begged the chief engineer, R. C. Wiley, to put it on the main console for a while to see how he liked it. He did, but preferred the bassy sound of an RCA mic we had been using. (He later changed his mind.) After about two weeks I carried it back home, a little chagrined.
I continued to work at WJJM until 1971 when I applied at and was employed by WLAC Radio in Nashville. My responsibilities included going out and gathering news and about that time one of the traveling rock and roll shows hit town as part of the nostalgia wave which was sweeping the country. I used my little 635A to interview Bill Haley and the Comets and I was so excited that I could barely speak, but somehow I got through the interview in fine fashion. I worked at WLAC as a DJ and weekend newsman until 1978 when I left to work at WIZO in Franklin, Tennessee. I continued to use my 635A in various capacities there and also at home as a mic for my amateur radio station, K4RCD. It served me well in that capacity and I worked “hams“ in countries all over the globe.
In 1990 I went through a rather acrimonious divorce and as I was exiting the house with some of my belongings I had a rather close call-my 635A whizzed by my ear (with the desk stand still attached). It bounced around on the ground and rocks and I figured it was done for. A friend of mine allowed me to store my radio equipment in a room attached to his barn and I re-installed my mic, doubting that it still work or sound like anything even if it did. Signal reports began to come back and my fellow amateurs asked me what kind of mic I was using-it sounded wonderful. I was amazed. A few months later it stormed in that area and part of the barn’s roof was blown away. I did not go back to the barn for several weeks, and when I finally did, I was horrified to see that it had rained in through a hole in what was left of the roof and my 635s and part of my amateur radio equipment were rusted! I started to throw it away, but something told me not to. For sentimental reasons I wiped it off and set the little mic aside with its stand still attached for a few more years. I eventually retired from teaching and moved back to Lewisburg in 2004 after my father passed away. One of the announcers at WJJM Radio (where I had worked thirty-five years previously) became seriously ill and eventually passed away. The owner/general manager of the station, the granddaughter of the owner for whom I had worked back in the late 1950s and ’60s, and her husband called me and asked me if I would consider coming back and filling in for the ailing announcer. I agreed and one day, on a whim, I carried my old, rusty 635A up to the station just to see if it would work at all. Lo and behold, it became obvious that it was out-performing the other mics that were all over the place. I installed the poor little rusty 635A in the main control room as a chat mic only a few feet from where I sit, using the Electro-Voice RE27N/D as the main board microphone. We are very fond of the RE27 and I can’t go so far as to say that the little 635A sounds better than it does, but it still holds its own and every time I interview aspiring country music entertainers and veterans as well who stop by the station to drop off CDs and talk, I use the 635A. There it is, thirty-seven years after I bought it, and still sounding as good as the day I purchased it.
I’ll also tell you this. A friend of mine, Jim Hayes who co-owns WAKM in Franklin, still swears by the 635A. He’s been very successful and could afford to buy anything he wants for station mics, but he still uses several 635A’s. He equalizes them on his consoles and he says he’s never heard anything that could beat them, so why change? Incidentally, he’s an engineering graduate from Vanderbilt University, so I feel that he knows what he’s talking about.
I personally want to thank you for producing a microphone that has not only been a useful tool for me over the years, but also a close friend as well. We’ve been through a lot! LOL. I love that little mic and it would hurt me if anything ever happened to it.
William R. (Bill) Massey, Staff Announcer