J&M Studio and Cosimo Matassa
Cosimo Matassa was the man to record with in 1950s New Orleans. He began his career as a recording engineer in the back of his jukebox and record store, J&M Services, where he would cut records for local artists. For many years, his studio was the only place in the city to record music. As the musicians of New Orleans saw success, so did Matassa, and he moved to a larger space in 1956.
Matassa recorded several of the big R&B hits in his studios, including “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard, as well as most of Fats Domino's sessions for Imperial. Matassa’s preferences for mixing became embedded in both the New Orleans and R&B sounds; he tended to create mixes focused on the lead vocalist and backed with a strong horn section, often placing the piano lower in the mix, even for accomplished pianists such as Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, and Huey Smith.
Matassa’s early records were cut directly to disc, rather than mixed using a tape deck before making a master. Even after he had enough money for a mixing and editing system, some of his techniques and habits remained. He often set volume levels and did not move them throughout the session, preferring one, unified mix for all the songs he recorded. His preferences became standard throughout much of the R&B recording industry, and helped to create an R&B sound.