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Eldred Stebbing

Stebbing Recording Centre's History

  • 1921: Eldred Stebbing is born in Auckland, New Zealand.

  • 1931: Eldred's father dies. Consequently, Eldred helps to support his mother by delivering baked goods on bicycle.

  • 1930s - 1940s: Eldred leaves school at the age of 13 after only 6 months of secondary education. In order to supplement his mother's small income he begins working for Radio Ltd on the radio manufacturing production line. He soon joins his older brother Phil in running a sound system company supplying audio equipment for public gatherings. He continues to manage the company after Phil joins the air force during the war, setting up Red Cross dances for visiting American servicemen as well as other events. In addition, he records discs for the New Zealand Red Cross to be sent to troops as a morale booster. He also continues to service radios - a lucrative trade given many servicemen are away at war.

  • Post-WWII: After his marriage to Margaret(1923-2003) in 1945, Eldred begins to experiment with recording in his Methuen Rd home, setting up a purpose-built studio in his lounge. Later in the 1940s he establishes his second studio in the Pacific Building on Queen St (where the ASB Building now stands). His company is called Stebbing Recording and Sound. His eldest son Robert is born around this time.

  • 1950s: During this time, Eldred's bread and butter is the recording of radio adverts and programmes. He also establishes his pressing plant in the former Auckland laundry building in Grey Lynn, manufacturing 78s and eventually 45 and 12" records. His earlier attempts to release his own records had been thwarted by the HMV label's monopoly on the market. On the family front, Eldred's second son Vaughan is born.

  • 1957: The Zodiac label is established.

  • 1958: Eldred and his young family shift to Saratoga Ave in Herne Bay, Auckland. It is here that Eldred will later record many landmark New Zealand bands in his purpose-built recording studio under the family house.

  • 1959: Eldred records the Howard Morrison Quartet live on tour. 'Battle Of The Waikato' is released and is an instant hit.

  • Early 1960s: The first signings are made under the Zodiac label. During this time, Max Merritt and the Meteors, Peter Posa, Allison Durbin and the Pleazers (as well as others) all record and release singles.

  • 1964: After signing to Zodiac a few years earlier, Ray Columbus & the Invaders record 'She's A Mod'. The single takes New Zealand and Australia by storm, reaching #1 in both countries.

  • 1965: The Invaders' next biggest hit 'Till We Kissed' is recorded. The timpani drums aren't able to fit through the doors into the studio, so have to be recorded in the garage nearby.

  • Mid-late 1960s: The studio is at its busiest. From 1965 onwards The La De Das, The Mods, The Gremlins, The Action, The Underdogs, The Human Instinct, Hi-Revving Tongues and Sandy Edmonds are just a few of the artists that sign to Zodiac and record in the 'basement studio'.

  • Late 1960s: Planning begins for a new purpose-built studio. Eldred's attempts to gain consent are turned down several times (for multiple sites). Council rationale is that the studio should sit in an industrial area, not residential Herne Bay. After much lobbying, consent is finally granted the current site on Jervois Rd.

  • 1970: Stebbing Recording Centre opens after nearly 2 years of construction. Riverbed stones line the floors of the two studios to absorb vibration from passing traffic. The soundproof studio doors are made of lead and weigh around 200kg each.

  • 1971: The studio becomes a hub for composing and recording advertising jingles, with resident composer Murray Grindlay penning many of New Zealand’s most well-known jingles while working in-house. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, music and VOs for adverts such as the Cadbury Crunchie train ad, Toyota's 'Welcome To Our World' and 'Dear John' for BASF are recorded at Stebbing.

  • 1973: Eldred assists his brother Phil with his cassette manufacturing facility, Tape Transcriptions. This is Eldred's first foray into media manufacturing since his earlier record pressing days.

  • 1977: Hello Sailor are the first band to sign to Eldred's new record label, Key. They release their self-titled album, recorded at Stebbing Recording Centre. The album features their now legendary hits 'Gutter Black' and 'Blue Lady'.

  • 1979: 'Be Mine Tonight' is recorded by Th' Dudes at the studios, and released as their first single. It also features on their first album 'Right First Time' which is released the same year.

  • 1980: Th' Dudes release their follow-up album 'Where Are The Boys?'. Included on the album are iconic singles 'Walking In Light' and 'Bliss'.

  • Early 1980s: The Jervois Rd is extended and the adjacent kebab shop demolished to make way for 2 additional studios plus a cassette manufacturing facility. One of the earliest tapes manufactured on site is David Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs'.

  • 1981: Patsy Riggir, who is signed to Key, releases her album 'Lay Down Beside Me'. The album quickly reaches gold status.

  • 1981: Patsy's single 'Beautiful Lady' is awarded 'Most Popular Song of the Year'.

  • 1984: Eldred is awarded the prize for Outstanding Contribution to the Music Industry at the music awards that year.

  • 1986: While touring, the Violent Femmes pay a visit to record 'Dance Motherfucker Dance'. The session is engineered by Eldred's son Vaughan.

  • 1991: The first VHS tapes are duplicated on-site with exclusive Sony Sprinter equipment.

  • 1996: Plans are commissioned for Stebbing Recording Centre's CD replication facility, to be housed in a separate Ponsonby building to the studios and cassette manufacturing operation.

  • 1999: The purpose-built CD replication plant is opened by then-Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley. From day 1, Stebbing Recording Centre is the only replicator in New Zealand operating a fully integrated system with all aspects of the manufacturing process carried out in house.

  • 2002: Replication of DVDs begins. Stebbing Recording Centre is (and remains) the only replicator of DVDs in New Zealand.

  • 2004: Eldred is appointed Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the New Zealand music industry at the Queen's Birthday Honours.

  • 2009: Ray Columbus & The Invaders receive the New Zealand Herald Legacy Award at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards for their musical achievments during the 1960s. They are also inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

  • 2009: Eldred passes away peacefully at his home in Takapuna, Auckland, just weeks before Christmas. The company today continues to operate under the helm of Eldred's sons Robert and Vaughan.

  • 2010: The Zodiac label celebrates its 50th anniversary.

To be continued...