Ralph Sutton, aka "Ralph P-Funk", is a American Recording and Mixing Engineer based in Los Angeles, CA. Sutton's career spans the better part of three decades and innumerable recording sessions with the recording industry’s most elite recording artists, songwriters and music producers. RalphSutton.com
Ralph Sutton began his career as a recording engineer after graduating from the Recording Institute of America, and taking some follow-up courses at UCLA Extension.
The very first recording studio Sutton worked for was City Recorders a recording studio in the Witt/Thomas/Harris Studios on the corner of Sunset and Gower in Hollywood, CA. Sutton started as a runner, and quickly advanced to second engineer. Sutton worked there for several months on different recording project and voiceovers, and then the classic recording studio story happened -- the recording engineer for a recording session did not show up and Sutton had his first opportunity to first engineer for a major recording artist, Jazz Pianist and Disco Keyboardist Webster Lewis, a well-known Studio Musician and Arranger for Herbie Hancock, and Barry White. Sutton did several overdubs of Acoustic Piano, Fender Rhodes piano, and some vocals for Webster Lewis for the Album titled "Eight for the Eighties" (Epic, 1980). While still at City Recorders Recording Studios, Sutton meet and developed a relationship with one of his first clients, American Jazz Saxophonist and Composer Gary Bias, now of Earth Wind & Fire.
While still working at City Recorders, Sutton was offered an opportunity to work as an assistant engineer at a popular Burbank Recording Studio named Chateau Recording Studios. One of Sutton’s first project as an assistant was with renown British Recording Engineer and Producer Ken Scott, of Beetles’ and David Bowie fame. Sutton assisted Ken on recording a little band founded in 1980 in Los Angeles by guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, vocalist Dale Bozzio, and drummer Terry Bozzio, named "Missing Persons". Sutton did two recording projects with Missing Persons the "EP" and "Spring Session M", both projects did extremely well and ushered in an era of New Wave Music with a Hard Rock feel. Sutton assistant engineered for Ken Scott on his Production and Engineering of Kansas Album titled "Vinyl Confessions". Kansas had wide success and the band included Phillip W. Ehart Drummer, Richard Allen "Rich" Williams Guitarist, Robert Eugene "Robby" Steinhardt Violinist. Sutton says through his many collaborations at Chateau Recording Studios with Ken Scott, Bruce Botnick, and Jerry Goldsmith he began to developed his own style of Recording Engineering which at this time focused on Microphone Selection and placement, EQ, Compression and Tape Machine set-ups, and Alignments for different types of musically audible sound results.
Sutton moved on from Chateau Recording Studios and started working as an engineer at Electra Asylum Recording Annex in Panorama City, CA where he was the assistant engineer of Jeffers Dodge. Dodge and Sutton recorded Motley Crue’s second album, "Shout at the Devil"; along with recording other Elektra/Asylum Records recording artists Vixen, Josie Cotton, and Jesse Colin Young along with other Elektra/Asylum recording artists.
Motown Records and Motown Hitsville U.S.A Recording Studios 1981- 87 Ralph Sutton becomes part of “The Motown Sound” as a Staff Recording Engineer at Motown Hitsville U.S.A Recording Studios Los Angeles which was located at Romain and Poinsettia in Hollywood, CA. Sutton began to record the Soul, R&B and Funk that gave him the reputation he has today of being able to capture live and electronic sound in a crisp, clear, clean way, with strong, undiluted trendsetting Urban inclinations.
At Motown Hitsville, Sutton cultivated the finer points of recording engineering: microphone techniques, and microphone selection for different type of recording application for strings, horns, drums, percussion and vocals. Sutton was Under the direction of Gaetano (Guy) Costa managing director of Motown Hitsville Recording Studios and Diane Martin Studio Manager of Hitsville, and Sutton garnered the tutelage of Recording Engineer Calvin (Cal) Harris Sr and Recording Engineer Barney (Bone Yard) Perkins.
Sutton began recording, mixing, and editing master mixes to be mastered by Motown Mastering Engineer John Matousek. At Motown, Sutton was 1 of 4 Staff Recording Engineers which included Chief Engineer Russ Terrana, Recording Engineer Bob Robitaille, Recording Engineer Fred Law and Recording Engineer Ralph Sutton. Sutton started racking up recording sessions with Motown Recording Artists, Producers and Jobete Music Company Songwriters; the recording sessions count well into the hundreds, and Sutton would work on multiple sessions a day sometimes. Sutton states, “I would do a String recording session in Sunset, which was the name of Motown Hitsville Big Room from 9 am to 5 pm, then break the recording session down, and do a Vocal Recording Session in Sunrise from 6 pm to 12 am; and then go upstairs into Twilight and make and edit International Copies to be sent to the Motown Records promotions department at the main building on Sunset and Vine. I was doing 100 -hour weeks sometimes and loved every minute of it”.
Sutton’s clientele at Hitsville is made up of some of American music history's best and brightest Music Makers. The Short list of Recording Artists and Music producers include: Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Rick James, and the Extraordinary Music Producer of Motown legend: Berry Gordy, James Carmichael, Norman Whitfield, Holland–Dozier–Holland Team of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Hal Davis, Willie Hutch, Steve Barri. At Motown Hitsville USA Hollywood, CA Sutton developed his sound and music production style, which could be described as a merger of Jazz, Funk, R&B, Soul and Rock, thusly earning him the nickname "Ralph P-Funk".
Sutton says, "At Motown, and to this day, I train rigorously every day to learn to blend my diverse recording and mixing skill set and sensibilities into my sound, and my sound is made up of a living, breathing, thinking stuff that lives in all music and it lives in me. It's Traditional Jazz and Rhythm and Blues (R&B), it’s Funk mixed with Soul, it’s the music flavor of my life experience which means it is ever evolving and becoming more in me, and is always seeking to express itself through me.”
"You know I believe the most important thing I have learned and continue to learn and practice is collaborating, the group effort involved in the recording process, the mutual goal of completing the recording and mixing of a song, the teamwork and knowing your position on the team, recognizing that on the playing field, which for me is the studio, control room and the equipment, and the position I play is recording engineer. When I play to the top of my ability, not only does it make a better recording and mix, it makes a better creative environment to work in, where new ideas are created and the energy is high".
Sutton’s Grandfather, H. B. Price, had the biggest influence on him and helped hone his musical tastes. Sutton said that Price, along with his Mother and Aunts, exposed him to various types of music of there era, the fifties through the early 70's, and growing up in West Los Angeles now called South Central L.A. also played a very important part of where he gets his FUNK from. "I grew up listening to the Temptations, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Joe Tex, Johnny Guitar Watson, Parliament Funkadelic, The Isley Brothers and all kinds of Jazz from Miles, Coleman Hawkins, and Duke Ellington", Sutton said, "It was an abundance of different musical styles in my home and all around me in my daily life experience in South Central Los Angeles."
"After six years at Motown Hitsville Recording Studios and Mr. Gordy’s decision to sell Motown to MCA it was time to move on."
Sutton moved on to the last recording studio he would work for, Kenny Rogers' Lion Share Recording Studios Beverly Hills, CA as a Staff Engineer. There he teamed up with producer David Foster and Recording Engineer Humberto Gatica, and together they created music for Julio Iglesias, Chicago, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Dionne Warwick. Sutton worked with George Duke and Stanley Clarke recording projects with Recording Engineer Tommy Vicari. Through some of his many clients, Sutton began to master the fine art of Remixing. These while at Lion Share include Jermaine Jackson, Paula Abdul, Jeffrey Osborne, and Lionel Richie.
"When approaching a remix, I approach the song new in my mind and decide what new parts can be added to make the song fresh and new to the listeners/fans of the artist". Sutton said, "Some just want to make what they have sound different by having another mixer do the song. Others want a new sound completely along with new parts".
Sutton's exceptional talents are not limited to recording artists only. Sutton is a Scoring Engineering and mixer with a list of Film and Soundtrack credits under his belt. Some film scores and soundtracks to Sutton’s credit include “Eddie”, “Bulletproof”, “B.A.P.S.”, “Sprung”, “Dangerous Ground”, “The Big Chill”, “John Q”, “Bamboozled”, “Christine”, and “Get Crazy”. For Information on Booking Recording Engineer Ralph Sutton Click Here. Also be sure to check out Ralph Sutton's Discography.