Over the course of my writing career I've had opportunities to talk, interview, and interact with many gifted audio designers and larger-than-life personalities, but four stand out as the most influential - Ed Villchur, Henry Kloss, Les Paul, and J. Gordon Holt. Let me take a paragraph or two to elaborate on what impressed me the most about each one of these special people.
Ed Villchur - When I asked Roy Allison, who worked with Villchur at AR, to describe Ed Villchur, he used one word - rigorous. Everything Villchur did was performed with an extremely high level of attention to detail and thoroughness. This rigor included interviews. During the course of my research into the history of AR I talked with Villchur for several hours via telephone. He had an uncanny ability to tell when I didn't completely understand a concept, and break it down so I even I could grasp it. Also during the course of the interview, whenever I used a term with less precision than he liked he would correct me or ask me to define what I meant before proceeding. Clarity was Ed Villchur's very nature.
Henry Kloss - Henry Kloss had one of the quickest minds I've ever encountered. His failing was that he assumed (incorrectly) that mere mortals were as smart as he was. During conversations his brain worked much faster than his mouth. Often in the course of a technical description he would jump from A to C to E, linking together the concepts quickly in a form of verbal shorthand of "so on, and so forth..." Keeping up during interviews was a challenge. And asking for clarification would often have the opposite affect, since when Kloss got irritated he would talk even more softly and more rapidly.
Les Paul - I only interviewed Les Paul once, although I met and heard him play on several occasions. When I did a phone interview with Les about a year before he died, it was like talking with a Mid-western college professor. Les was a bit like Ed Villchur - he liked to make sure you understood a concept to his satisfaction, and several times during our interview he quizzed me to make sure I got what he was saying. I was also impressed by Les' curiosity. When I mentioned anything that interested him, he asked for a source so he could investigate it later.
J. Gordon Holt - One of J. Gordon Holt 's principal character traits was his insatiable curiosity. No matter what the subject, given a few minutes of discussion Gordon would find something that would send him off on a research mission. He loved the Internet and loved to investigate and learn via web crawling. I never saw him at home without at least one computer with its browser open.
Another special quality was Gordon's ability to collaborate on creative projects. During the time we made recordings together, sometimes under stressful conditions, Gordon never "pulled rank" even when in retrospect, he probably should have. Although I worked FOR Harrry Pearson, I worked WITH J. Gordon Holt.