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LP Pioneer Howard H. Scott Dead at 92

Record Player
Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

He may not have been a household name, but Howard H. Scott had a lot to do with the way several generations of music fans experienced the work of their favorite artists — and he helped revolutionize the record industry along the way.

Scott, who succumbed to cancer on Sept. 22 at the age of 92, was a crucial part of the team that helped Columbia Records develop the long-playing record, vastly expanding the amount of music that could be included on an album. The previous industry standard, the 78, maxed out around four minutes on each side, but after the LP’s ascendancy, record companies — and, more importantly, artists — could release over 40 minutes of music on a single title.

The top-secret project, which had been brewing at Columbia for six years by the time Scott came on board in 1946, required Scott and his team to “stitch together” multiple 78 discs by carefully timing transitions between adjacent turntables. “To do that,” recalls the New York Times, “Mr. Scott and his colleagues lined up overlapping segments of music on 78s, and — with Mr. Scott snapping his finger in coordination — switched the audio signal at just the right moment from one turntable to the other.”

Scott left Columbia in the early ’60s, moving on to executive positions at various labels (and a Grammy-winning career as a producer of classical albums) before returning to Columbia in 1986, where he helped usher in the LP’s successor by supervising transfers of the label’s master tapes to CD.

Although he retired in 1993, Scott lived long enough to witness vinyl’s rebirth — something he commented on in an earlier interview with the New York Times, saying, “They lived from 1948 to 1978, when the CD came in. Now they’re coming back. Small companies are issuing them. I’m still an LP fan.”

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