Page 1: Biography
Recording engineer, radio technician
This biography, written by Kevin Oliff, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.
Stanley Dallas was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 31 October 1926, the son of Mary Elizabeth McManus and her husband, William Cruikshanks Dallas, a tiler. The family emigrated to New Zealand the following year and settled in Wellington, where Stan was educated at Berhampore School and Wellington Technical College. He joined the National (later New Zealand) Broadcasting Service as a technical trainee in late 1943, and subsequently worked as a radio technician and recording engineer for Wellington station 2ZB. While there he participated in studio and location broadcasts, including regular dance music programmes relayed from the New Majestic Lounge and a Victoria Street dance hall.
In 1947 Dallas was approached by Fred Green, factory manager for the Radio Corporation of New Zealand, to assist in the design and construction of recording studios and a record-pressing plant at the rear of the corporation’s factory in Wakefield Street, Wellington. Previously, New Zealand recordings had been made on location or in Broadcasting Service studios, and processed and manufactured in Australia. Green had acquired cast-off presses in Australia with the view to establishing New Zealand’s first fully integrated recording facility. Three studios, one large and two small, were constructed. The equipment comprised a single Western Electric cardioid microphone, a 25-watt valve amplifier (designed and built by Dallas) and 10-inch speakers assembled by the Radio Corporation.
At the beginning of October 1948, over a period of several days and in sessions fraught with teething troubles, Stan Dallas engineered the first commercial 78 rpm recording for the TANZA (To Assist New Zealand Artists) label: ‘Blue smoke’, backed with ‘Senorita’. (The commemorative label claimed 3 October as the actual recording date.) Both songs were recorded direct-to-acetate, and the process had to be repeated several times to produce multiple masters for the manufacture of the final pressings. ‘Blue smoke’, composed by Ruru Karaitiana and performed by his quintet with vocalist Pixie Williams, was processed, manufactured and issued in February 1949. It sold more than 20,000 copies, mainly through the chain of 30 Radio Corporation-owned Columbus Radio Centres.
Dallas is also credited with being one of the first engineers to record an electric guitar by connecting it directly to the recording equipment, rather than using a microphone. He subsequently engineered numerous other TANZA releases, including the 1949 hit ‘Maple on the hill’ by Cole Wilson’s country and western group the Tumbleweeds, and songs by vocalist Mavis Rivers and Jack Christie (a TANZA employee, who also recorded as a country and western singer and guitarist). However, the studio earned most of its income from advertising jingles. Dallas later recalled that they were ‘flat out daylight to dark making radio commercials. That was our living, the music was almost an aside’.
Stan Dallas had married Patricia Nancy Sutton, a typist, at the Roman Catholic church in Manaia, Taranaki, on 20 December 1947; they were to raise two daughters. He was a lifelong ham-radio enthusiast, and from 1952 operated the Radio Doctor store in the Wellington suburb of Hataitai. He continued to work as a recording engineer, his output including a 33 rpm disc of Winston McCarthy’s commentaries of the four rugby tests in 1956 between the Springboks and the All Blacks, issued on the Parlophone label by His Master’s Voice (New Zealand). Dallas was also instrumental in introducing the Strongline television aerial, specially designed and built to withstand Wellington’s high winds.
After his retirement in 1986, Dallas maintained his long association with Hataitai. He served as a justice of the peace and was frequently referred to as the suburb’s unofficial mayor. Over a period of years he held several positions in the Hataitai Bowling Club, and was subsequently elected a life member; in his later years he became greenkeeper. Stan Dallas was attending to the greens when he collapsed and died on 21 November 1997. He was survived by his wife and daughters.