An Architecture of Sound & Connection • Al Limberg & Jim Schmidtke

Mid-Michigan Music Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Inductees - Class of 2014

    icon May 08, 2014
    icon 0 Comments

This was the second year the Executive Board of The Review Music Awards presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to inductees that are now members of what one day we hope to showcase the legacies of in a Mid-Michigan Music Hall of Fame.

Last year’s inaugural inductees consisted of Jazz Great Sonny Stitt and Saginaw’s Michael Brush.  This year the honors went to Jim Schmidtke and Al Limberg, co-founders of the seminal musical instrument and sound shop Watermelon Sugar.  Each man possessed considerable talents; and Al Limberg served as the Soundman for a majority of our Review Music Award ceremonies – a distinction that is now being passed along to his son, Carey Limberg.

Al Limberg and Jim Schmidtke were two formidable individuals that together formed an architecture of sound and connection.  John Lennon once said that celebrity was a bitch, because, as he put it, people never recognize you in the present. Their connection to you, he said, would forever be related to something they know of who you once were, and they can never really know how you are now.

Together these two men formed a fateful partnership when the their music store Watermelon Sugar from the ground up back in the late 70s, which for nearly 3 decades formed a significant linchpin that helped hold the musical community together, not only through each man’s respective talents as top notch sound technicians, but through their expansive commitment to all facets of our musical & cultural community. 

They possessed a sense of engagement that brought power, coloration, and depth to whatever talent or voice walked into their store or took to the stage; and each of them carried those values through with personal commitment to any artist struggling to make a difference in our world.

Al left us two years ago and Jim departed this world last year, but throughout the course of their life they brought clarity to the musical messages emanating from stages big & small because they understood the power of music to redefine the context in which we live.

Their talents did not go unnoticed. Jim branched off to play keyboards in the ‘80s with the gifted and seminal band My Dog Bob, programming intricate compositions by the classical composer Pagaini on his keyboards when that art of digital programming was still in its infancy; and later formed his own recording studio. Whereas Al secured over 18 sound & lighting honors over the past two decades from fans & supporters at The Review Music Awards; and in 2007 he won a special award for individual making the biggest impact on the scene in the last 20 years. But fundamentally, both men resonated throughout the fabric of our community because they truly loved what they did and their passion spilled over in so many remarkable ways.

While Jim and Al are no longer with us physically, they will forever be omnipresent. Both were men of connection – hooking up music, artists, community friends and family and making it all the better because of their talent.

I remember walking into Watermelon back when the Review had first re-located to Old Town in 1981 – both of our businesses had only been around a couple of years, and Al was sitting in the rear of his shop drinking a soda and Jim was handling a repair.  A pair of young musicians walked into the store and he greeted them with a booming hello, and both men gave us all a nickel tour, and spent the next hour enthusiastically holding animated conversation with a couple of punks who were obviously too broke to do much but window shop. They didn’t make a sale that day and they didn’t care – they had made some friends; and though they both had lots of them, both were of the belief they could always use more.

On the local behind-the-scenes platform, “celebrity” is a deceptive and often unfair word, because it insinuates a singular view of popularity based on sheer exposure. Unlike the big broad world of performing, where technicians and roadies are interchangeable, the local sound guy & technician who keeps a firm footing in the community deserves every bit as much credit for shaping its sound as the guys on stage. Al and Jim were there not for just one show, but for a whole generation of shows.

Among the people who know how it really works, when the lights are cold and the stage is bare, when the gear is in a pile on the dance floor, and the band is still sucking down Bloody Marys to ward off a hangover, Al & Jim were known to everyone. They were the guys who sweat the details so that musicians could play the role of Rock Star. They made their job easier.

And once a relationship with an artist was formed they would bend backwards to service them.  They watched artists grow up on stage. And they saw artists whom they considered friends perform with good bands, bands that sucked, and bands that each would respectfully submit “could get better”. 

They shared victories and failures and understood the landscape of both. Their place in the hearts and minds of area musicians is firmly rooted in our past connections to them, and our unwavering certainty that they will simply be here, making musicians sound and look good until their own final curtain.

Al and Jim did not care if a band or artist they were working with was new or established – their goal was to make them sound the best that was humanly possible. Moreover, they didn’t believe in charging exorbitant sums of money for their talents; and both contributed enormously to non-profit organizations and endeavors over the expanse of the decades.  I doubt anybody can tally the countless benefits they donated services towards for those afflicted with illness or catastrophe.

Al Limberg and Jim Schmidke as celebrities? Maybe not in the most traditional sense that may have offended the haughty sensibilities of someone like the late great John Lennon. But referencing each of these men as such is a compliment in the highest order. It gives a wink and a nod to the long, long road we’ve traveled together.

They set a standard for service & commitment that will always be a gauge for past, present and future generations to measure themselves by – and for that reason, the Board of the Review Music Awards is proud to present these Lifetime Achievement Awards to the second round of inductees into the Great Lakes Bay Music Hall of Fame – Al Limberg & Jim Schmidtke.

Share on:

Comments (0)

icon Login to comment