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John Storyk & WSDG at the Nexus of Art and Technology

By Tom Kenny


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“Serendipity,” John Storyk says soon after it’s established that we’re recording. “Maybe we could get the art director to watermark that word and run it across all the pages of the article. That’s the one word that sums up my life. I’ve said that for a long time. Might be kind of cool. I’m sure it can be done in print.”

Hmmmm. He’s an architect, so he thinks visually. And the art director might go along…

“And Beth. We have to talk about Beth,” he interjects, referring to his wife of 31 years, interior designer and textiles/fabrics sommelier Beth Walters. “There is Life BB and there’s Life AB—Before Beth, and After Beth. I mean that quite sincerely. None of this would have happened without her. And again, serendipity. We were both invited to the same Thanksgiving dinner back in 1985, and we haven’t been apart since.”

Of course we’ll talk about Beth. It’s the Walters-Storyk Design Group. She’s going to be on the cover with you…

“And we can talk about Jimi, too,” he adds. “I’ve told the story a hundred times, and it never gets old. . Talk about serendipity. I was 22 years old. I was an architect just starting out, by myself, living in New York City. It’s 1969. There was no grand plan. Then I get this phone call from Hendrix’s Manager, Mike Jeffery, and he tells me that Jimi  would like me to design a nightclub for him. I’ve always said that it helps if your first client is a major rock star.”

And away we go. Let the three-hour Zoom session begin…

John Storyk and Beth Walters-Storyk, WSDG Founding Partners and married couples. Photo taken in Akumal, Mexico.

John Storyk and Beth Walters in their second home for 31 years, Akumal, Mexico, just north of Cancun. Photo courtesy of John Storyk.

From Electric Lady to WSDG

It’s hard to overstate the impact that Electric Lady Studios had on the recording industry when it opened on West 8th Street in August 1970. Storyk didn’t invent the modern studio; not by any means. A&R and MediaSound reigned in New York. Record Plant New York and L.A. emerged at about the same time. Tom Hidley was being noticed. Bill Putnam had built some amazing rooms. Later came Vincent Van Haaff in 1970s Los Angeles. Still, nothing quite epitomized studio life at the time like  Electric Lady, with it’s blend of style, comfort and technology. And it was owned by a rock star.

Still, it was supposed to be a nightclub. According to Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’s producer and engineer, Jimi liked to take breaks in the middle of all-night sessions and go out. One of his favorite clubs in late summer 1969 was called Cerebrum, down in SoHo, featuring an all-white interior, curved lines and a multi-colored lighting scheme. For nine months it was the hip place to go; it made the cover of Life magazine; and it was designed by a 22-year-old architect, recently graduated from Princeton, named John Storyk.