Jeep Harned, 1930-2003

May 1, 2003 12:00 PM, George Petersen

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Grover C. “Jeep” Harned, the founder of MCI Electronics — a manufacturer of studio consoles and recorders during the 1970s and 1980s — died on March 13, 2003.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University, Harned joined the U.S. Army, serving as electronics instructor. In 1955, he opened Music Center Inc., a store catering to the growing hi-fi market. Harned soon hooked up with Mack Emerman, who had just opened Criteria Studios and had trouble with the facility's custom-built 16×3 console and ½-inch 3-track recorders. This “quick-fix” job lasted some 18 months, as Harned redesigned nearly all of Criteria's gear.

During the early ‘60s, Harned built consoles, preamps and record electronics. In 1965, his business name became MCI Inc., and he focused on making replacement solid-state Ampex 350 recorders. Word about MCI spread: Harned got a call from Tom Hidley (then manager of TTG Recording Studios in Hollywood), asking if MCI could create 24-track electronics for an Ampex 300 that Hidley modified to handle 2-inch tape. That first 24-track went into service at TTG in 1968, creating a stir among competing studios and leading to a recording revolution.

MCI showed its own recorders at AES 1971, and a year later, intro'd the concept of the AutoLocator. MCI began building a “production” console series, and soon off-the-shelf pro studio mixers became reality. Later, a Nashville audio dealer named Dave Harrison, who later founded Harrison Consoles, came to Harned with an idea of a console with in-line (as opposed to “split”) monitoring. In 1972, the MCI JH400 Series — the first in-line console — was born. In 1978, MCI unveiled a 32-track analog deck that recorded on 3-inch tape. It went nowhere. MCI did much better with its JH500 and JH600 Series consoles, which became ubiquitous fixtures in studios.

Harned sold MCI to Sony in 1982 and retired. He will long be remembered as a pioneer who made significant advancements to the state of pro audio.

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