From RADARs to Rock ‘n Roll: Our Talk with Sound Engineer Buddy Thornton

March 27, 2013

One of the best things about our business is the people you meet. From NASA astronauts to rock and roll legends, we have been honored to hear the stories behind the applications using Sealevel products.

Tom O’Hanlan, our CEO, recently received an email from RP Higgins, a Sealevel customer and very interesting guy. He worked for a company that was working on retrofitting projectors at the US Naval Academy. He needed specialized power supplies that would work with the modified projectors. A quick online search led him to Sealevel. He was impressed with the wide array of 5V and 12V supplies available. Sealevel rushed several power supplies to him the next day. His purchase wasn’t too expensive, but according to RP, “Sealevel helped us complete a pretty important job.”

RP also introduced us to his friend Buddy Thornton. You may not be familiar with his name, but many of you have heard Buddy’s work. Now a retired radar engineer, Buddy worked at Marshall Space Flight Center on the Saturn V 500ST Simulator and Skylab 1G Trainer. He took a leap of faith and went to work as a sound engineer at Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia.  He was later hired to build sound systems and mix during the Allman Brothers Band tours. This was back in the day when mixing consoles were built from scratch by the engineers using them. Check out the credits on the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers and Sisters album. You’ll find Buddy listed as the sound engineer. He went on to work with other great acts like the Marshall Tucker Band helped record The Eagles, Joe Walsh, and others at Bayshore Studio in Coconut Grove, Florida. In the late 1980s, he returned to his engineering roots as a test engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, a systems engineer at Northrop Grumman and a RADAR test engineer at L3 Communications.

Buddy also has a connection to Sealevel’s spokesperson, Chuck Leavell. Buddy and Twiggs would fly across to stadiums across the country to set up stages and sound. Twiggs grew up in Macon and started out as road manager for Percy Sledge and later worked with Otis Redding and the band Sea Level. While with the Allman Brothers, Twiggs built transports for Chuck’s Steinway piano. He liked to build everything from steel, so the promoters would need to hire forklifts to unload the trucks. The crates were so heavy that Twiggs was often accused of hauling around a safe. On the side of an amp rack, Twiggs stenciled SEA LEVEL SAFE CO. Rumor has it this was the origin of Chuck’s band’s name, Sea Level.

(Check out our Q&A videos with Chuck Leavell)

These days you can find RP and Buddy playing together around Melbourne, Florida. Check them out if you’re in the area. Be sure to buy them a few drinks and stick around to hear some great stories!