Jack’s Story

Audiotech Austin’s founder, Jack Donahue, began his long and colorful career at Southeastern Tech in Easton, Massachusetts, where he studied Electronics in both the classroom and the Electronics Lab for four years. One year before graduation, he went to work for Panatronics, an Authorized Service Center for Panasonic brand home entertainment / Hi-Fi products; there he learned under Massachusetts licensed Master Electronics Repair Technician Eddie Bergan.

After graduation in 1972, Jack opened up his own business, USA Sound and Electronics, which specialized in live sound and audio repairs. His first major customer was Harvard University, where working as an on site sub-contractor, he serviced Tandberg tape labs and pro-grade audio gear such as Dynaco, KLH, and McIntosh. When not at Harvard, Jack was back in his shop repairing vintage Fender, Marshall, and Ampeg amplifiers for local musicians.

At the urging of his parents, Jack then went to work in the electronics industry, securing a respectable position as a Research and Development Engineering Technician at The Tyco Instrument Division. By that time, he was already mixing live sound for local bands at night using his own personally designed and fabricated sound gear. Because Tyco owned Dynaco, Jack was able to build up a small collection of Dynaco power amps at reduced employee cost.

Jack mixing sound using his original soundboard back in 1973 – (photo credit – Billy Sciore)

But unsatisfied with corporate electronics, Jack soon moved back to Boston where he went to work for the legendary Hanley Brothers, Bill and Terry, who had literally invented the live sound business some years before by providing the first true high fidelity touring sound systems and doing historic gigs including Woodstock. As the Production Manager for Terry Hanley Audio Systems, Jack and his crew built what were then the only clearly intelligible high power communications headset systems available at that time for the top acts of the entertainment industry. These clients included crews and lighting companies for such acts as The Rolling Stones, Kiss, The Grateful Dead, and systems for leading athletic organizations such as NBC Sports and multiple colleges including Texas A&M.

But it didn’t take long for Terry Hanley’s top local rock band, Boston’s own Aerosmith, to find Jack. Once they did, he soon found himself repairing all of the band’s on-stage amplifiers. Soon after, working in conjunction with a brilliant Audio Design Engineer named Walter Link, Jack found himself building much of Aerosmith’s custom designed stage gear, some of which, according to sources within today’s regularly touring Aerosmith organization, is still being used out on the road today.

Sometimes, after working in Terry Hanley’s headset shop all day, Jack would be allowed the “privilege” of helping Terry’s sound crews carry sound systems in and out of Boston’s legendary rock club, The Rat, where he learned how to work with upcoming professional talent such as The Dead Boys, The Pretenders, Blondie, and The Ramones, to name just a few. He also frequented the small, but also legendary Boston club Cantone’s where he first met and provided sound for many upcoming Boston favorites, bands such as The Real Kids, The Nervous Eaters, Tracks, Baby’s Arm, The Lyres, The Inflicktors, Human Sexual Response, Unnatural Axe, Le Pest, Mission of Burma, The Stompers, Thrills, The Neighborhoods, and other local greats who went on to national or international success.

After a short stint as “Hometown Tech” for Tom Scholz and the band Boston, Jack moved on to a different corporation, dbx and their R&D Department. There he helped design and built the original breadboard prototypes of the dbx models 160x and 166 compressor / limiters, as well as the 900 Series of small modular signal processors found in many of today’s top recording studios.

But finding himself still unhappy in corporate environments, Jack went back to work at Terry Hanley Audio as Service Manager. While there, he remained active on the local scene working with the next generation of new upcoming Boston bands including Boys Life, Lou Miami and the Kozmetics, The Prime Movers, and The Outlets.

Soon after, Jack was recruited to work as Chief Sound Engineer for The City of Boston and Mayor Ray Flynn. There, he maintained all of the city’s sound equipment and began working for the public, doing sound jobs all over the city. Weekends included mixing sound for the “Oldie’s Concerts” with audiences of ten to fifteen thousand people at Boston City Hall Plaza. Eventually, Jack became the working Sound Engineer, Crew Chief, and Production Manager for these shows and the city’s fifteen person Special Events tech crew.

After being introduced by Boston Mayor Flynn to Presidential candidate Bill Clinton, Jack found himself mixing sound for The President of The United States, the Vice President, and their families whenever they visited Boston. After Mayor Flynn was appointed as The Ambassador to The Vatican and left for Italy, the new incoming Mayor foolishly dismantled the city’s talented Tech Crew by sub-contracting out all of the City’s tech services to far more expensive private vendors.

Jack, his old boss, and several other City crew members were then recruited by The Commonwealth of Massachusetts where Jack was put in charge of the sound system at the world renowned Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston. There, he mixed shows of up to 30,000 people for several years and helped facilitate Boston’s famous annual “4th of July Fireworks Concert Spectacular” with The Boston Pops and the event’s largest vendor, Capron Lighting and Sound. During its heyday, this huge event drew well over 500,000 people and was broadcast live to over 50 million television viewers. There, Jack worked behind the scenes on not only critical last minute technical issues, but also with government officials in assuring the public’s safety and security. While at “The Shell,” Jack also worked very closely with many talented top entertainers including his friend Arlo Guthrie, legendary rocker David Lee Roth, and his old professional mentors from years before, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.

Issued an official state vehicle full of The Commonwealth’s sound and other equipment to operate and maintain, Jack spent most of his “off season” time away from “The Shell” traveling throughout the state providing sound, lighting, power, and other event services for schools, public facilities, and other non-profit organizations, as well as other Massachusetts municipalities. Working closely with government agencies such as The Massachusetts State Police and The United States Secret Service, Jack provided secure technical event services for many top local, state, and federal elected officials.

Shortly after Jack began working with Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Boston media jokingly began calling him “the guy with the badge” because of the official Massachusetts State Shield he often wore on his belt when working with top officials and different police agencies. But the media soon changed Jack’s nickname to “Mister Clean” out of respect for the especially clean and clear audio he sent out as press feeds which were often broadcast nationwide.

Jack left official public / political service soon after Governor Mitt Romney gave up “The Corner Office” in Massachusetts. By that time, Jack had served countless public officials including two Boston Mayors, five Massachusetts Governors, and two Presidents of The United States. Shortly afterwards, he moved to Austin, Texas, The Live Music Capital of the World, to be involved serving Austin’s vibrant local music scene to live in comfortable semi-retirement.

Jack at Audiotech today, with our director of public relations Pat the Cat (photo credit – Rachel Rascoe)

Because of his lifetime of work, Jack Donahue is recognized as one of the top Audio Technicians and Sound Engineers in America. Rising from the academic classrooms and labs of Southeastern Tech, then later receiving his Bachelors in Science from UMASS Boston, and then completing all of his Masters coursework at Framingham State University, Jack is not only very well educated, but very well experienced with life. Over the years, he has worked with some of the most talented bands in the world, as well as some of the most important public officials in American political history.

Yet all throughout his career, Jack has maintained his personal electronics workshop and close ties to American rock and roll. Jack still keeps in regular contact with his family and many friends up in Massachusetts, as well as both Bill and Terry Hanley, his long time government boss Mike Testa, the Aerosmith organization, and his all time “favorite band to ever work and mix sound for,” The Real Kids.

Nobody in Austin, absolutely nobody, can match Jack’s life long experience in audio electronics, live sound, and true public service.