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Remembering Elliot Mazer, Producer Of Neil Young's 'Harvest' And Other Classic Recordings
When producer Elliot Mazer first ran into Neil Young, he barely knew who he was—much less that he'd helm his future entry in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.
According to Jimmy McDonough's 2002 biography Shakey, Young took a trip to Nashville in 1971 to appear on "The Johnny Cash Show." There, he ran into Mazer, who had no idea who he was beyond a girlfriend who listened to After The Gold Rush unceasingly. However, the random meeting led to Young's breakthrough album and other gems, too—from 1975's American Stars 'n Bars to 1985's Old Ways to 2020's "lost" album from the mid-'70s, Homegrown.
The late producer connected Young with one of his most crucial bands, The Stray Gators—pianist Jack Nietzche, pedal steel player Ben Keith, bassist Tim Drummond and drummer Kenny Buttrey. Together, they delivered a stone classic of the singer-songwriter era and gave the world classics like "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold." In 2015, the album was enshrined in the Hall Of Fame.
While Mazer may be best known for Harvest, his legacy—with Young and other acts like Linda Ronstadt, The Band and Big Brother and the Holding Company—runs much deeper. Sadly, Mazer died Sunday (Feb. 7) of a heart attack after a years-long battle with dementia. He was 79.
"A master in the studio, Elliot was a really good guy," Young wrote in a tribute on his Archives website. "He had a great way about him, and I wish we had gotten to do more together. I am happy and thankful, though that we got what we did get. Harvest is one of my most recognized recordings and it all happened because of Elliot Mazer. Thanks Elliot. Lots of love, bro."
Mazer was born on September 5th, 1941, in New York City, and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. When he was 21, his neighbor, Bob Weinstock—the legendary jazz label Prestige Records owner—hired him as a tape organizer and record deliveryman. Mazer then worked at Cameo-Parkway, a Philadephia independent label.
Over the next two decades, he produced key albums by Big Brother and the Holding Company (1968's Cheap Thrills), Gordon Lightfoot (1968's Back Here on Earth and others) and Linda Ronstadt (1970's Silk Purse). He also played a role in 1978's The Last Waltz, The Band's famous document of their farewell performance at Winterland Arena in San Francisco.
Mazer was also an innovative technologist, co-inventing the "D-Zap" studio hazard detector and the AirCheck system, which automatically monitors and logs radio and TV broadcasts.
He is survived by his sister, Bonnie Murray, and his children Alison, Danielle and Jack Reid. His family has requested that all donations be given to MusiCares.