Hollywood Architect, Jeff Cooper of Calabasas reminisces how he received his first (and only) Gold record from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Architect / Musician Jeff Cooper Dreams of a Gold Record
The well-known Studio architect, Jeff Cooper of Calabasas, grew up in Toronto, Canada, in the ’60s. He was an excellent student, and he was also a locally acclaimed lead guitarist and songwriter, playing in a successful rock band. “In those days, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix & Led Zeppelin were my musical heroes,” says Jeff.
“I invented and built my own fuzz tone box and prided myself on being able to play any Jimi Hendrix solo, note for screaming note!”
Architect Jeff Cooper dreamed that his songs and musical creations might someday become famous …perhaps that he would even receive a gold record, like his musical heroes. Little did he know that dream would come true… 40 years later!
Jeffrey Cooper’s Gold Record was ultimately awarded to him by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. What Cooper couldn’t have possibly imagined though, was that the gold record would be awarded to him not for his music (sorry, Jeff ), but for his Architecture!
Photo 1 – Jeff Cooper of Calabasas pictured with his Gold Record Award in front of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland in 2009
How It Began
Architect Jeff Cooper of Calabasas loved math and science as a kid and was precocious. He launched toy rockets from his backyard with his brother Richard, and together with their cousin, David Cooper, who lived next door, they built a burglar alarm using paper clips, batteries, and a radio speaker. They actually caught a burglar! Jeffrey Cooper was accepted by MIT when he was only 16 years old! He hadn’t even graduated from High School!
So, not wanting to waste a golden opportunity, he left Toronto that summer as a 16-year-old, guitar in hand, and moved to Boston to start college. While at MIT, he joined a fraternity and kept up his lead guitar work, delving into jazz. He gigged with fellow musicians at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. At the same time, architect Jeffrey Cooper was staying up nights, studying for calculus and physics exams. Both sides of his brain were being used to the max! Somewhere around his Junior year, he decided to combine his love for music with architectural design and acoustics and he started to specialize in studio design and acoustical architecture at MIT. He graduated a year early, at 19 yrs, and then went back to MIT for a Master’s Degree. Tom Scholz, another lead guitarist, who founded the mega rock group Boston, was also at MIT at this same time.
For his Master’s thesis, Jeffrey Cooper of Calabasas wrote a book on Acoustics, which was eventually published as “Building a Recording Studio”. He drew all of the illustrations by hand (those were pre-CAD days). The book was published in 1976 and gained immediate popularity with musicians and studio industry professionals. As an interesting anecdote, when the contents of pop star Michael Jackson’s estate were displayed to the public, after his untimely death in 2009, an original signed copy of Jeffrey Cooper‘s book, owned by Jackson, was prominently on display. It was on Jackson’s nightstand, next to his bed.
Architect Jeff Cooper of Calabasas Moves to LA
After MIT, Jeffrey Cooper lived in New York for a stint, to get his book ready for publication. “I had no income yet, so I made a special deal with the manager of the Plaza Hotel. I lived in a little room tucked inside the hotel’s famous sloped mansard roof. It had one tiny window, which opened on to a roof balcony. It was built for the overnight cleaning staff but it was quite charming. I only paid $200/month…for a room at the Plaza Hotel in New York!” recalls Cooper.
Then he moved to Los Angeles and started his professional design firm, Jeff Cooper Architects Hollywood, to specialize in the design of Studios, Theaters, Mixing Stages and projects for the entertainment industry. He gained a reputation for meticulous designs and also became known for his architectural innovations. In 1976 he invented and copyrighted the Infinite Speaker Baffle Wall. In the 1980’s he introduced Stadium Seating to George Lucas and created the world’s first stacked Stadium Theater Multiplex for Mann Theaters in Santa Monica. Jeff Cooper Architects also built music studio projects all over the world, from Singapore to Japan, Holland to Australia, and of course from New York to Hollywood. He also built many private studios for well known Rock Stars.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Contacts Jeff Cooper Architects
In 2008, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame approached Jeff Cooper Architects, now located in Calabasas, with their desire to build a new 3-D film and live performance Theater. Jeff flew to Cleveland to meet with the museum staff and to survey the area in the museum building where the Theater would be located. Coincidentally, the iconic Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame was designed by another MIT Architect, I.M. Pei. The project goal was to create a high-tech Theater venue on the upper level of the museum, a room with excellent acoustics and hi-end digital projection which would be equipped with Dolby 7.1 Surround sound. The Theater would be multi-purpose. In addition to films, it would also be used for private live performances by well-known rock artists and Rock Hall inductees. The museum had secured Greg and Madelyn Foster, of Cleveland and Montecito, California, as their major donors. The project would henceforth be known as the Foster Theater.
The Design and Construction
The design drawings were completed in California that year. Mr. Jeff Cooper’s firm also provided and installed all the video projection and sound equipment and manufactured the acoustic treatments. A local contractor in Cleveland performed the construction under Cooper’s supervision. The project was completed in approximately eight months and within budget.
Photo 2 – The Foster Theater
The Grand Opening
The opening was scheduled for October 26, 2009. The local dignitaries, museum executives, and media attended. Greg Foster’s son-in-law was general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers at the time, so some of the star team members also attended the gala. Architect Jeff Cooper took his cue from the famous basketball players in attendance and gave a moving speech about the importance of teamwork in all areas of life, including construction. A 3-D Film starring the rock band U2 was premiered. The subwoofers inside Jeff Cooper’s Infinite Baffle Speaker Wall and the new Dolby surround sound system performed brilliantly, as expected!
The CEO gave Jeff a private tour of the museum’s “Vault”, where some of the most treasured items are kept, a secret room that is not open to the public. “I had a chance to hold John Lennon’s Gibson acoustic guitar, the famous one on which Lennon had scratched the cartoon sketch of himself and Yoko Ono, during their Give Peace a Chance tour,” says Jeffrey Cooper of Calabasas. He adds “…I held Buddy Holly’s shiny sports jacket in my hands, the iconic jacket with the square shoulders that he had hand-tailored in Lubbock, Texas…I also saw one of Jimi Hendrix’s Strats up close…one that he didn’t burn…and that doesn’t happen every day!”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the museum awarded Jeff Cooper of Calabasas with a Gold Record for his achievement, and delighted him by presenting a special plaque signed by all the executives and staff of the museum calling Cooper’s firm ” The Architects of Rock and Roll”.
Photo 3 – The Architects of Rock and Roll
Why The Rock Hall Project was so Meaningful to Architect Jeff Cooper
The epithet “Architect of Rock and Roll’, is often reserved for Les Paul, the multi-talented Grammy award-winning guitarist, the man who invented the original electric guitar as well as the man who invented multi-track recording. Les Paul had just recently passed away on August 12, 2009, only three months before the completion of Jeffrey Cooper’s project. He was a legend in the music industry. Says Jeff Cooper of Calabasas “Les Paul was a guitarist, scientist, and inventor, and had a great sense of humor. I always felt a kinship with Les Paul, because of the way he had successfully combined superb musicianship with recording science acumen and inventive creativity”. Les Paul had changed the world with his musical and scientific talents and architect Jeff Cooper idolized him.
Jeff Cooper met Les Paul in New York several times. He vividly remembers one special encounter…
“It was 3 am on a Sunday morning and Les had just finished the 3rd set of his late Saturday night gig at the Iridium. I own an original 1956 Gibson Les Paul ‘Black Beauty’ guitar. Les kindly hand-signed the pickguard for me. We talked for a while, he cracked a joke and then we posed for a photo. I will always cherish that instrument and that memory”.
Therefore, the epithet, “The Architects of Rock and Roll”, chosen by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for architect Jeffrey Cooper’s achievement, brings back memories of Les Paul and will always be especially meaningful to Jeff.
Since that opening ceremony in 2009, many famous artists have given private concerts in architect Jeff Cooper’s theater. They have taken that opportunity to discuss their music and their lives candidly with audiences in lecture sessions given in the intimate Foster Theater setting. Also, they have generously participated in hundreds of public broadcasts on the Rock & Roll Hall’s radio station and contributed to the Rock Hall’s non-profit foundation. They have joined the ranks of Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen and the many other talented musicians who have forever changed the world of music and who have been immortalized as inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.