HOUSTON (CelebrityAccess) Joe Hardy, 66, producer, engineer and longtime staffer at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tenn., died at his home in Houston Tuesday morning after a brief illness.
Hardy was known for a decades-long career working with ZZ Top, including Billy Gibbons’ 2018 solo album, but also recorded The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me, Steve Earle, Al Green, Alice Cooper, Green on Red, Tom Cochrane (“Life Is A Highway”) and Carl Perkins during his 45 years twisting nobs.
“My friend Joe Hardy played a huge role in our lives,” Gibbons told the Commercial Appeal. “He was a true innovator in a field where many just did it ‘by the book.’ He threw away ‘the book’ and wrote his own. The result took our audio signature and just about everything he worked on to new sonic frontiers.”
“When we met in Memphis more than four decades ago there was an instant connection and the relationship was cherished until he left us,” Gibbons added. “Joe will be missed but, in a very real sense, we’ll be able to always hear him.”
Hardy arrived in Memphis in 1972 to record his band, The Voices of Cheese, at Ardent Studios because the band had a short-lived contract with Ardent’s Stax-distributed record label. Once the band broke up, he worked in the recording studio and became one of its elite engineers tutored by studio head John Fry. He was known as one of the most technically brilliant studio minds of his time, known for working with cutting edge technology, the paper said.
“Joe was such an important part of the life of Ardent,” veteran Ardent executive Jody Stephens told the Commercial Appeal. “My job in those days was to wave the flag for the studio. It was always a joy to sit down in front of A&R guys in New York or Los Angeles and play something Joe had recorded. People knew we were doing stuff in Memphis that was as good as anything being recorded in the world. And Joe’s work stood out.”
“Hardy put me in my place early on,” said The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg about the band’s 1987 recording sessions. “I was being a smart-ass, and I said something like, ‘Jesus, how many records have you made?’ He turns around and goes, ‘ABOUT A THOUSAND! How many have you made?’ I went, ‘Okay. Carry on.’”
Hardy later moved to Houston to continue working with ZZ Top in their homebase.
“To me, you play music. You don’t work music.,” Hardy told Billboard in 1994. “No one starts off doing this thing to make money. You got into music because it was fun, and it’s important to never lose sight of that.”