Shed Recording Studios was launched in 1975 in Salisbury, Rhodesia (subsequently Harare, Zimbabwe) by three Rhodesia Television employees, Steve Roskilly, Martin Norris and Neil Thain. For the following twenty-five years, the company quickly became the mainstay of the fledgling recording industry within the country, producing a significant volume of work during this period.
The first studio was located inside a converted caravan, the initial recordings comprising, mainly, live recordings at various music venues within the city. The difficulties of working from a mobile recording studio soon became apparent and a more permanent facility became essential.
By this stage, Norris and Roskilly had left the RBC and were working for Blackberry Productions, an emerging radio and television production facility. Accepting an offer from Blackberry to make use of their largest studio for a modest rental, the pair transferred their Shed equipment and set to work producing jingles, children’s short stories and private band recordings. By this stage, Neil Thain had departed and the work load on Norris and Roskilly was increasing appreciably.
The demand for their services necessitated yet another move to larger premises, this time to the top floor of Park House in Park Street. These premises were able to accommodate dedicated control rooms and a live room. The pair continued to face continuing challenges, particularly with Norris having to meet compulsory military commitments every six weeks or so. This effectively left Roskilly to “carry the can” during these absences.
The new studios first recordings were for advertising executive, Clem Tholet, in the form of an album called Songs Of Love And War which was largely autobiographical. Tholet established a firm rapport with the Shed team and was soon bringing much of his advertising agency’s work to the studio. In due course, other firms followed suit and Norris and Roskilly wrote and recorded some significant pieces of work. These included songs, albums and film tracks.
Initially, Norris played guitar, bass guitar and sang whilst Roskilly played keyboards and wrote arrangements for strings. In due course, however, the services of regular session players were drawn on and, eventually, top drummer, Bothwell Nyamhondera, was employed as the studios drummer and trainee engineer. This coincided with the investment of a Harare night club owner, Steve Hughes, in the company and he became a third director alongside Norris and Roskilly. A second studio was built for Bothwell and he was encouraged to seek out deserving artists. In 1982 the studio were presented with the high profile Advertising Association of Zimbabwe’s “Premier Award”.
In 1980, as the country became Independent Zimbabwe, the quest for new talent began and, in answer to a newspaper advert, 30 aspiring artists presented themselves for “audition”. Some of these young musicians subsequently became voices on jingles and backing vocals on record releases.
It was after Norris had written a jingle for a travel agency that he had to leave the production work to Roskilly as he had, yet again, to meet a military commitment. Roskilly duly asked a young, 15-year-old lad, David Scobie, who had a voice remarkably similar to Neil Diamond’s to sing the lead vocal for the jingle. The jingle went on to win an award for best jingle at the AAZ awards. Scobie was to go on to enjoy a highly successful recording and performing career.
Zimbabwean guitarist, Louis Mhlanga, was another regular visitor to the studio.
In 1983, after producing a massive amount of work over the preceding years, Martin Norris left Zimbabwe and settled in Brisbane, Australia, whilst Hughes relocated to South Africa. At this stage Roskilly decided to sell the studio equipment to local record company, Gramma, in order to pay out their shareholding. The staff were taken on by Gamma.
At this juncture Roskilly set about establishing new studio facilities at the Gramma premises in New Ardbennie. With Shed Studios now operating solely as a trading company, Roskilly managed the new Gramma studios in return for reduced studio hire and continued to produce work for Shed Studios. David Scobie joined the team as a trainee engineer, as did Henry Peters, an outstanding bass guitarist. The business flourished and further equipment upgrades followed.
In the late 1980’s the studio earned many accolades for their involvement in Air Zimbabwe’s promotional “Sunrise in Zimbabwe” campaign. The song had originally been recorded at Shed Studios by the Canadian band, Refugee. Their lead singer, Myles Hunter, had composed the tune. After various complications the band’s manager, Cliff Hunt, agreed to make over all the song’s rights to Shed Studios providing that al future proceeds from the song’s sale and use would accrue to the country’s Rhino charity. In due course, through the Air Zimbabwe advertising campaign, the tune generated profits which were transferred to Save The Rhino, as agreed.
In 1987, after an approach from the London organisers, Shed Recording Studios promoted the forthcoming Paul Simon concerts which were to be filmed as promotional tools for Simon’s release, Graceland. Two concerts to crowds of 20 000 were filmed with Roskilly as technical manager. His contribution to the success of this venture resulted in his being involved in the subsequent Reebok Sponsored Human Rights Now! Harare concert in 1988 with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Sting. Other concerts included UB40, Eric Clapton and Randy Crawford.
In 1989 the company moved out of the Gramma establishment and built three studios at 123 Robert Mugabe Way. Two new shareholders, Benny Miller and Peter van Deventer, joined the company. Benny Miller did many band recordings with established artists such as Thomas Mapfumo and Kelly Rusike, the latter subsequently joining as an engineer. Roskilly concentrated on jingles and Sally Donaldson and Hilton Mambo operated the third studio as Cherry Productions. Local musician, Bud Cockcroft, then provided funding to upgrade Studio 1 and became a shareholder and director.
In 1995 Roskilly started an offshoot called Prosound, a live sound production company. In 1996 the studio hosted a gap year student from the United Kingdom called Chris Martin. In 1997 Andrew McClymont replaced Chris Martin as Prosound became Pro-Active Audio Zim.
In 2000 Roskilly left Zimbabwe and relocated to the United Kingdom where he continued his work in the sound and radio industry. Zimbabwe Shed Productions was sold to Kelly Rusike and continues to operate. Shed Recording Studios, which owned all the studio equipment, was sold.
(With acknowledgements to Wikipedia).