Norman Pickering RIP

Sadly, Mr. Norman Pickering passed away November 18th, 2015 at age 99.

I learned of his passing from Fan Tao, R&D Director, D'Addario & Co., Inc. It was Mr. Tao who first contacted me asking if I'd like to interview Mr. Pickering. I'm so glad I took the time to drive to East Hampton, L.I. to meet and talk with Mr. Pickering. What a fascinating and full life he led!

Here's an obit from his widow Barbara Goldowsky Pickering:

Norman Charles Pickering of East Hampton died peacefully at home on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, at age 99.

Born in Brooklyn, New York on July 9, 1916, he had a long, multi-faceted career as an inventor, musician, acoustical researcher, and musical instrument maker. A pioneer of high fidelity audio, he invented the Pickering phonograph cartridge. He was one of the founders of the Audio Engineering Society and its first Secretary.

He was educated at Newark College of Engineering and the Juilliard Graduate School, becoming both a professional engineer and professional musician. He joined the newly formed Indianapolis Symphony in 1937 where he played for three seasons, teaching at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan during the summers. In early 1940 he was asked to join the research group at C.G. Conn in Elkhart, where development of wind instruments involved sound recording of the highest quality possible at the time. This work was interrupted on December 7, 1941 (the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) and the instrument-making plant was converted to making gyroscopic aircraft instruments for Sperry Gyroscope Company. Pickering was invited to join the Sperry Research Laboratory in Garden City and he spent the war years there.

In November 1945 he founded Pickering and Company to produce phonograph pickups and associated equipment. The company was an immediate success. His work in recording led to association with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, Les Paul, Capitol Records and many musical artists. He continued to play professionally as a New York free-lancer. It was in 1948 that he joined C. J. LeBel and other audio engineers to form the Audio Engineering Society.

As his company became too large for him to manage alone, he hired Walter Stanton as sales manager. It was not long before Stanton organized a hostile takeover of the company, forcing Pickering out of his company and out of the audio field. Making use of the wartime experience, he returned to aviation, becoming Vice President and Technical Director of Avien, Inc. and later of Robintech, Inc. In 1970 he became technical director of a laboratory in Southampton Hospital for development of high-resolution ultrasonic imaging.

Since 1980 he devoted himself to study of the acoustics of violins and their bows and was a long-time consultant to D’Addario and Co., Inc. manufacturer of strings for musical instruments. He was a past president of the Violin Society of America. He received awards for his work and an Honorary Doctorate from his alma mater, which is now New Jersey Institute of Technology .

In 1989, he helped found Pianofest in the Hamptons and continued as a board member, creative consultant and practical advisor until his death. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, who uses the professional name Barbara Goldowsky; four children by two previous marriages; the sons of Barbara Goldowsky; four nieces; numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The survivors are: Judith Crow of Winston-Salem, NC; David Pickering of Queen Creek, AZ; Frederick Pickering of Sag Harbor, NY; Rolf Pickering of Evergreen, CO; Alexander Goldowsky and Boris Goldowsky, both of Boston, MA, and their families.

Cremation was private. The family is planning a memorial service, date to be announced. Friends wishing to make memorial gifts may donate to East End Hospice or the East Hampton Free Library.

November 20, 2015

Profrcw51's picture

Hi, Michael, so sad to hear of the bad news of Mr. Pickering's passing. His phono cartridges were excellent, and i'm glad you got to interview and record his voice for us to enjoy. I downloaded that interview, and i'm glad that i did. His was a long and eventful life, well-lived.

Randall Whiteside

AnalogJ's picture

I wonder if it would be useful to embed your interview here in this post?

Michael Fremer's picture
In this post is a hyperlink that takes you to the interview!
jarroyoeq's picture

He died peacefully his wife said... that´s ok, I hope we all do the same. Someone thought there is a heaven for artist where, say Beethoven or Mercury, experience the beauty of music in a way "out of this world" and probably compose new music with heaven ensembles just thinking of it. God is Love so congratulations Mr. Pickering you are now there. We all will follow you for shure.

labjr's picture

Awww! Sorry to hear this. If there's an analog heaven he'll be there with many other greats.

Glad you had the chance to sit down with him. Peace.

warpig's picture

Rest In Peace Mr. Pickering. Thanks for everything. If not for yourself and others like you we may still be in low fi.

Loved the interview and sad that their will not be a follow up. He does have a few things on youtube.