J. Gordon Holt, 1930–2009 Letters


J. Gordon Holt

Editor: My father passed away July 20, shortly after noon Colorado time. He had suffered a long fight with COPD-emphysema, and he died in his home with his family around him. If you are so inclined, you can pay him your respects by having a good martini and complaining about the weather.—J. Charles Holt, Boulder, CO

Cheers, Gordon

Editor: To the man who discovered, defined, and truly verbalized audiophilia—cheers! Thank you, J. Gordon Holt, for the many years of enjoyment, and—oh, it's hot, humid, and sunny today—darn!

Be with God, Gordon.—Jaime Ballester, ballester8005 @ comcast.net

Sad news

Editor: My condolence for the passing of Mr. Holt.—Malcolm Baba, Danville, CA, babafink @ comcast.net

Yes, we do

Editor: J. Gordon Holt has died. We owe him a lot.—Gene Poon, Sheehans @ ap.net

A giant

Editor: I met Gordon Holt one exciting evening in the early 1970s, at an audio dinner hosted by Bud Fried and attended by Percy Wilson of Gramophone, David Hafler, Gordon, and their wives. I remember that, up to that time, I had imagined him as a physical giant of a man. He had to be to be the unique, special person the magazine he invented, Stereophile, seemed to demand. Well, he wasn't tall, but he was a giant.

He gave me his phone number and told me to call him, and we became friends. That continued till last Monday. For some inexplicable reason, I suddenly recall that Gordon was the person who introduced me to Peking Duck and to Chick-fil-A over three decades ago. And I remember his quiet, dry wit. Who else would slip an ad in his own classifieds for a doomsday machine, never used? And who would "cancel" a magazine cover for lack of interest?

This last Monday, I lost a friend, audio lost a titan, audio journalism lost an innovator and teacher and marvelous writer, and the world lost a mensch.—Allen Edelstein, Hahax @ verizon.net

A natural

Editor: I first came in contact with Gordon when I subscribed to Stereophile in its days as a quarterly, when it was coming out of some little Pennsylvania town. I don't think it was Media; maybe before that. This was perhaps the mid-1970s, and "quarterly" was only a nominal designation; the issues were always late, though always rewarding when they did appear. They were like unbirthday presents, in that they always came on not the designated day.

We communicated quite a lot over the years, via letters, phone, and e-mail, and once or twice in person. Not just about equipment—not even mainly about equipment—but about broader aspects of the field, its place in society at large, and everything else under the sun. Not many of us are still around who remember when "hi-fi" occupied the place now taken by home computing; or when, in 1958 or so, the Yellow Pages changed their audio category from "High Fidelity" to "Stereo." That, had we known it at the time, marked a change as major as the much-later appearance of "Home Theater."

What Gordon wrote off the cuff—letters and e-mails—made it obvious that, as a writer, he was a natural. He was also one of the few people in audio who was cultured in both music and technology. And he never stopped learning.

I remember another old-timer telling me of his respect for Gordon's involvement in recording. "Every week of his life, he goes out and records whatever's around to be recorded." How few do this now!

JGH will be missed.—James Boyk, boyk @ PerformanceRecordings.com

Always a character

Editor: After hearing the sad news, I thought I would share a Gordon story.

Years ago, following a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Avalon's Neil Patel and I had just boarded a plane for Denver. As we sat there, Dave and Sheryl-Lee Wilson walked down the aisle, followed in a few minutes by Kathy Gornik and Jim Thiel. Then came Arnie Nudell [then with Genesis], and then Gordon, accompanied, I think, by Corey Greenberg (before he was showing people on the Today show how to shave) or by Steven Stone. They all sat right behind us.

Neil and Gordon were chatting over the seat, and both said simultaneously that if that plane was going down, it could change the face of the industry. The flight was otherwise uneventful, until we got close to Denver, when we hit a few bumps. The first one took all the coffee in Gordon's cup and shot it into the air. Virtually all of it made it back into the cup. We all had a laugh about that. Then another bump deposited the entire cup on Gordon's well-worn CES white shirt. For the remainder of the flight, he wore the coffee on his shirt.

Later, in the baggage-claim area, we again ran into Gordon, who asked if we had a ride to Boulder. We thought he was offering us a ride, but in fact he needed a ride. We had a truck picking us up to transport some of our show display stuff. We had an empty van, which we used only for moving speakers back and forth to the finish shop—in other words, no seats, aside from the driver and passenger seats. For the drive back to Boulder, Gordon, I, and a couple of other Avalon staff were all sliding around on the floor.

Always a total character, and I am sorry I had not seen him recently.—Lucien Pichette, Avalon Acoustics

You can find a tribute to Gordon by Larry Archibald, Stereophile's publisher from 1982 to 1998, on p.13; an illustrated appreciation by Jeff Wong on p.3; a tribute from a group of high-end audio companies on pp.34–35; and a thread on our online forum paying respects to Gordon here. Yes. J. Gordon Holt will be missed. Temperamentally, his natural state was to rail against the Establishment and, paradoxically, that Establishment came in time to include the magazine he founded. But without Gordon's vision a half-century ago, not only would there not be a Stereophile but also not a high-end audio industry as we now know it. Cheers Gordon. And thank you.—John Atkinson