In 1967, Gary Kellgren was a recording engineer working at several New York City studios, including Mayfair Studios on 701 Seventh Avenue at the edge of Times Square, a drab upstairs office, a single room which held the only professional 8-track recording system in New York. There, Kellgren worked with artists such as the Velvet Underground, who recorded "Sunday Morning" in November 1966; Frank Zappa; and Jimi Hendrix, engineering their recordings and also sweeping the floors. In late 1967, Chris Stone was introduced to Kellgren because Kellgren's wife, Marta, was seven months pregnant and scared of the upcoming birth and Stone's wife, Gloria, had just given birth. Mutual friends thought that the two couples could talk about being parents and ease Marta's worry.
Though they were "diametrically opposed" in nature (with Stone all business and Kellgren very creative), the two quickly became friends. Seeing him at work, Stone determined that Kellgren was not making full use of his genius for making recordings. Stone noticed that the small studio was charging its clients $5,000 per week, but Kellgren was making $200 per week. Stone suggested Kellgren ask for a raise and soon he was making $1,000 per week.
Stone held an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and was employed as the national sales representative of Revlon cosmetics. Stone convinced Kellgren that the two of them, with $100,000 borrowed from Johanna C.C. "Ancky" Revson Johnson, could start a new recording studio with a better atmosphere for creativity. Johnson was a former model and the second wife of Revlon founder Charles Revson. She divorced Revson and married Ben Johnson, a male model 21 years her junior.
In early 1968, Kellgren and Stone began building a 12-track studio at 321 West 44th Street, creating a living room type of environment for the musicians. It opened on March 13, 1968. As the studio was nearing completion, record producer Tom Wilson persuaded Hendrix producer Chas Chandler to book the Record Plant from April 18 to early July 1968 for the recording of the album Electric Ladyland. In early April, just prior to the start of the Hendrix session, the band Soft Machine spent four days recording The Soft Machine, their debut album produced by Wilson and Chandler with Kellgren engineering. When the Jimi Hendrix Experience arrived at the studio, Kellgren engineered the first few dates until Eddie Kramer, the band's familiar engineer, flew in from London.
In 1969, Kellgren and Stone sold the New York operation to TeleVision Communications (TVC), a cable television company that was broadening its portfolio. The purpose of the sale was to gain cash for expansion into Los Angeles with a second studio.
The next big mixing assignment that the studio accepted was to mix the tracks recorded at the Woodstock Festival. These took more than a month to sort out in the studio, as recording conditions had been primitive and some tracks contained both voice and instruments, preventing separate processing for each.
In 1970, Studio A became the first recording studio designed for mixing quadraphonic sound.
On August 1, 1971, the studio made its first remote recordings at The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden.
During the 1970s, house engineers Shelly Yakus and Roy Cicala also gave many local bands their start by donating session time and materials, engineering and producing their demo tapes.
In January 1972, Warner Communications bought the facility from TVC. Head engineer Cicala bought it from Warner.
In April 1973, the New York Dolls recorded their debut album there, produced by Todd Rundgren.
In late 1973, Aerosmith began recording Get Your Wings, their second album. Bob Ezrin, known for producing hits for Alice Cooper, was put in charge, but engineer Jack Douglas put so much into the project that he was called the sixth member of the band. (Douglas's career had started very humbly as janitor at the studio.) The song "Lord of the Thighs" was written and recorded inside the Record Plant's Studio C during an all-night session after the band realized they needed one more song for the album. When Aerosmith returned to the Record Plant in early 1975 to record Toys in the Attic, they named Douglas as sole producer.
The song "Walk This Way" was written after Douglas and the band, without Steven Tyler, went out to see the film Young Frankenstein and were struck by a humorous line spoken by Marty Feldman playing a hunchback. They returned to the studio to tell Tyler what the song's title must be, and Tyler wrote the words on the walls of the stairwell at the Record Plant. For the recording of Draw the Line in 1977, Douglas brought a truckload of Record Plant remote recording equipment to the Cenacle, a 300-room former convent in Armonk, New York.
In 1978, David Hewitt (Dir. of Remote Recording) and crew of John Venable, Phil Gitomer, Robert "Kooster" McAllister and Dave "DB" Brown built the Black Truck, a state of the art mobile studio. They recorded everyone from Aretha to Zappa, also expanding the Record Plant's client list in live radio, television and films. Among these recorded performances were the first live MTV concert, the Tony Awards, the Grammy Awards, Live from the Met Opera and the films Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, the Rolling Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together, Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps, No Nukes and Queen Rock Montreal.
John Lennon was recording "Walking on Thin Ice" at the Record Plant on December 8, 1980, the day he was shot and killed. Willie Nile was also recording Golden Down at the Record Plant the night Lennon was killed.
American pop singer Cyndi Lauper recorded her debut studio album She's So Unusual, one of the most iconic pop albums of the 1980s, at the Record Plant between December 1, 1982 and June 30, 1983.
In 1987, the New York studio was sold to Sir George Martin and closed soon afterward.