I met Harry Pearson in Los Angeles in 1973. We were introduced by a mutual friend, also from Sea Cliff, who was a working musician performing in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, at the Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum. Within moments of Harry’s arrival we were instantly held in thrall by his wide ranging knowledge of seemingly everything, his equally strong opinions (again about seemingly everything) and rapier wit–just tempered enough by his genteel Southern charm and soft Arkansas dialect. At this time–it's hard to believe–but he still held a day job, that of environmental editor for Long Island’s Newsday. And TAS was still a gleam in his eye. The reason for his visit was an appearance on the NBC nighttime talk show “Tomorrow” hosted by Tom Snyder. (Actually early morning since it aired at 1AM locally.)
The subject was a series of exposés he’d written about toxic-waste dumping in the Long Island Sound, articles that would later nab him a Pulitzer nomination. Harry was a serious investigative reporter, an old school, hard-news guy, a man of insatiable curiosity and instinct–talents that would serve him well further on in his audio writing. And then he began talking at length about this little magazine he was about to launch and his hopes and dreams for its future. It would be a different kind of journal that would approach audio criticism uniquely and unfettered by the demands of satisfying advertisers–a magazine supported solely by its readership. He talked about the vintage house on Sea Cliff that he one day dreamed of owning–rather than just renting a portion of. He spoke about quitting his demanding day job and the joy of writing and editing TAS full time. Of course, I was ready to subscribe on the spot.
Much later I moved to NYC and often (but not often enough) visited Harry in the three-story Sea Cliff Victorian that he now owned. As an avid audiophile-come-lately I’d march from room to room listening to Magneplanars here, Quads or the IRS Reference Series V there, turntables always spinning and enough running equipment constantly glowing that even in the dead of night you could safely navigate each listening rooms. This was where I first listened to Casino Royale’s “The Look Of Love” on the massive IRS’. The room seemed impossibly small to house such a large system but somehow, sitting in the sweetspot of a canvas director’s chair it all worked, magnificently, the looming quartet of towers disappearing as if by magic. Yes, perhaps it’s only the burnished glow of golden memories, but in my mind, Dusty Springfield never sounded better as she did in that room and on that system.
Our friendship waxed and waned over the years, as most of Harry’s friendships did. He would fall off the map for awhile and then call and invite me to Carnegie Hall where he’d held season tickets for years. When I was in NYC shortly after I married Judi in the late ‘90s he once again insisted on sending us to Carnegie as a wedding gift. True, it was a friendship that had to be accepted on Harry’s terms, not everyone’s cup of tea. But the connection always remained between the two of us, I think, even toward the end. Harry wasn’t easy, he could be petty and small but there was also a part of Harry, a sensitive, painfully shy soul that could be the best friend you’d ever imagine–a powerful advocate brimming with advice and well considered guidance. I will miss him terribly. Some years ago he gave me a cherished LP copy of Vaughn Williams, The Wasps Overture [LSO, Previn: British RCA]. I’m going to play it tonight and think of Harry. And I hope he rests in peace in a Heaven that’s forever analog. God speed HP, God Speed Harry Pearson. I will think of you all my days.