Roger Nichols, a digital audio pioneer, producer and winner of seven Grammy Awards, died at his home in Burbank, Calif., on April 9 after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 66.
Trained as a nuclear physicist yet blessed with an ear for audio excellence, Nichols was most closely associated with the impeccable 1970s recordings of Steely Dan. He also engineered their return to recording in 2000, “Two Against Nature.” Six of his Grammys were for Steely Dan albums.
In the 1970s Nichols was regular presence in studios with John Denver as well. His engineered and produced music for Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Rosanne Cash, Alice Coltrane, Yo-Yo Ma, and Rickie Lee Jones among others. The nickname “Mr. Digital” was given to him as he pioneered the early days of digital recording.
As inventor, he came up a tape restoration process, audio plug-ins, the first digital microphone and the first high fidelity digital audio drum machine, WendelJr. Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Heart and Paul Simon have recorded with the instrument. Nichols’ expertise was sought by the Library of Congress and other governmental agencies in the fields of digital audio restoration and archiving. Nichols made the first digital recordings in Russia.
Born in Oakland, Calif., he began his career as a nuclear engineer at the San Onofre Nuclear Station in Southern California before turning his interest to the music industry.
Nichols is survived by his wife Connie; daughters, Cimcie and Ashlee; sister, Melinda Ryan; and brother, Jeffrey.