The May floods in Tennessee put a sizable chunk of the Grand Ole Opry’s video archives underwater, including episodes of “Grand Ole Opry Live” and “Hee Haw.”
Now those tapes, ranging from 2-inch quad tapes to digital video, are at restoration specialists Specs Brothers in New Jersey for triage and treatment.
Specs Brothers routinely has as many as a dozen disaster recovery projects going at a time.
“A lot of it is a massive amount of hard, detailed work. Disaster recovery is more a matter of craftsmanship than technology,” company topper Peter Brothers says.
Cassettes arrive with their cases melted by fires and with screws and springs rusted in floods. But that doesn’t mean the content is lost.
In the case of the Opry materials, Brothers says there’s nothing too far gone to restore, though he says the company expects parts of some shows to be lost.
“The biggest problem is some of the newer tapes,” he says. Old tapes recorded their information on ferric oxide. “That’s a fancy name for rust,” says Brothers, “so water has no effect on the recorded signal.” New tapes use metal compounds that aren’t as robust.
Specs Brothers was even able to salvage an heirloom tape buried for months under mud after the post-Katrina floods in New Orleans.
“It gives you this incredible feeling of satisfaction that you’re able to do these things for people.”