How an ear for talent propelled a Richmonder to the top of TV and music

RICHMOND, Va. -- When it comes to listening, John Venable has seemingly heard it all. On most nights the Richmond man enjoys local musical acts across town.

Especially at Poe’s Pub.

“It’s just that music gives people a good feeling,” said Venable. “It makes me feel good all of the time.”

Music has defined the New York native’s life.

“I started with little tape recorders when I was young,” said Venable.

You can say Venable has an ear for talent. The 71-year-old perfected the sound of some of the industry’s giants.

“Some guys got it. Some girls got it. Some don’t,” he said. “I express myself by helping people put it together. That is my craft.”

The former professional engineer worked with everyone from Bowie, Belafonte and Barry Manilow to Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Aerosmith.

“I’ve met a lot of great people in the music industry and I’m thankful that I’ve been accepted into it. I really am,” said Venable.

Whether on tour or in the studio Venable was meticulous in getting the sound just right.

“My first studio job was at the Electric Lady,” said Venable. “Back in the day when you would do a show with a full orchestra. The strings. A harp and full horn section. When it hits. It really feels good.”

While he may know stellar music Venable admits he has no talent.

“Last night someone asked me if I’m a musician,” he said. “I said a play a bad guitar and a worse piano.”

Tunes also helped Venable tune out the sounds of war. As a 21-year-old, he was a DJ at a soldier run radio station in Vietnam.

“I lost friends there and I think it was a feudal war,” said Venable. When you’re lying there and rounds come in and the ground starts shaking all around you. I guess you face your mortality there.”

Health issues forced Venable to switch careers. A path eventually led him to television in 1984 where he worked the soundboard for the Olympics and Nightline.

His TV work even earned him a National Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Direct Sound Mixing.

“That I appreciate because it was voted on by my peers,” said Venable.

But now Venable is returning to his true passion – music.

John Venable

His next chapter is unfolding at Poe’s Pub. John is teaming up with musician Corey Axt. Their monthly Singer Songmaker Showcase invites emerging and established musicians on stage.

“He has hung out with the big dogs,” said Axt. “He is a very distinct man. There is a presence about him.”

John Venable is man who has rubbed shoulders with the greats, but he is not looking back.

“It’s important to do things. It’s not what you did. It’s what you want to do,” he said.

John Venable

Venable said no matter the artist or genre, music can reach deep into the soul

“It is just putting together something people enjoy,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate. It’s a totally enjoyable experience for me. It’s been an amazing journey.”

Venable’s Singer Songmaker series kicks off the first Thursday of every month at Poe’s Pub located at 2706 E Main St.

If you know of someone who I should feature in my "I Have a Story" segment email me at ihaveastory@wtvr.com