'Live on through song': Friends grant final wish, setting dying man's writings set to music.

January 24, 2020 by Roger Hamer 


A man's final wish is being preserved for all of us to soon enjoy. Teddy Burkhart passed away from lung cancer just before Thanksgiving.  A chance comment during medical treatment led to Burkhart's vision coming to life. The words of Teddy Burkhart: live on… through song.  It was a lifelong goal of Teddy’s, to have his writings set to music. Local singer Travis Bennington came out of retirement to help make that happen.

“He was a poet,” Bennington said. “He brought such a spirituality to everything…everything had a mission and a purpose.”  Bennington quickly realized Teddy's writings were special.  “As soon as I read it was like, ‘Oh, I really dig this,' " he said.  It all began when Teddy was being treated for cancer. Matt Snow was administrating anesthetic and asked Teddy what he does for fun.  “Before he went to sleep he went, 'Oh I write country music.' And I thought, ‘Hey, you are just like my grandpa’ — because my grandpa was just like that: he wrote music,” Snow said. “He was dirt poor, and Teddy was dirt poor in West Virginia.”  That connection blossomed into friendship.  Snow was impressed with Teddy's lyrics

“He wrote them for other people,” Snow said.  Snow hooked up with Rainbow Recording Studio and set up a GoFundMe page, quickly raising enough money to record six of Teddy's songs.  Teddy heard some rough cuts before he passed.  “He was crying, and I think his wife cried,” Snow said.  The songs deeply touched Teddy's granddaughter, Courtney Harkleroad.  “In his last days, it was really helpful for him to have this project, this dream, come true,” she said. “I can actually, like, see him in there and hear him, even though it's not him singing it — I can hear his voice.”  Teddy himself also approved in a voicemail call to Bennington.

“I just want to let you know you are doing a fantastic job, and I'm just so appreciative,” Teddy said in the recording.  From a casual comment in an operating room... “I knew he was passionate about his songs, “ Snow the recording studio.  “His heart and soul really was put into those lyrics,” Courtney said.  A dream unfolds before our eyes — and ears.  “And the last thing he told me is, 'I'm going to be watching. I'll be watching, so... don't screw it up.' Oh, that's no pressure," Bennington said, laughing.  The GoFundMe page covered the cost of the recording session along with 500 packaged compact disks. The family plans to hold a release party when the project is completely finished.

You can view the story and additional content on the WOWT website.

Rainbow Recording Studios founder Nils Erikson


August 24, 2014 by

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Decked out in a Hawaiian print shirt with a gleaming bald head and dyed red beard, Nils Anders Erickson squeezes through a narrow corridor wedged between piles of vintage music gear. Wood-framed speakers, guitars and amps crowd the space, leaving Erickson barely enough room to get to an old recorder he wants to point out. “This belonged to Luigi Waites,” he says.

The late, and local, jazz legend’s name is one of many Erickson is happy to drop. At Rainbow Recording Studios, which opened in 1976, Erickson has recorded numerous notable musicians including, Omaha-born punk rockers 311, ’90s R&B stars Boyz II Men, and, most recently, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.

The studio, which uses analog tubes to capture a “big, fat, warm sound” is one of the few historic recording spaces still standing, Erickson says. That’s why when the University of Nebraska-Omaha came knocking with eminent domain papers in 2005, Erickson gave them a “big, fat” no.

The University wanted Erickson’s land to incorporate into the multi-million dollar athletic complex currently being built up around him. He, and his fellow fighters at Amato’s Café and Catering next door, won that battle and got to keep their property. Now Rainbow is set to become an island in a sea of hockey fans and college kids.

Inside Rainbow’s vocal booth, which Erickson calls “the magic room,” the air is a vacuum of silence. It’s so quiet your brain searches for sound to fill the emptiness, Erickson says, drumming his fingers against his heart. “It raises the threshold of hearing.” The room, which was designed by the same engineers who built A&R Recording Studio in New York, Erickson says, is framed by panels that create the perfect blend of sound reflection and absorption. That’s why Rainbow couldn’t be moved, he says, and it is part of the reason, he will eagerly tell you, that the Beastie Boys called Rainbow “the coolest music store in the world.”

Now that he’s assured Rainbow is staying put, Erickson has come around to the idea of his new neighbors. “Well, 9,000 people happy at a sporting event is much better than three trailer courts,” he says with a wry grin in a nod to his former neighbors. “So I see it as a very definite improvement to the neighborhood.” Erickson says UNO’s construction in the area has already increased foot traffic, and students living in the dorms nearby have come in for guitar strings and other equipment.

Ever the entrepreneur—he built his first speaker, logo included, at age 14—Erickson says he will do what he can to appeal to the new crowd. “We’re not selling hamburgers,” he quips. “But if we have 9,000 people next door at a hockey game, maybe we’ll start selling hamburgers.”