SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — At 8 years old, Phil Hadaway dissected 4-track tape recorders to see how they worked.
He tore apart 8-tracks and, when cassettes came out, went crazy re-editing songs from the radio.
He spent his teens teaching himself how to play guitar, playing in bands and cutting records in a Savannah recording studio.
Not long afterward, he left college and bought that studio.
"I had no idea what I was doing - no business plan," the now 49-year-old said.
"But I really wanted to do it. I was a 20-something-year-old kid with no concept of paying the electric bill."
His business - 3180 Media Group - works with Grammy-winning musicians and A-list actors. The company did additional recording for the Academy Award-winning "The Cider House Rules" and engineered teen-idol Miley Cyrus' successful CD, "The Time of Our Lives," which has gone either gold or platinum in seven countries.
"The judge of our success is the success of our clients," Hadaway said.
Hadaway was born in Savannah but shortly afterward moved to South Carolina, where his father, the late Dr. Phil Hadaway Jr., studied to be a general practitioner.
The family returned to Savannah when the younger Hadaway was 9.
Soon after becoming a teen, he pestered his way into a job in a downtown music store and performed with local bands.
"We started playing and recording more and more stuff, and around that time, a friend of mine built a really nice recording facility in Savannah. Probably the first true recording studios in Savannah," Hadaway said.
"Our band recorded there, and (I got) into the production side rather than recording side. I had friends ask me to produce their music. I was doing stuff way before I was able to drive."
He graduated from the now-closed Hancock Academy and entered Armstrong State University (now Armstrong Atlantic State University).
It didn't last.
"I said, 'Man, I'd rather do the recording thing.' I dropped out of college to the dismay of my parents, but they supported me. I just felt this music thing was calling," he said.
At the end of 1983, his friend who owned the recording studio moved to another state and put his business on the market. Hadaway bought it in 1984 and named it Reeltime Audio Production. He changed the name officially to 3180 Media Group this month.
"It was all on-the-job training, but I've had some good people around me to guide me," Hadaway said. "Some of my best mentors are my customers. Knowing our customers is incredibly important - we need to know what they're looking for. To me, they're a partner. When we go into a project, we need to go into it with the same thought focus."
Hadaway encourages his staff to cultivate relationships with those partners, find out what they like and remember it.
He knows, for instance, that celebrity chef Robert Irvine is particular about his coffee. Irvine's order sounds something like "a grande latte, super hot, with three brown sugars and stirred five times to the left."
In a telephone interview, Irvine said he appreciates that the coffee - at his preferred 200 degrees - is waiting for him when he arrives at Hadaway's studio.
The studio is near Irvine's Hilton Head Island home, but the chef listed another reason he continues working with Hadaway.
"The most important thing is the quality of what he does," Irvine said. "I travel around the country and world, and I go into a lot of places to do a lot of voice-overs. His is the best.
"If I say something that doesn't make sense to him, he'll stop and say my inflection is wrong or he doesn't understand it. If I pop something, and I don't hear it, he does."
Jevon Bruh, supervising producer of the cooking show, "Paula's Best Dishes," also uses Hadaway's business.
"It's local for our host (Paula Deen) to get to him, and he's very friendly and makes himself available to us, and he's consistent," Bruh said in a telephone interview from her New York City office at Follow Productions."He has a great relationship with our company. It's difficult to have someone to count on from so far away, and he's definitely become a part of our team."
Heeding the market
Hadaway learned to read and accept market trends, especially when the music industry took a downturn. By 2000, with fewer people buying music, he steered toward advertising, film, television, radio - and, in 2004, video. That year, the company opened its first video editing suite.
"We've had to expand the scope of what we do," he said. "Our business model has shifted from making music and records to working more on films and video productions. We're writing music for commercials. We're doing lots and lots of video."
He praised SCAD graduate Justin Cruse for keeping the business open.
"There's no way I would still be here without him," Hadaway said. "That's how important he's become to the business."
Cruse shoots and edits video, is a sound designer for film, shoots still photography and is a Web designer.
The company's third employee, Robert Willis, is the primary music recording engineer and is in charge of Web maintenance. He has worked with such musicians as Marie Osmond, Gregg Allman and Jason Aldean. He currently is working with guitar great Ben Robinson on his new album.
3180's future includes expanding the video department and building a sound stage adjacent to the recording studio.
"Our goal is to do the best," Hadaway said. "When you leave here, we want the best professional product to go out this door. We want to go above and beyond what the customer is expecting."