Ghosts of Nashville's Recording Studios Revisited
Nashville's old studios are like ghosts. They can't be seen but they can still be heard. Let's take a little trip down Music Row to your favorite Nashville studio of yesterday. They range from the small to the large, the unknown to the world famous, and they are waiting to be rediscovered. After receiving so many requests for this feature to continue, I have decided to make this one larger. So follow me to the ghosts of Nashville's past . . .
By Randy McNutt
Nashville's preoccupation with recording dates back about 60-some years. During this time, many studios have come and gone. I love going down there to search for the old sites. Some of the buildings can still be found. They might be studios or they might be hair salons now, but they are interesting to see. Nashville is a veritable graveyard of old studios!
1. Music City Recorders. One of my favorite studio ghosts is Scotty Moore's Music City Recorders, 821 19th Avenue South. Moore, Elvis's original guitarist, opened it at 19th Avenue South in the summer of 1966. You can read more about it in my book Too Hot to Handle: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Recording Studios of the 20th Century. His engineer was Thomas Wayne Perkins, of Thomas Wayne and the DeLons fame, from Memphis. The studio reached its busiest time in 1970 when it hosted 1,042 sessions. Music City Recorders was never one of Nashville's largest, elite studios, but it was a good place to record. Ringo Starr did his Beaucoups of Blues album there, and Lawrence Reynolds cut his hit Warner Brothers single "Jesus Is A Soul Man" there. Scotty is one of the greatest rock 'n' guitars of all time, and his studio studio was a good one. Later, he got into tape duplication down in Nashville, and that business thrived too.
2. Woodland Sound. Yes, I've mentioned this one before, but I'll do it again because I happen to be partial to Woodland. I mixed a song there once, and I loved the place. You don't get much better than Glenn Snoddy, the engineer who founded the place in 1968. (See my other piece on Woodland elsewhere on the blog.) In the 1960s and 1970s, Woodland was the place to record in Music City. It was state of the art. Bobby Goldsboro cut "Honey" there, and it became one of the biggest hits of the late '60s. A tornado messed the building up in 1998, but the studio kept going. It closed several years later. It is one of the best audio "ghosts" in town.
3. American Recording, 1111 17th Avenue South. In 1973, producer Chips Moman left Memphis and went to Atlanta, but soon he arrived in Nashville, where he set up American. It was named for his famous Memphis studio. Kenny Rogers came to the new American to cut "Lucille," and B.J. Thomas, a former Moman artist, came in to cut "(Hey, Won't You Play A) Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song," which Moman produced. Other hits from the 24-track studio included "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)," "The Wurlitzer Prize," and "I Ain't Livin' Long Like This" by Waylon Jennings. Producer Larry Butler bought the studio in the late 1970s.
4. Globe Recording, 420-A Broadway. Opened in the late 1950s, Globe was used for "demonstrations, master tape, disc, recording of all types for songwriters, singers, publishers." The studio came equipped with Ampex recorders and Telefunken microphones. It became one of the city's oldest studios. Manager Jim Maxwell moved the operation to 1313 Dickerson Road in the 1970s.
5. JMI Records, 1308 16th Avenue South. Yet another Jack Clement studio in Nashville. This one was smaller, an in-house facility for his JMI Records, which opened in 1971.
Excerpted in part from Randy McNutt's Too Hot to Handle: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Recording Studios of the Twentieth Century. (HHP Books). Available from Amazon.com for $25 plus postage.