The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

21 January 2006

Elvis was here

The first real recording studio in Nashville was "The Castle" in the Tulane Hotel, 8th Avenue North and Church Street, opened by three engineers from WSM radio in 1945. At the time, Nashville was hardly "Music City USA," a term apparently invented by a WSM announcer during a 1950 broadcast, but things were starting to percolate, and in 1954, RCA Victor, which had made a number of recordings at The Castle, decided they needed a facility of their own in town.

Nipper's first Nashville digs were at 1525 McGavock Street, in a building owned by the United Methodist Television, Radio & Film Commission. In January 1956 a fellow named Elvis Presley arrived, having been acquired by RCA from Sam Phillips' Sun label in Memphis, and tracks were laid down, one of which was "Heartbreak Hotel," which sold in the jillions and topped the charts. (Its B-side, "I Was the One," made the Top 20 on its own.) By 1957 RCA was a powerhouse in Nashville, selling both country and pop, and ponied up the bucks for a brand-new studio on 17th Avenue South and Hawkins (now Roy Acuff Place), which became known as "Studio B." ("Studio A" was actually built later.)

Not much happened at 1525 McGavock after that until the arrival of Jim Owens Productions in the 1980s, for which I am eternally grateful. (Two words: Lorianne Crook.) And not a whole lot happened after Owens and company moved on, circa 2000; Winston Rand reports that the building is being replaced by a parking lot. Studio B, meanwhile, has been turned into a museum and learning laboratory.

If there's a lesson here, it's simply that not everything we'd like to save is going to be saved — and that I'm never going to see everything I wanted to see. What made 1525 McGavock interesting to me, apart from the Crook and Chase connection, was this bit of weirdness: one of the goals of the RCA crew was to be able to duplicate Sam Phillips' slapback echo in the studio, despite the fact that Sam had actually created the sound, not with studio acoustics, but with a carefully-timed tape delay. I thrive on stuff like that.

Posted at 12:44 PM to Dyssynergy , Tongue and Groove


Good counterpunch, Chaz. I know of The Castle, but no current knowledge. With all the re-construction and conversion of historic buildings to parking slabs, I'm not even sure the old Tulane Hotel bldg is still there. I'm downtown every couple of weeks to give CPR to an ailing network or such, so will check out the corners of 8th and Church next trip and report back.

Thanks for the punch!

Posted by: Winston at 1:17 PM on 21 January 2006

I miss Elvis...

Posted by: Dr. Jan at 8:42 PM on 21 January 2006

"What made 1525 McGavock interesting to me, apart from the Crook and Chase connection, was this bit of weirdness: one of the goals of the RCA crew was to be able to duplicate Sam Phillips' slapback echo in the studio, despite the fact that Sam had actually created the sound, not with studio acoustics, but with a carefully-timed tape delay. I thrive on stuff like that."

Umm, Charles? Of course you do. Stuff like that is INTERESTING.

Posted by: Craig at 9:47 PM on 21 January 2006