Nashville: Studio B and the Country Music Hall of Fame

Elvis Presley recorded five records at Sun Records in Memphis before RCA bought his contract for $35,000. In January, 1956,  Elvis recorded his first song, Heartbreak Hotel, in Nashville.

Work on Studio B began that same year and began producing records in 1957.  It is the oldest, surviving music studio in Nashville.  Our guide told us the studio was not RCA property but was used by RCA artists. Other artists, like the Everly Brothers also recorded there but were not RCA signed.

During this time, Rock and Roll was siphoning off country music fans so producers softened the country twang and created the Nashville Sound.  Over 1000 hits were recorded in Studio B.

We saw this picture of a younger Connie Smith. We had enjoyed her performance the night before at the Opry.

Producers and musicians were creative.  Roy Orbison was the first to move behind the blanketed coat rack to isolate the voice from the music.  They were able to create two tracks and produced the reverb.

This picture shows Jim Reeves but I’m including it because it shows the blanket over the coat rack behind him.

This board shows music represented with a numbered chord system. Commonly used now, that system was invented at Studio B.

Skeeter Davis recorded her song The End of the World at Studio B.  It made history as the song was number one on all four music charts.  It was also the first to use over dubbing – meaning Skeeter was singing her own harmonies. 

Dolly Parton was an RCA artist who recorded at Studio B.  She was so nervous before her first session that she hit the brick building with her vehicle before going in. 

Trisha Yearwood was a Studio B tour guide before she made it big as a performer.

Studio B’s acoustic were very good but the real draw to record there was that Elvis recorded there.  He recorded at Studio B more than any other place.

In this photo Elvis is pictured wearing a tie.  That is because he came to record while in uniform during his military service.

This 45 record sleeve was unique in that Elvis’ song was being rushed into production but it did not yet have a title.  The eventual title was Stuck on You and it was on put on the record label itself.  This use of a sleeve opening large enough to see the title was a first.  Within 48 hours 1,000,000 records were pressed and shipped.

Elvis’ hit Are you Lonesome Tonight was recorded in total darkness while he stood at this microphone. 

Elvis played his own piano while recording the song Walk On.

The last songs Elvis recorded at Studio B were My Way and I’ll Be Home for Christmas.  

Elvis wanted to record Dolly Parton’s song I will Always Love You but negotiations fell apart because Elvis’ manager, the Colonel, wanted them to receive half the royalties. Dolly refused.  She never gave up royalties on any of her 5000 plus songs. Whitney Houston and Dolly both recorded I Will Always Love You and she still made a lot of money with it – even without Elvis.

We explored the Music City Walk of Fame.

We enjoyed the story behind the architecture of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Beginning on the left, the radio antenna represents the broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry.  The circle stack below it represents 45, 78 and 33 RPM Records. The outward projections along the circle portion represent the song Will the Circle Be Unbroken as it would be on a player piano cylinder.  The main building has windows in the pattern of piano keys.

When we first entered we were able to enjoy a concert by Sister Strings. 

The top floor highlights Country Music’s origins into the 1960s. Included was a display about Bill Anderson, who we had seen at the Opry the night before.

Maybelle Carter’s husband spent $275 on this guitar.  It was a fortune at the time but also an investment in their future. It seemed to work out!

Bill Monroe’s mandolin is said to be the most famous in history.  Built in 1923, Bill found it in a Florida barbershop and purchased it in the mid 1940s.  A home intruder destroyed the mandolin in 1985 and Gibson Company painstakingly reconstructed the mandolin from 150 slivers of wood.

In a transition between floors we saw several walls of Gold and Platinum records (sales of 500,000 and 1,000,000 respectivly.)  There are 854 country albums displayed, all awarded by the Recording Industry Association of America. 

The main floor highlights the music and artists from 1960s to present.  Only one tenth of their holdings are on display at a given time. 

This display showed about a dozen first drafts of songs.

This is another example of the numbered chord system, developed in Nashville, but now used everywhere.

We learned how country music changed as Los Angeles came onto the music scene.  Musicians pushed the boundaries and created Country Rock in the late 60s and 70s.   

Linda Rondstadt was from Tucson and had an authentic Mexican aspect to her music.  The musicians who became The Eagles were her back up group. Several artist credited her with helping them.

We had seen Emmy Lou Harris the night before and she was highlighted as one of the artists who bridged between LA Country Rock and mainstream country.    Others were Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, and Martina McBride.

Country and Rock influenced each other.  Crossover stars included Glen Campbell, Lynn Anderson, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell.

Discovered while playing in a Nashville venue, Taylor Swift signed with RCA at age 14.  She started in country music and then had a decade of pop superstardom.  She has recently re-emphasized her country roots and sponsors the Taylor Swift Education Wing at the Country Music Hall of Fame. This “tour bus” allows people to record themselves.

The Country Music Association has elected Hall of Fame Members since 1961.  The plaques are placed like notes on a staff.

The room is round so all members are of equal importance. The words are once again from the Carter Family song, Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

The replica radio antenna we saw from the outside continues on the inside. We enjoyed our day learning about country music and the Nashville sound.  

Here are some additional random Nashville things:

This Christie Cookie company started in Nashville and has a site within the Bridgestone Arena, home of Nashville Predators NHL team.  The company provides the cookie dough for Hilton Double Tree Inns. 

The first seeing-eye dog school in the US began in Nashville in 1929. It moved soon after to New Jersey as land was donated for its use.

Some cross walks in Nashville actually cross through the intersection! We used this one. It felt odd!

The downtown city streets have cleaning crews everywhere.  

Nissan Stadium is where the NFL Tennessee Titans play.  It is easily accessible across vehicle and walking bridges from downtown.  A few days after we left Nashville most of the country went into a deep freeze.  On Sunday the mayor of Nashville asked the Titans to delay the start of their game by one hour to balance out power usage.  We felt bad for the people in the stands who had to sit out there in the cold for another hour!  We were told a new stadium is in the works for the Titans that includes a movable roof system.

Next up:  We venture out of Nashville. 

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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1 Response to Nashville: Studio B and the Country Music Hall of Fame

  1. Teri McClelland says:

    The Country Music Hall looks enormous. Were you able to get through all of it?

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