Time Machine: RCA Studio B – Episode 82

Country music historian John Rumble joins Tim to talk about Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio B, where music history was made on a regular basis. John is a senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. In this episode, we talk about a humble little recording studio that changed the course of country music history, and made the careers of many entertainers within and outside of country music.

 


Dan Maddox built this nondescript building on the corner of 17th Avenue South and Hawkins Street in Nashville in 1957. From the outside there’s not much to see, and even on the inside it looks like any other recording studio from that time.

But appearances aren’t all that they seem.

RCA Studio B became known as one of the cradles of the “Nashville Sound” not long after it was built. In the 1960s, the Nashville sound had a sophisticated style that was characterized by background vocals and strings. The Nashville Sound is credited for reviving America’s interest in country music and helped establish Nashville as an international recording hub.

A partial list of the artists who recorded in RCA Studio be include: Elvis Pressley, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Charlie Pride, Waylon Jennings, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins and many others.

Studio B gets credit for a number of recording industry innovations. You’d have to be a real musician to appreciate this, but it was in Studio B where the Nashville number system was created. This is a musician’s shorthand to notate a song’s chord structure. This makes it easier to create individual parts of a song’s arrangements while retaining the integrity of the song.

Highlights:

  • Over 35,000 recordings were produced in RCA Studio B.
  • Elvis recorded 200 songs there.
  • Roy Orbison recorded “Only the Lonely” and “Crying.”
  • Dolly Parton created “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” on the same day and recorded both in Studio B.
  • Waylon Jennings recorded a number of songs.
  • Charlie Pride recorded “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.”
  • Recordings from Studio B sold over 40 million records.
  • Current stars have recorded in Studio B: Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd and others.
  • Chet Atkins recorded there and ran the studio at its peak

Links

About this Episode’s Guest John Rumble

John Rumble is the senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.