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The Story of Historic RCA Studio B

 

Historic RCA Studio B—once home to musical titans such as Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold, Roy Orbison, and the Everly Brothers—is one of the world’s most famous recording facilities. Today it serves as a popular cultural attraction and as a classroom for students who visit the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.

 

The early days of Studio B

 

Built by Nashville businessman Dan Maddox in 1957 and leased to RCA Records, RCA Studio B was first known as “RCA Victor Studio.” It became a cradle of the Nashville Sound in the late 1950s and early 1960s with hits including Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me,” the Browns’ “The Three Bells,” and Jim Reeves’s “He’ll Have to Go.” A sophisticated style typified by background vocals and strings, the Nashville Sound won new audiences for country music and enlarged Nashville’s international reputation as a recording center.

Studio B hitmakers also have included Country Music Hall of Fame® members Bobby Bare, Floyd Cramer,Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Dottie West, as well as pop trumpet player Al Hirt, gospel greats the Blackwood Brothers, bluegrass pioneer Lester Flatt, and R&B legend Fats Domino. In addition to recording at the studio for many years, Country Music Hall of Fame® member Chet Atkins managed RCA’s Nashville operation and produced hundreds of hits there between 1957 and 1973.

Studio B has witnessed numerous recording innovations, including new reverb techniques and the development of the “Nashville number system.” A musician’s shorthand for notating a song’s chord structure, this system facilitates the creation of individual parts while retaining the integrity of the song and performance.

 

The campus grows

 

In 1965, when Chet Atkins, together with Owen and Harold Bradley, opened a larger studio next door and began leasing it to RCA, the newer studio became known as RCA Studio A, and the older, smaller studio became RCA Studio B.

Eventually, two more small studios were added to RCA’s Nashville campus—Studio C, in the Studio A building, and Studio D, in the Studio B building. Recordings often employed more than one of the studios, some, all four.

In addition to accommodating large instrumental and vocal ensembles in recording sessions, the Studio A building also housed RCA Nashville executive offices, as well as booking agencies, music publishers, and other other music enterprises.

In 1973 Jerry Bradley, Atkins’s assistant, took over as head of RCA Nashville; Atkins then focused on his own recordings while still producing the occasional session. Producers for other labels also rented RCA’s studio facilities.

 

Joining the Museum family

 

First made available to Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum visitors in 1977, RCA Studio B was donated to the Museum by the late Dan and Margaret Maddox in 1992.

Following the Mike Curb Family Foundation’s philanthropic 2002 purchase and subsequent lease in perpetuity to the non-profit Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, Studio B’s exterior has been renovated and the interior has been returned to its 1960s-era prime as a “temple of sound.”

Historic RCA Studio B is supported, in part, by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

  • History at Studio B
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