Once in a while you have a vacation experience that is so special, so magical that it becomes the most important memory of the trip.
One priority for the weekend was to tour the famed RCA Studio B. Tours begin at the Country Music Hall of Fame where you hop on a bus with a small group and are transported to this nondescript little building on Music Row. Along the way, the tour guide talks about the construction and purpose of the studio.
It was here that the infamous Nashville Sound was created in the sixties. Groundbreaking work was done in this studio and it continues to produce popular music today.
The former reception area is the first stop on the tour. In this space you learn about some of the musicians and the songs recorded here – countless entertainers and songs you would recognize and a few you may not. I own a number of LPs that hang on the wall here.
Roy Orbison wasn’t an RCA musician but he recorded a good bit at Studio B. According to our tour guide, his iconic voice was drowned out by all the instruments so they used a coat rack to create a sort of isolation booth. The guide claims this was possibly the world’s first isolation booth. They have a rare photo of Roy – you can see the coat rack in the background, he’s singing and he’s holding his glasses. He was rarely seen not wearing the glasses.
They tell you stories like this and play music to supplement those stories. And that’s all great but the magic happens when you go into the actual recording studio. Inside, you get lots of stories about Elvis who recorded countless albums here.
Here you learn about the lighting the Studio installed because Elvis requested it. These multi-colored lights can be isolated to change the mood of the room. The guide uses those lights to change the mood in the room for each song.
Here the guide plays iconic songs that were recorded in this room.
The piano pictured above is a Steinway that can be heard on songs like Elvis’ “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date.” In fact, during the early years of his career Floyd Cramer worked as a studio musician with RCA’s “A Team” which provided studio music for a lot of the songs recorded here.
I happen to love Floyd Cramer so it was kind of a thrill to sit at this piano.
I also happen to love Elvis and the tour guide gave a lot of attention to Elvis’ experiences and work in this studio. Elvis played that Steinway was well.
My favorite Nashville moment came here when our guide described how Elvis recorded “Are You Lonesome Tonight” – in the dark. So the guide turned out the lights and turned up the song and we all sat in complete darkness and experienced this moment with this song in a way that felt sacred.
It gave me chills.
In fact, I hope to carry this memory for the rest of my life and to always be transported back to that time and place whenever I hear this song.
The musical history of this place is fascinating but I won’t attempt to tell you more. Instead, you can learn more here.
It should go without saying that this tour was worth every penny and I would do it again if I had a chance.