Magic At RCA Studio B

Hall of fame and Studio B (110)

Here I am sitting at the famed Steinway Piano at RCA Studio B. For a music nerd like me, this was practically a religious experience.  If you’re not familiar with the sign, I made it for my trip to Utah last summer and I still pull it out on my trips.

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.

Hall of fame and Studio B (105)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.

PS: If you wonder what’s up with the sign I’m holding, read all about it here! 

 

My Brand Of Nashville Fun

Hall of fame and Studio B (91).JPG

I told you yesterday that I took my mother to Nashville for the weekend to visit her twin brother and his wife. We drove down Friday morning and came home Sunday afternoon. All told, we had about two days to see the sights.

Almost everyone I know goes to Nashville for the bars and the partying. This is not my scene. In fact, I have a friend who never misses an opportunity to remind me that I’m a nerd. It’s not much of an insult since I wave that nerd flag proudly. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I spent more time in museums than in bars.

My first piece of advice is that if you’re like me and aren’t a fan of crowds and parties, don’t go on a weekend. I was there a few years ago and had an amazing experience mid to late week. This weekend was really busy.

On Saturday my mother went sightseeing with her family while I headed out for my own brand of nerd fun. I was wandering down Broadway just after 8 a.m. There were only a handful of cars on the street and even fewer pedestrians.

 

Downtown Nashville (7)

It was amazing. 

I passed the morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame and touring RCA Studio B. The Hall of Fame is a fun place to visit on a rainy day. Depending on your interest in country music, you can literally spend as much or as little time here as you like. I’ve been before so I didn’t feel compelled to dwell here too long but there are some interesting artifacts, pictures and stories to keep you occupied.

Right now there is a fascinating exhibition about Emmylou Harris that I thoroughly enjoyed. Her presence is felt all over this town and it was helpful to get an overview of her life and career before venturing through the city. One place you’ll learn a lot about her is the Ryman Auditorium which she is credited with saving from ruin. I’ll tell you that story another day.

I’ll leave you with a few Hall of Fame pictures.

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Interested? You can learn more at the Country Music Hall of Fame website.