Elvis used to book his studio time from 6 PM until 7 AM Monday morning at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville and just crank out the songs. After one of these sessions he walked outside to a waiting Army Jeep to report for draft service. You walk into that studio today and it looks a lot like it did then. Same floor and walls, same light fixtures that Elvis requested (“mood lighting”), and same piano Elvis played. The room reverberates Elvis, and it’s fair to say he was the biggest of a long list of performers who have recorded in this studio for the last 6 decades since Roy Acuff built the studio in 1956. . When you walk in there’s a “Wall of Elvis” hits recorded in this studio. Young Elvis was prolific, working hard and building the legend. That wall shows some of his work.
There’s a certain sound in this room that carries across everyone who’s recorded here. Its an echoing richness to the songs that is very distinctive in songs recorded in Studio B. That sound became known as the “Nashville Sound”. Listen to Jim Reeves (“Welcome To My World“), Dolly Patton’s “I Will Always Love You“, Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date“, The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel)” are all examples of that sound, all recorded right there in that room.
The best story I heard about the room was Elvis’ recording of “Are You Lonesome Tonight“. As with all recordings then, it was a single track – you either got it right or you didn’t. The song was recorded in the dark, with all the musicians playing and harmonizing by the glow of a single red light. Towards the very end of the recording Elvis bumped his head on the microphone stand. If you listen to the song you’ll hear the click right at the end of the song. They left it in then and it remains to this day.
As a music lover it was a bit surreal to be in that room as they played a few of the songs recorded right in the very place. You feel like you’re in a time warp in a way, the walls embrace the sounds and you and in a way you are timeless with that song. Some of the instruments haven’t left that room since they were used in the recordings. I felt a bit like I did when I stood in The Cavern in Liverpool; this was where it all happened. I often write about the ghosts of history whispering in your ear when you visit a place of significance. RCA Studio B is surely a place of significance, but the whispers here are heard around the globe in that Nashville Sound, deep and rich with a little hiss from the recording tape. Magic.