RCA Victor - 1525 McGavock St.


1525 McGavock St. - ca. 1980
Photo by Helmut Radermacher courtesy "Elvis Recording Sessions"

After Sam Phillips sold Elvis' contract to RCA Victor the first recording sessions the band did with the new label were held in Nashville on January 10 and 11, 1956.  The studio at 1525 McGavock St. was RCA's first permanent recording facilities there.  Nashville itself was not yet the recording center it would eventually become, in fact up to then there were only a few studios in town.


1525 McGavock St. as it appeared Dec 2003
Photo James V. Roy


Bob Moore's diagram of entry to RCA's studio
Photo James V. Roy

When RCA Victor first came to Nashville they used to record at Brown Brothers Transcription Service, a tiny studio for making jingles at 240 4th Ave. North. Thomas Productions, a garage at 109 13th Ave. North, was also used for their portable equipment that they would bring from New York.  From 1946 to 1954, like other labels, they also used the "The Castle" in the Tulane Hotel at 8th and Church St., which was actually the first real studio in Nashville with permanent equipment.  In 1954 Steve Sholes set up RCA's first permanent studio and he hired Chet Atkins to manage the facility.


Hank Snow at RCA's McGavock St. Studio - ca. 1954
Photo courtesy Hank Snow Railroad Man added Apr. 25, 2012


Hank Snow at RCA's McGavock St. Studio - ca. 1954
Photo courtesy Hank Snow Railroad Man added Apr. 25, 2012

The building, located at 1525 McGavock St., at the time was owned and operated by the United Methodist Television, Radio & Film Commission.  RCA had a studio and an office in the building; the Methodist's had everything else.  Nashville A-Teamer Bob Moore who played bass on countless sessions there said that you entered the studio from a door on the side of the building via an alleyway between that building and  "Washcannons", the little coffee shop next door.


Elvis at the McGavock St. Studio - Apr. 14, 1956

Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection - replaced Apr. 25, 2012


Steve Sholes, Chet Atkins, Bitsy Mott and Elvis - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection added Apr. 25, 2012

They recorded on monaural equipment (single track) and the studio was somewhat of a live room with a curved ceiling that created low frequency problems causing bass notes to be boomy and roll around for a long time.  They were always in search of a dead spot for the bass.  Bob said that there wasn't a spot on the floor there where he hadn't stuck his bass peg.  They also had several large curtains hanging on the walls to help "deaden" the room.  They employed the use of movable "wall-like" baffles to isolate instruments to minimize sound bleeding into other mics.


Steve Sholes, Ben and Brock Speer, Gordon Stoker, Elvis and D.J. - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection - replaced Apr. 25, 2012


Bill, Chet, Scotty, D.J., Elvis, Ben Speer and Steve Sholes - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Ger Rijff


 Elvis at RCA's McGavock St. Studio - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven added Apr. 25, 2012


Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection added Apr. 25, 2012


 Steve Sholes, Elvis, Bitsy Mott and Ben Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven added Apr. 25, 2012

At the band's first session RCA was anxious to recreate the "slapback" echo effect that Sam Phillips had created at Sun.  To add them to Elvis' vocals Chet and engineer Bob Farris created a psuedo "echo chamber" by setting up a speaker at one end of a long hallway and a microphone at the other end and recording the echo live.  It sounded strange to hear it as they were recording because Sam used to add the effect after.


Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photos Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection added Apr. 25, 2012


Chet Atkins, Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photos Don Craven added Apr. 25, 2012


Chet Atkins, Steve Sholes, Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection added Apr. 25, 2012


Chet Atkins, Steve Sholes, Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection added Apr. 25, 2012

Though Steve Sholes had put Chet in charge of the session, when asked by Scotty what he should play, his only instruction was that they should just do what they normally do.  This essentially resulted in them "producing" themselves, which became the norm.  This was the first session that D.J. Fontana played on since he joined the band and was also the first of many sessions that Floyd Cramer would play piano on.  Elvis had requested the Jordanaires for backup vocals but RCA had recently signed the Speer family gospel group to their label so Chet only brought in Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires and used two of the Spears.  Among others, they cut "Heartbreak Hotel."


Bill, D.J., Scotty, Elvis and Steve Sholes with the Gold Record - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection replaced Apr. 25, 2012


Bill, D.J., Scotty, and Elvis with the Gold Record - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven added Apr. 25, 2012


Bill, D.J., Scotty, and Elvis with the Gold Record - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection added Apr. 25, 2012

Later that year, in April, they returned to McGavock St. to record one more time, with pretty much the same line-up except for Marvin Hughes replacing Floyd on piano.  While on tour in Texas they flew to Nashville immediately after a show in Amarillo on the13th to record for one day on the 14th and were back in San Antonio to perform on the 15th.  The pilot got lost in the dark after takeoff, and nearly ran out of gas.  They arrived a little shaken to say the least and were not in the best mood to record but they did manage to cut "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You".  Steve Sholes presented Elvis with a Gold record for "Heartbreak Hotel".  With the success of that single Nashville suddenly became "the" center and publishers, recording companies, songwriters, pop and rock musicians from all over began to flock there.


Chet Atkins, Steve Sholes, Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection replaced Apr. 25, 2012


Chet Atkins, Steve Sholes, Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection added Apr. 25, 2012


Chet Atkins, Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy TIME


Bill, DJ, Chet Atkins, Elvis, Gordon Stoker, Ben and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy TIME

RCA moved out of the building when they opened Studio B on Music Row by the end of 1957.  At some point after, the building next door that was Washcannon's coffee shop was acquired and the two combined to its present structure creating more smaller studios and offices.  By the time Jim Owens Productions leased the buildings from a group of investors represented by J.C. West in late 1983 the Methodists had moved and the building had been vacant for sometime.


 Elvis and Brock Speer - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy Julian Keen collection replaced Apr. 25, 2012


 Elvis at RCA's McGavock St. Studio - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven added Apr. 25, 2012

Jim totally remodeled the building, dividing RCA's old space into editing suites, a control room, and audio booths.  They enclosed the parking lot with a concrete wall, including the arch over one of the entrances, added redwood to the front of the main building and moved into the facilities in May of 1984.  From this location they produced dozens of TV series, specials, and syndicated shows including the Crook & Chase show.  They used the small building that was the coffee shop for tape storage in the rear and their news photographers used the front.  At one time they had five crews covering the world for country music news. 


Elvis signing autographs for fans as he leaves the studio - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven courtesy TIME

Jim recalls, "How it looks today, is pretty similar to when we moved in, wear and tear considered.  Over the years the Jordanaires appeared on Crook & Chase and reminisced about those recordings, pointing out to us exactly where they took place.  Gordon Stoker showed us a book with pictures that his son Brent has. Years ago there was an article in Life Magazine with several pictures taken inside the McGavock studio.  One I remember was a wide shot with Elvis standing at the microphone and several band members standing around.  I spent 15 years there, produced  thousands of hours of television and radio, and still have a strong fondness for it."  They left in July of 1999.


The black draped former RCA and Crook & Chase Studio space - Dec. 2003
Photo James V. Roy added Apr. 25, 2012


The former McGavock St. Studio - Dec. 2003
Photo James V. Roy

Today, Beaman Automotive Group located in Nashville owns the building and the property is managed by Michael Spencer of Crye-Leike Commercial.  Spaces are rented by several small companies and studios and the space that was formerly occupied by RCA Victor and where Elvis, Scotty and the band made their first Nashville recordings is now occupied by Clear Voice Solutions.

James V. Roy
February 2004
several photos upgraded and added on April 25, 2012
 

Special thanks to Bob and Kittra Moore and Jim Owens


Elvis with his 1st Gold Record - Apr. 14, 1956
Photo Don Craven


The one Millionth Record of
HEARTBREAK HOTEL
presented to
ELVIS PRESLEY by RCA VICTOR
in appreciation of his outstanding achievement
1956
Photo James V. Roy


Misdated Nashville RCA recording sheet - April 11, 1956
courtesy Ger Rijff - added Nov. 12, 2008



Rubble remains January 18, 2006 after demolition began at the studio at 1525 McGavock St. where Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel single was recorded 50 years ago this month to give way for car dealers parking lot.

Photo by JOHN PARTIPILO / STAFF courtesy The Tennessean


Before and After - Dec 2003/2006
Photos James V. Roy


Hank Snow at McGavock St.
in color


Hanks Snow's County Guitar - Released January 1957

Various covers of Hank Snow's RCA releases featured him in studio shots at the McGavock Street studio in 1954, in color, that give us an idea of the theme at the time in the studio where we've only seen pix in black and white.



Varies covers for compilation releases featuring photos from same session at McGavock St. - ca. 1954
Photos courtesy web

I thought it possible that the photos might possibly be colorized but Jimmie Rodgers Snow, who also recorded there, confirmed that the photos were color.


Photo courtesy web

section added September 2013

 

 
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