Coalition Announces Effort To Preserve Nashville’s Music Row

Fresh off their successful effort to prevent the demolition of a Nashville studio that once recorded the likes of Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, advocates want to include all of the city’s Music Row area in their preservation efforts.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Monday that it is placing Music Row on its “National Treasure” list of historically significant sites threatened by development.

“Do we want to imagine Nashville without a Music Row?” asked David J. Brown, the group’s vice president and chief preservation officers. “It’s the heart and soul of this great city, and it’s definitely a national treasure.”

Photo: Erik Schelzig/AP
(right) During a Music Row preservation announcement in Nashville, Tenn.

The Washington-based nonprofit is joining with the Music Industry Coalition, Mayor Karl Dean’s office, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. and city and state historical preservation groups to draw attention to Music Row’s cultural heritage.

Preservation efforts were jump-started last year amid plans by a developer to raze RCA Studio A and to build luxury condominiums in its place.

The studio was developed by country legend Chet Atkins in 1964 and has been used by a host of recording artists over the decades.

Singer-songwriter Ben Folds has rented the studio for 12 years and led efforts to save the space that culminated in philanthropist Aubrey Preston’s last-minute purchase of the property from the developer in October.

“This was supposed to have been rubble right now, that’s what blows me away,” Folds said at Monday’s announcement, held in Studio A.

Folds said he was spurred to seek wider attention to the impending demolition of the studio because of the history that would be lost with it.

“It seemed to me to be a little bit of a tipping point if an incredible studio like this on Music Row was just to disappear in the dead of night,” Folds said. “I felt like the identity of Nashville needed to remain.”

Like many other nondescript buildings on Music Row, little on the exterior suggests what’s happening inside Studio A, which has a recording room large enough to hold a full orchestra. Similar rooms in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Mexico and Rome no longer exist.

“To me this has always been one of the best studios in the world,” Folds said. “So the first step was to raise awareness of what an important spot, how much amazing music has happened here and how much amazing music can happen in the future.”