Birthplace Of Country In Jeopardy

Those passing by 152 Nassau Street on the edge of downtown Atlanta probably don’t know the old brick building is the birthplace of one of the most dominant genres of today, though it may not be around for much longer.

Country Music Landmark
Mike Stewart/AP
– Country Music Landmark
Two-story brick building, right, at the northwest edge of Atlanta

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville is looking to build a new restaurant in the city, and it’s eyeing the spot where Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded what is now deemed the first country hit.

In the summer on 1923, Carson played “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” for music producer Ralph Peer of Okeh Records, one of the major labels at the time. The tune went on to sell 500,000 copies, and marked the first effort to market “country as country from a country artist for what they believed was a country audience,” according to Barry Mazor, author of Peer’s biography.

Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane and his office are pushing to preserve the building by making it a landmark. The designation could be decided by city council by the end of August.

Lemuel Ward, attorney for the developer that wants to build a restaurant on the site and lease it, told the Atlanta planning department that giving the building landmark status after the company had already sought a permit for it would be unfair. 

Fiddlin’ John Carson
Georgia State University Library via AP
– Fiddlin’ John Carson
Poses for a photo in Atlanta, Ga.

“As a developer, we now have tenants that cannot and will not complete this project because of these designations, if they are allowed to go through,” Ward said. “We believe this is a basic issue of playground fairness.”

The company has filed a formal objection with the city.

Mazor said the building is an important part of Atlanta’s history, a reminder of when the city was once the recording capital of the Southeast.