When I first saw the inside of the Quonset Hut, it was the art department for Sony Records. It was 1999 and my band, the country music outfit BR5-49, had just moved over from Arista Records and we were touring our new label’s building. I remember standing in the spot where Patsy Cline sang “Crazy” amidst Dixie Chicks promo photos and album mock-ups, looking at the big old ceilings, imagining how great the sound was in there. I would never have believed that I could have the chance to find out for myself – but fate put me “Back At The Quonset Hut” (co-incidentally the name of my upcoming album).
What is this “Quonset Hut?” you might ask. Well, the Bradley Recording Studio was the first studio in a neighborhood in Nashville that eventually became known as “Music Row.” Producer/musician Owen Bradley and his brother Harold (also a studio musician) bought an old rooming house at 804 16th Ave. South in 1954 and transformed it into a studio. They worked in the basement until 1957 when they expanded by adding a military-issue Quonset hut to the back of the house. It soon turned into the busiest recording studio in town. Some of Nashville’s most notable music of the era was recorded there – besides “Crazy” there was “King Of The Road” by Roger Miller and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” just to name a few. Recording continued at the Quonset Hut until the 80’s when Columbia/Sony gutted the place for office space.
After Sony moved out amidst the record label conglomerations of the 2000s, the Quonset Hut sat empty until Mike Curb donated funds to turn it back into a studio and a classroom, placing it in the hands of Belmont University’s music program. Students learn about recording techniques and are invited to work on sessions that are taking place.
So, after putting out my first solo record in 2009 (Journeyman’s Wager) and working as the musical director/supervisor/arranger on the Broadway Musical “Million Dollar Quartet,” it was time to figure out what my next record should be. I decided it would be a good idea to make an album of classic country songs. I called my friend, neighbor, and original BR5-49 producer Mike Janas, who is a Belmont University instructor and studio manager for RCA’s historic Studio B as well as the newly renovated Quonset Hut.
I wanted to make the record the old way – you know, with all the musicians playing together in one room so you have to listen and react to one another. We decided it would be perfect to record my classic country record at the Hut – the quintessential Nashville studio – with Belmont students helping. I liked the idea because I could make my record the way I wanted, and Mike liked it because his young engineers could catch the vibe of the way the old-timers did things – an experience they could carry on through their own professional careers as music moguls or pizza delivery drivers.
So I recorded the album with my band, The Grassy Knoll Boys and, as very special guests, four members of the original “Nashville A Team” – studio players Harold Bradley, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Bob Moore and Buddy Spicher who played on most all of those aforementioned classic songs. I also invited some great friends who are on the same page as me musically and cosmically to join in. Old Crow Medicine Show, Elizabeth Cook, Jamie Johnson and the legendary Bobby Bare all showed up and sang with me to create some pretty stellar moments. We also filmed it just to be able to share our killer weekend making music with everybody. But, of course, now we need to raise money to pay for the rest of this. With y’all’s help, we will finish that film, mix and master the music and package it all up.
Chances are if you are reading this, I have canvassed you for tips on Lower Broadway, so this is nothing new for us. With your kind contributions, I can finish a project that I consider to be a little bigger than just my next record. I’ve got some incentives (rewards?) to encourage people to join in. Once you become a supporter, you'll be getting periodic updates on the project with additional footage and photos from the sessions.
Check out the incentives and as always, if you give, you’re going to heaven – guaranteed! CM
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