Did you know that you can tour historic RCA Studio B in Nashville? Located on historic Music Row, many of your favorite musicians recorded their biggest hit songs here. The studio was built in 1957 and has been open for tours since 1977. It became the birthplace of what’s known as “The Nashville Sound”.
Elvis Presley may be best known for his ties to Sun Studio in Memphis but the “King of Rock and Roll” recorded a whopping 200 songs in Studio B. Some of his big hits like Are You Lonesome Tonight, It’s Now or Never, and Stuck On You were produced here. Presley was an important part of the studio’s legacy. So much so that the doors to RCA Studio B actually closed for good the day after he died in 1977.
Tours for RCA Studio B are offered through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The facility was donated to the museum in the 1990s and now the only way to visit is by purchasing a separate ticket and taking their shuttle from downtown. You’ll meet by the designated sign in the Hall of Fame lobby near the front door and have your tickets checked by an attendant shortly before your scheduled departure.
The experience lasts about an hour. The shuttle will take you to the RCA Studios building and you’ll begin with listening to your tour guide share some history and interesting stories. You’ll sample some of the music recorded here – mostly oldies and some country favorites. Dolly Parton recorded I Will Always Love You and Jolene here, Charley Pride recorded Don’t Take Her, She’s All I’ve Got. In recent years, the studio has seen use by artists like Carrie Underwood, Marty Stuart, and Martina McBride. The tour guide claimed that RCA Studio B has produced more hit songs than any other recording studio – though I can’t verify that’s technically correct.
You’ll make your way with the rest of the group down the small hallway to watch a short film that shows the Studio B being used in the 1950s. You’ll learn about the “X” on the floor (that you’ll eventually walk over when you enter the studio) that marks the spot in the room where the vocal sounds are perfect. This is where the singer would stand during a session while musicians would gather in other areas of the room.
Your time in Studio B is pretty limited. As I mentioned, the entire experience – including the shuttle ride – only lasts about an hour. If you want to get a leg up on other guests – make sure you position yourself near the front so you’ll have time to take a photo at the piano Elvis Presley used during his recordings. It was apparently his favorite piano and you’re able to sit on the bench and pose for a photo.
Elvis was the reason the studio has an interesting mix of lighting fixtures on the ceiling. You’ll see the various colors and a control switch can change the color depending on the mood of the song. The guide mentioned Elvis sometimes would record in complete darkness. You’ll get a sample of that as well.
While I wish the tours would be a bit more intimate (as in not so many people in one group) it’s still a cool experience and I recommend doing it if you have the time. There aren’t many historic recording studios still standing that are open to the public for tours.
Tours book quickly so you’ll want to grab yours ahead of time. You can book through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum website.