Thursday, September 2, 2010

House of Blues Studio D heads to Nashville

A slow-moving convoy making its way across rural U.S. Highway 64 will deliver a big piece of Memphis music history to Nashville today.
The House of Blues Studio D, a fully outfitted recording studio built inside a century old wooden house, is making a permanent move to Nashville's Berry Hill district, where the entire 200,000-pound structure will be offloaded and reopened next to existing studio spaces in the House of Blues Nashville complex.

Artists as famous and diverse as Al Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Justin Timberlake and Isaac Hayes have recorded albums inside the funky, red clapboard studio, but demand for the space slowed in recent years.

"We just don't have enough work for those rooms," said studio manager Mike Paragone. "Back in the '90s, sure. But Memphis isn't really a fruitful town right now. The economy is bad, and the recording industry is even worse."

In Nashville, the facility will provide an alternative and less expensive recording space that Paragone hopes will interest independent artists who cannot afford the company's existing, swank Nashville studios.

"The clients we used to work with here were the labels," Paragone said. "More often than not, now, my business comes from independents. I need to build rooms that cater to those types of clients. My A studio is the epitome of luxury. It was built around big budgets. But independent artists can't afford that lavishness now."

Studio D has 250-square-foot control rooms instead of 400-square-foot control rooms and a one-story lounge (instead of the two-story lounge in Studio A), but the quality of the sound recording remains the same, he said.

In Memphis, the move was greeted with some hurt feelings expressed in dozens of online posts under the Memphis Commercial Appeal's "Farewell Studio D" headline as well as responses on TV news web sites lamenting the loss of both the studio and the state of Memphis' once-thriving music industry.

Paragone said he felt stung by some of the coverage. He wants to get the message out that the House of Blues Studios isn't leaving Memphis. The company, once affiliated with the House of Blues restaurant and club chain, is now independently owned by Memphis native Gary Belz. He maintains three other studios at the same site.

"Please emphasize that we are not leaving Memphis. Please. We're not getting out of the music industry," Paragone said. Still, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, as Paragone and an assistant drove behind the slow-moving studio, it appeared that Paragone's mood had lightened.

"We're just cruising at 32 miles an hour down these beautiful country roads. The sky is nice and blue with these big fluffy clouds and we've got the windows rolled down."

The studio should arrive here in the early hours this morning. Some 3,000 pounds of interior gear were transported separately, as was the roof, which will be reinstalled. The studio should be up and running by the end of the year, Paragone said.

Reach Anita Wadhwani at 615-259-8092 or

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