RCA Studio B visit
I was recently in Nashville for the 2016 Summer Namm Show. That’s a trade show where we as a store go to pick out and buy the products that you see in our stores. I decided to stay behind after our other buyers left for a couple of days just to have some fun in one of my favorite cities. I had gotten a couple of free tickets to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame which is right next door to the convention center. So my girlfriend and I who had come down for the weekend decided to go. In reading about it ahead of time, we discovered that for an extra fee you can tour RCA Studio B. That’s the studio that was essentially built for Elvis, but has over the years seen more than 1000 hit records recorded there.
The tour was fascinating. Our tour guide gave us a comprehensive history of the studio all the way down to showing us the cabinet that a turntable used to sit on that Elvis kicked and broke a piece off of when he was angry at RCA for the quality of the turntable they provided him to audition songs for him to record. RCA wasn’t happy about this and refused to fix the cabinet and it is still there broken along with the turntable. He showed us the blue taped X on the floor where the sweet spot for placing the microphone for recording vocals is. He showed us the lighting system that Elvis had installed in order to set the mood for the particular song he was recording. Blue for ballads, red for up tempo songs, and sometimes pitch black. He showed us a Nashville Number System chart that was left behind and explained that this was the building where the system was developed. I was the only person there who knew what that was and when I raised my hand to acknowledge this he correctly guessed me as a guitarist. He told us numerous antidotes and the tour was well worth it.
The Elvis Steinway piano
The part of the tour I found most fascinating being an employee of Willis Music was the Steinway piano that resides there. The piano is a Model B grand piano in an ebony finish. It’s relatively plain looking and without the history behind it would although still a fine vintage piano, would just be another piano. This piano, however, is special. This was Elvis’ favorite piano. He didn’t own it, he actually owned a gold grand piano that Priscilla purchased for him(this piano is on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame), but this piano was his favorite. This is the piano that HE played when he wanted to record a song. This was the piano on his recording of
“How Great Thou Art” played by Floyd Cramer. This was the piano that Floyd Cramer played “Last Date” on. Truly a historic instrument and on display for anyone to see.
The piano itself was built in Steinway’s New York factory on September 17, 1942. It was sold to NBC in 1943 and then made its way to RCA in 1957.
To learn more about RCA Studio B, click here.