Saving The Real Music City
The term “Music Row” has two distinct definitions. When we say “Music Row” and raise our eyebrows, we are talking about the current mainstream country music business, which is rather like a song factory and has little basis in the country music upon which it was built.
But the Real Music Row is the one steeped in tradition and great music, and this is the Music Row that is being challenged, torn down, overrun, even as we speak.
Here today, in Nashville, at Studio A, approximately 300 people gathered to save the Real Music Row, which in turn may save Music City as a whole. The momentum started when Ben Folds wrote an open letter last week about the sale of Studio A and its imminent demolition. From this one letter a movement has been born: “Save Music Row.” [Photographer Denise Fussell was at the event: 300 people gathered at Studio A to protest.]
On my sporadic visits to Music Row over the past year, I have been quite shocked each time. The rate of change — i.e. destruction and construction — has been phenomenal. Nashville is booming with the construction of high-rise condos. The poor little Station Inn in The Gulch is now completely overshadowed by skyscrapers. How long will the Station Inn last?
According to Bob Saporiti (aka Reckless Johnny Wales) who has been working on Music Row since 1977, people from out of state are purchasing real estate without knowing or caring about the history of it and are tearing buildings down with no respect as to what took place there. It is all motivated by short-term greed. Isn’t greed always short-term?
“They come in with no knowledge, no respect, they just tear stuff down,” says Saporiti. “There’s no place on Music Row that doesn’t have someone legendary who ‘slept on the floor’. It breaks my heart to see these studios where artists wrote and recorded great songs being torn down.”
We are talking about the Music Row that goes back to the mid- 20th Century, where a lot of the great country, rock, and pop records were made — from Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins to Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton — the list is phenomenal. And, the list of studios on Music Row is also phenomenal. The writing rooms…”That was Chet Atkins’ office up there!” Four more historic buildings, more are being torn down THIS WEEK on 17th Avenue.
And, once they have torn the soul out of it, what will be left of Music City? Why will tourists come here — to see giant condo buildings where something great once happened in the rubble? Saporiti believes Nashville could go the way of Detroit if someone doesn’t take the reins and slow this destruction down. The meeting called on Mayor Karl Dean to step up and fight this good fight for the sake of Nashville.
As Ben Folds says, “Condos in Music City make sense, but music won’t survive in Condo City.” And, as Bob Saporiti and Denise Fussell say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it only took one day to burn it down.”
Join the fight — #savemusicrow.