Historic Record Labels
Tennessee is synonymous with great music and legendary performers. Some of music history's most influential record labels grew out of Tennesseans' passion for music.
Capitol was the first label to make the move to Nashville, establishing Capitol Records Nashville in 1950. Now part of EMI, the world's largest independent music company, Capitol Records Nashville claims a roster of country music superstars. Hot on the heels of Capitol, three legendary studios grew up in Tennessee and changed the faceóand the soundóof music forever.
Sun Records, the Memphis studio "where rock ën roll was born," was the brain child of the visionary Sam Phillips, who bridged stylistic, racial and regional barriers with his music. He opened Sun in 1952 and soon gained a reputation for recording all genres of music and treating artists with respect. He fostered creativity and the fusion of different styles, bringing country, gospel, blues and rock together into the groundbreaking "Sun Sound." Credited with discovering Elvis Presley, he soon brought other bright stars into the galaxy: Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty and more.
Stax Records of Memphis, the driving force in Southern soul, was started by siblings Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. Founded in 1959, Stax set the ë60s music world on fire with acts like Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, and Booker T and the MGs, an instrumental quartet that doubled as the label's rhythm section. After Redding's death in 1967, Stax went to work developing its next crop of hit-makers, including the Staple Singers and superstar singer and songwriter Isaac Hayes, who revolutionized soul music with full orchestration and extended tracks, and set the standard for movie soundtracks, culminating with a Best Song Oscar for "Shaft."
RCA's Historic Studio B, built in 1957 at the behest of guitarist and producer Chet Atkins, was a breeding ground for the "Nashville Sound." With sophisticated strings and background vocals, the sound helped revive country music and establish Nashville as an industry power player. Studio B was the site of many innovations, such as the "Nashville number system" of musical shorthand. Stars who recorded there included major players from Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves in the early years to Gillian Welch today, with the Everly Brothers, Willie and Waylon, Roy Orbison, and Dolly Parton in between. In 2002, the Mike Curb Family Foundation bought Studio B and entrusted it to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where it is now an industry classroom and an attraction for visitors.
These historic studios were the vanguard of the music industry in Tennessee, with many more record labels to follow.
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