Quonset Hut (Columbia Studio B)
The Quonset Hut, later known as Columbia Studio B, was the first music recording studio in the historic Music Row district of Nashville. The studio first opened in 1954 when producers Owen and Harold Bradley converted a house and a surplus Quonset hut into a makeshift music studio on 16th Avenue. Many noted musicians such as Brenda Lee and Johnny Cash recorded at the hut which soon became known for the superior acoustics it provided. As the studio 's reputation spread, other studios and music labels moved into the neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s leading to the neighborhood's nickname of "Music Row." From 1962 until 1982 the studio was owned and operated by Columbia Records. The location of the studio was later repurposed as office space. In the 2000s music producer and philanthropist Mike Curb purchased the land and office space which now houses facilities for Belmont University’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.
Backstory and Context
In 1952 musicians Harold and Owen Bradley created a film and music studio, Bradley Studios, which they operated from a rented space in Lodge Hall at Lindsley and Second Avenue. They were forced to leave a year later after the rent tripled and briefly moved to a space at Hillsboro Village. In 1954 the Bradleys purchased a house at 804 16th Avenue and converted it into a recording studio. At the time 16th Avenue was mostly a residential neighborhood; Bradley Studios was the first recording studio in what became Music Row. Soon afterward the Bradleys erected a Quonset hut on the back of the house.
Quonset huts were large, barrel-shaped, steel structures widely used by the military during World War II. They were easy and cheap to mass produce, and a large surplus of them remained after the war. Originally the Bradleys intended for the hut to serve as a film studio while the main house would be the recording studio; however, they soon found that the hut provided unique acoustics for recording music.
The Bradleys’ Quonset hut studio quickly became a success and served clients from music labels such as Decca, Columbia, Mercury, and Capitol. Many prominent musicians such as Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Elvis Costello, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Bob Dylan, Gene Vincent, Simon & Garfunkel, Roger Miller, Marty Robins, Dusty Springfield, Sonny Jones, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Loretta Lynn had recording sessions at the hut over the years. Notable songs recorded here include Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” and Elvis Presley’s “Indescribably Blue.” The Bradleys’ success drew numerous other music labels and recording studios to 16th Avenue during the 1950s and 1960s, and it soon became known as Music Row. In 1962 the Bradleys sold their studio to Columbia Records. The original house was demolished and a new, brick structure was built surrounding the Quonset hut. The brick building was named Columbia Studio A, and the Quonset hut was renamed Columbia Studio B.
In 1982 Columbia closed the facility, which was soon converted into office space. Around 2009 the building was purchased by Mike Curb, founder of Curb Records and an advocate for the preservation of Music Row. Under his Mike Curb Foundation, the location of the former Quonset hut is once again serving as a recording studio. In 2014 Curb gifted a 40-year lease on the studio to Belmont University for music education and recording. Today the facility houses classrooms, a learning lab, and recording studio for Belmont’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.
Cooper, Peter. “Nashville Skyline, November 2009.” Mix. November 1, 2009. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20130304164029/http://mixonline.com/studios/design/nashville-skyline-november-1109/
“Curb Records lets Belmont have 40 years on Music Row property.” WSMV. May 12, 2014. Accessed August 7, 2018. http://www.wsmv.com/story/25492761/curb-records-lets-belmont-have-40-years-on-property
Dempsey, Brian. “Music Row, Nashville.” Tennessee Historical Society. October 8, 2017. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/music-row-nashville/
Flynn, Katherine. “Nashville’s Music Row is Waiting for You.”National Trust for Historic Preservation. November 28, 2017. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://savingplaces.org/stories/nashville-music-row-is-waiting-for-you#.W2o0Y-v3arV
Fox, Randy. “Back at the Quonset Hut.” Nashville Public Radio. March 20, 2012. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://nashvillepublicmedia.org/blog/2012/03/20/back-at-the-quonset-hut-2/
“Historic Columbia Studio A Reopens as Educational Space for Belmont Students.” Belmont University. May 9, 2014. Accessed August 7, 2018. http://news.belmont.edu/historic-columbia-studio-a-reopens-as-educational-space-for-belmont-students/
Maness, Jessi. “The history of Music Row: 60 years of greatness.” Sports & Entertainment Nashville. October 13, 2015. Accessed August 7, 2018. http://sportsandentertainmentnashville.com/the-history-of-music-row-60-years-of-greatness/
Net Radio Dogs. “Lou Bradley discusses the beginnings of Quonset Hut, Bradley Studios, Columbia B studio.” (video). July 20, 2015. Accessed August 8, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmVwRIdWBE0
Skates, Sarah. “Quonset Hut Hosts Reunion Celebration.” Music Row. June 30, 2011. Accessed August 7, 2018. https://musicrow.com/2011/06/quonset-hut-hosts-reunion-celebration/
Image 1: http://sportsandentertainmentnashville.com/the-history-of-music-row-60-years-of-greatness/
Image 2: http://douglasjonesmusic.blogspot.com/2016/07/a-visit-to-nashvilles-decca-studio-and.html
Image 3: https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=59523