Columbia Studio A, where Jeannie C. Riley cut “Harper Valley PTA,” reopened Friday as a Belmont University classroom. The large room was converted to office space in the 80s; record executive Mike Curb made it an analog studio again and is renting it to the school for $1 a year, just like he did nearby with Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut and RCA Studio B.
Because it’s not digital, the students learning to record there will have to get things right or start all over–much like guitarist Charlie McCoy remembered having to do when he played with Bob Dylan right there in Studio A.
“We started recording at 4 o’clock the next morning, a 14 minute song called “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” At 4 o’clock in the morning you’re saying, ‘please don’t let me make a mistake.”
McCoy played with Dylan in Studio A for three albums: Blonde On Blonde, John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline. He says those sessions certified Nashville as a recording center for people in genres other than country.
The crowd of session musicians, producers, songwriters and engineers gathered for the reopening nodded knowingly at McCoy’s comments. Curb followed them up with a request that the experienced talent who worked at Studio A in its heydey come back from time to time to show the college kids how it’s done.