Walk in the footsteps of greats such as Elvis and Dolly Parton at this Nashville recording studio, writes Clare Vooght
“It’s pop-inspired country music – that’s what people are talking about when they say the Nashville sound,” says Brad, our tour guide, as we explore RCA Studio B in the city’s Music Row neighbourhood. Music is why many people come to Nashville – a city that’s experiencing a tourism boom, with 6,500 hotel rooms having opened since 2019 and a further 4,000 being built.
Last year, a record 14.4 million visited and 9.5 million hotel room nights were sold. And a tour of RCA Studio B – where the Nashville sound was born, and where artists such as Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers laid down world‑famous tracks – is a must for any music fan looking to take a deep dive through the city’s musical history.
When RCA Studio B was built in 1957, Nashville had outpaced Los Angeles and was second only to New York City in terms of musical output. Elvis came to love the acoustics here so much that he made more recordings at Studio B than anywhere else – choosing to continue to record there even after the record label built the more modern Studio A next door in the 1960s.
It’s where so many more artists have sung tracks that have shaped this city’s musical story
As well as an array of instruments, from a honky‑tonk piano to a 1960s vibraphone, the studio is also home to a 1942 Steinway grand piano. It features on many of Elvis’s albums, including the Grammy‑winning How Great Thou Art. “You’ve heard this instrument your entire life,” says Brad.
But one of the most spine‑tingling moments for any music fan is being able to hear rough versions of recordings that didn’t quite make it, including one of Elvis and his group laughing when they had to start again on 1961 single Little Sister. It’s about as close as you get to being there for the real thing.
Perhaps even more thrilling is being able to stand on the exact spot – marked with an ‘X’ in tape on the floor – where artists once recorded tracks. Dolly Parton stood there when she recorded I Will Always Love You – one of the biggest‑selling songs ever made – in 1973. And it’s where so many more artists have sung tracks that have shaped this city’s musical story – songs that decades on continue to resonate with millions of people around the world.
Trafalgar visits RCA Studio B on its 10-day Tastes and Sounds of the South tour, which explores Memphis, Graceland, Nashville, Natchez and New Orleans. Prices start at £2,795 on December 8, excluding flights.
PICTURES: Shutterstock/F11photo, Sean Pavone
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