May 6

A Piece of Country Music History Is Being Threatened by Demolition

It may be true that Nashville is now the country music capital, but this great industry famously had its humble beginnings in Atlanta, Georgia. In fact, Atlanta was the one that highlighted and produced Country’s very first hit.

Now, a grassroots drive to preserve the historic building in which the said hit was made puts a harsh spotlight on Atlanta’s forgotten role in early roots music.

A Piece of Country Music in Atlanta

Country, Music, Atlanta
Debbie Elliott/NPR

At 152 Nassau Street in Downtown Atlanta, an unmarked two-story rose brick storefront houses a piece of Atlanta’s music history. This was the site of a pop-up recording studio in 1923. There are plans in motion to demolish the building to make way for a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville high-rise hotel restaurant.

Kyle Kessler, a local architect, is part of Historic Atlanta, a preservation group trying to stop the planned demolition of this building.

Country, Music, Atlanta
Debbie Elliott/NPR

The building housed a pop-up music studio and one of the first efforts to record musicians in the south. The sessions included black blues singers in the likes of Lucille Bogan and Fannie May Goosby. Among those names was also a white fiddler affectionately called Fiddlin’ John Carson, who recorded the song “Little Old Cabin In The Lane.”

Carson then went down on in history, not only being the first ever country music hit but also successfully putting Atlanta and the South on the music map.

The little brick building where Fiddlin’ John Carson cut that first country hit sits amid Atlanta’s modern tourist attractions. Kessler says it’s hard for old buildings to compete.

“I think Atlanta still struggles with its identity. I think on any given weekend, this city is a different city with whatever convention or sporting event [is] in town. Atlanta, since the Civil Rights era, has claimed to be the city too busy to hate. I think oftentimes we’re just too busy.”


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