August 2

A Forgotten Treasure: Atlanta is Home to First Country Music Hit

We all know that Atlanta is home to some breathtaking structures and landmarks like the Centennial Olympic Park and the SkyView Ferris Wheel. Not to mention, Nassau Street holds a humble structure that houses a very favorable link to Atlanta’s history.

As it turns out, the two-story building, though commonplace and less likely to turn heads with its old brick construction, used to be a recording laboratory back in the 1920’s. It was discovered by a local architect, Kyle Kessler. The architect was able to acquire an article from the said year courtesy of the Atlanta Independent. According to Kessler, the paper had a “front-page article” depicting “Okeh Records was coming to town and going to set-up a recording company” in the exact address where the old, run-down building is currently erected.

A Forgotten Treasure: Atlanta is Home to First Country Music Hit 1
STEPHANNIE STOKES / WABE

As he dug for more information about the old laboratory, he learned that the pop-up studio was built as a sign of the early attempts to give musicians from the South to record their music and be heard. Among the pioneer artists who were able to record their beautiful musical gifts were black blues singers such as Lucille Bogan and Fannie May Goosby. ‘Fiddlin’ John Carson, a white fiddler, imparted his unique musicality in the form of “Little Old Cabin in the Lane”.

Little Old Cabin in the Lane made waves in the national music scene and made history. Previously, the artist, Carson, had a tainted reputation for his earlier work, “The Ballad of Little Mary Phagan” which was linked to the anti-Semitism that brought Leo Frank to be convicted and lynched in 1913. But co-director and founder of record label Dust to Digital Lance Ledbetter counters that Carson’s recording in 1923 “became this thing that put Atlanta on the map.” When Carson brought life to Little Old Cabin in the Lane in the shabby little brick building in Nassau Street, it kick-started the birth of country as a sensational genre in the U.S. It made Atlanta the centerpiece of country music’s development.” It’s not very well-known, but at one point, Atlanta was the country music capital of the world.” Ledbetter adds.

After the 20’s had gone past calendars and clocks, Atlanta’s historical contribution to country music was immediately forgotten, along with the locations where some of the country’s classical hits were recorded. Thankfully, Kessler is determined to preserve the said building. It will be an uphill battle though—since the company purchasing the structure declared they had different plans for the property, and the Atlanta City Council is yet to approve a final designation for the building.


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