The Studio and its Founders
Owen Bradley and his younger brother Harold built the studio in the mid-1950s, naming it the “Quonset Hut.” The Bradley’s sold the facility to Columbia Records in 1961. The company re-named it “Columbia Studio B”. Owen, along with other producers such as Don Law and Billy Sherrill, cut an enormous number of hits in the building with the likes of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, George Jones, Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Tammy Wynette, Lefty Frizzell and more.
Frank Jones, who transferred from the Canadian branch of Columbia Records to Nashville in 1961, worked side by side with Don Law during much of the 1960s. As a team, they raked in over a dozen number one singles at Columbia Studio B. Some of the songs were, Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John”, Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, Flatt & Scruggs’ “The Ballad Of Jed Clampett”, Marty Robbins’ “Devil Woman”, and Lefty Frizzell’s “Saginaw, Michigan”.
Don Law was forced to take mandatory retirement from Columbia in 1967. However, he continued on with his independent “Don Law Productions”. Law retired in the late 1970s and sadly died from lung cancer in 1982. He was posthumously elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. In time, Frank Jones also went independent, finding himself working John Anderson sessions by the early ‘80s for Warner Brothers Records. It was he who produced Anderson’s “Wild And Blue” album, the final recordings made at Columbia Studio B before it was demolished.
The Last Session and “Wild and Blue”
On the last Studio B session, Frank Jones said it was an ironic and surreal time. It was very emotional for not only him but for many of the musicians, some of whom had performed on recordings there even before his arrival back in ’61. Jones was awestruck just thinking about all of the legendary hits that had been cut in that place, many of which he had participated on as co-producer with Law. After the final session was completed, they had to find another facility in which to mix the “Wild And Blue” album, because the demolition team started tearing down the building the next morning.
It’s appropriate that Jones produced the final master made at Columbia Studio B. It was the cover of John Anderson of the haunting classic “The Long Black Veil”, which Lefty Frizzell had originally recorded there in 1959. Anderson had been hailed as an heir to Lefty’s honky-tonk territory. In the song “Wild And Blue”, he certainly walked a hard-country line. John Scott Sherrill wrote the song over a six-month period at his home near Franklin, Tennessee. The sister of John Anderson, Donna frequented the Music City club where Sherrill’s short-lived band (“Wolves In Cheap Clothing”) played. She had an interest in “Wild And Blue”. She introduced the song to her brother, who gave it a Cajun feel and enlisted her to sing backup vocals.
“Wild And Blue” was only the second of John Scott Sherrill’s songs to be recorded. After “Wild And Blue’s” chart-topping appearance, Sherrill went on to write other big hits. such as Brooks and Dunn’s “How Long Gone,” Steve Wariner’s “Some Fools Never Learn,” Neal McCoy’s “No Doubt About It,” Shenandoah’s “The Church On Cumberland Road,” Highway 101’s “Cry, Cry, Cry”.
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