This article was originally published in Playback Issue 002. Subscribe to Playback for free to stay up to date with our latest articles, interviews, product reviews and more.
In Issue 002 of Playback, we published an article titled RCA Studio A & B: Creating The Nashville Sound
, which details the history of RCA Victor Studios and how they created "The Nashville Sound." In this blog, we'll take a look back at five of our favorite records to come out of the famed RCA Studios in Nashville.
Roy Orbison – Lonely and Blue (RCA Studio B, Nashville)
On Roy Orbison’s debut album, the stirring string section and ‘50s-diner doo-wop backing singers of “Only the Lonely” set a mood of cinematic, melancholic pop that the singer would return to again and again. Unsurprisingly, the song became his first major hit, with many more to come. The 1942 Steinway piano beloved by Elvis can be heard on this track.
Dolly Parton – Jolene (RCA Studio A, Nashville)
Have Dolly Parton’s gorgeous voice and twangy guitar ever sounded better? Already well into her career, this solo studio album was released in 1974 and features the titular “Jolene,” a true American classic, and “I Will Always Love You,” a beautiful song Parton wrote about the end of her working relationship with Porter Wagoner, made even more well-known by Whitney Houston in 1992. Parton may have written both songs on the very same day, and they were recorded right there in Studio A.
Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed – Me & Jerry (RCA Victor Studios, Nashville)
Two virtuosos conversing with their guitars. This set of pop and country standards and covers is a comfortable collaboration between Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed, their first duet released in 1970. Atkins defined the Nashville sound, and his earliest music is among his best, but this later record nicely illustrates and celebrates his musical gifts, and is well-regarded, too: it won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance.
Elvis Presley – "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" Single (RCA Studio B, Nashville)
“One of my favorite stories is from the sessions for the Elvis is Back record, which ran April 3-4, 1960. While they were recording ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ they decided to turn off the lights to help get the right mood. A small mistake was made at the very end. One of the members of the Jordanaires, who often recorded with Presley, sang a wrong note. They went back to re-record just the very end. At the end of the new recording, Presley stepped into the mic stand and banged his head on the microphone. They tried to get the sound out, but eventually decided to leave it in. You can still hear a little ‘click click’ sound at the very end of the record.” – Justin Croft.
Charley Pride – The Country Way (RCA Studio B, Nashville)
1967’s The Country Way is Charley Pride’s third album, continuing to showcase his crystal clear voice. These songs are pure country, augmented only with light backing vocals and lacking the strings that had defined the Nashville sound. The album peaked at #1 May 18th, 1968 and remained on the Billboard charts for 42 weeks.