Traditional country fans in Atlanta rise up against Margaritaville

Traditionalists in Atlanta, GA are aghast at a proposal to tear down an old building that music historians regard as an important icon in country music, to build a high-rise resort branded with Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville theme.

The site is on Nassau Street in downtown Atlanta, where Ralph Peer recorded a number of regional artists in 1923, four years before his breakthrough sessions in Bristol, VA resulted in the discovery of Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. Peer had also captured audio in New Orleans and Nashville in the later half of the 1920s.

Bristol has made much of their part in the development of country music as a recognized genre for many years, billing the twin cities as The Birthplace of Country Music, and eventually building a substantial museum by that name on the Virginia side, now part of the Smithsonian Museum family of institutions.

But it seems that Atlanta has their own claim to that title, one that architect Kyle Kessler wants to see retained. Working with local preservationist group Historic Atlanta, Kessler is hoping to generate enough interest in town to save the two-story brick structure from the wrecking ball. Both white and black musicians were recorded during Peer’s Atlanta visit, and that June 1923 session generated a recording of The Little Old Cabin in the Lane by Fiddlin’ John Carsonwidely regarded as the first hit in the as yet undefined genre of traditional country music.

Even 95 years later, you can easily recognize what we now know as strains of bluegrass.

Kessler has launched an online petition to build support, which describes the Nassau Street location as “the South’s first ever music recording studio.” He invites everyone who believes with him that this piece of Georgia’s cultural history should be preserved, to visit the petition web site and add your name.

The fact that it would be demolished in favor of a gaudy tourist attraction just adds insult to injury.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.