The newest Ken Burns series premiering in September follows the vast and varied evolution of country music over the 20th century. The eight-part series begins not in Nashville, nor Bristol, but Atlanta.
That’s because, in 1923, OKeh Records music pioneer Ralph Peer came from New York to the South and set up a temporary recording studio smack dab in downtown Atlanta at 152 Nassau Street. That’s where he recorded early country, blues, jazz and gospel artists, including what is known as country music’s first hit, “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” by Fiddlin’ John Carson.
152 Nassau Street in Atlanta was home to the first country music recording hit made before the genre even had a name
Country music has many origin stories. One of them occurred on or around June 19, 1923, when Fiddlin’ John Carson was tapped to record music at a pop-up studio at 152 Nassau Street in Atlanta for Okeh Music. His hit recording marked the first deliberate effort to market country music for a country audience.
Nashville may be the country music capital, but the industry for which it’s famous began in Atlanta. Now, a grassroots drive to preserve a historic downtown building is highlighting Atlanta’s somewhat forgotten role in early roots music.
Country music’s first hit record was made in an unassuming office building in Downtown Atlanta, but proposed construction for a new Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville location could erase this bit of history forever.
The building, located at 152 Nassau St., currently houses a law firm but was once the location of a temporary recording studio set up by New York-based Okeh Records executive Ralph Peer. Plans for the development of a Downtown home for the Margaritaville restaurant chain, which boasts more than 30 outposts in the U.S. and abroad, were unveiled summer 2016. In response, Atlanta planning commissioner Tim Keane announced in May 2017 that the building and another structure on Walton were being nominated for historic designation to protect them from the threat of demolition by the proposed Margaritaville construction. The developer’s attorney contested the nomination which put it on hold. A demolition permit application was recently filed with the City of Atlanta associated with the construction of a Margaritaville restaurant and hotel.