SPARS member SugarHill Recording Studios to celebrate its 70th year

SugarHill Recording Studios Goes Platinum in October 

Sugar Hill at 70

photo courtesy of Katya Horner/Slight Clutter Photography

SPARS member SugarHill Recording Studios will celebrate its 70th year this October with a co-branded party sponsored by the Producers and Engineers’ Wing of The Recording Academy, Texas Chapter. The public is invited to a special event including tours, refreshments and limited edition gift bags. Thanks extended to our sponsors D’Addario, Good Dog Hot Dogs, Neuro, Bran Bakes!, Houston Press, New Image Networks, Zenfilm,, Via Colori and more.

Event details: Saturday, October 8, 2011, 4-7pm at SugarHill Studios, 5626 Brock Street, Houston, Texas 77023. FREE. RSVP to 713.926.4431 or [email protected].

Established in 1941 by Bill Quinn, the studio (named Gold Star Studios) was used for recording radio commercials and birthday greetings. By 1945, Quinn ventured into audio engineering, establishing Gold Star Records and a pressing plant. Despite shellac shortages due to the war, he continued, becoming the first independent label in Texas devoted to regional roots music.

The legacy began in 1946 when fiddler Harry Choates recorded the Cajun classic “Jole Blon”. Quinn also worked with blues icon Lightnin’ Hopkins during these early years. In the 1950s, the studio hosted Pappy Dailey’s Starday & D labels, George Jones cut “Why Baby Why?” and immortalized the Big Bopper singing “Chantilly Lace”. Others included WillieNelson, Bobby Bland and Arnett Cobb. The 1960s saw the debut of the Sir Douglas Quintet, Roy Head, and BJ Thomas. International Artists label recorded Texas psych legends The 13th Floor Elevators, The Red Krayola and Bubble Puppy.

Then, Crazy Cajun producer Huey P. Meaux bought the studios. Meaux, christening the studio with the name SugarHill, became famous for his work with Freddy Fender and Clifton Chenier. During this era, the studio also hosted notable artists such as Ricky Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Kinky Friedman, Todd Rundgren and Lucinda Williams.

Modern Music Ventures purchased SugarHill in the mid-1980s and the studios became the home base for some highly successful Tejano artists, among them Little Joe y la Familia, Emilio Navaira, La Fiebre, Xcelencia and Johnny Rodriquez. The owners established a label called Discos MM and scored hit records with Elsa Garcia and The Hometown Boys.

In 1996 current owners, RAD Audio, purchased SugarHill, introducing a new business model embracing the studios history and diversity. Since then, clients have included Destiny’s Child, Solange Knowles, Joe Sample, Brian McKnight, Jermaine Dupri, Smashmouth, Clay Walker, Johnny Nash, Li’l Wayne, Kermit Ruffins, Johnny Bush and Beyoncé.

Looking towards the future of music, SugarHill partnered with Zenfilm in 2008 to launch Live From SugarHill, a free iTunes video podcast highlighting emerging artists. In 2010, the studio became the subject of a book entitled House of Hits: The Story of Houston’s Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios, co-authored by co-owner, Andy Bradley, along with acclaimed music historian Roger Wood. The book was published and distributed by the University of Texas Press, chronicling the studios unparalleled legacy.

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