Back to the recording studio at Capricorn
It was the same song and the same venue, but 40 years later.
The cream-colored building on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, silent for decades, was filled with familiar sounds once again Wednesday.
Nashville artist Jonathan Wyndham recorded a new version of “Can’t You See” at the historic Capricorn studio. The Marshall Tucker Band laid down the hit track in the studio in 1973, and Marshall Tucker drummer Leroy Wilson and producer Paul Hornsby, on keyboard, returned to the legendary site to play on the new song.
Betty Cantrell, Miss America 2016 and a Warner Robins native, also recorded a song. Originally set to perform Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” she instead sang “Georgia on My Mind,” made famous by the late Ray Charles.
The project will bring back the studio elements at the Capricorn Records building and add classrooms and performance venues. An integral component will be the 5/4 Music Space incubator for aspiring musicians.
“This is a historic day for Mercer Music at Capricorn,” said Steve Ivey, the Grammy Award-nominated producer and a Mercer University alumnus who directed the session. He manages Cantrell and Wyndham and owns the Ivey Music International recording company in Nashville.
“This facility means a lot to the city. It means a lot that the studio is up and running. This is going to become a center for creativity.”
The burgundy and brown fabric, white paneling and cedar-shake siding on the studio walls are unchanged, but they held the sound like not a day had passed. Ivey said the studio will have the same look when fully restored. The plan is to keep the building as close to its original form as possible, although some rooms, such as the main entrance, will have to be changed.
“We revisited the scene of the crime. It feels natural. The studio and control room look just like we left it,” said Hornsby, who owns Muscadine Recording Studio on Vineville Avenue and has a new CD out titled “Red Hot.” “This (project) will affect everybody in the food chain of music.”
Other contributing musicians included guitarist Rob Evans and vocalist Charles Davis, from “The Creek” 100.9 FM, and Ivey and Wyndham on guitar. Wyndham played Duane Allman’s Les Paul goldtop guitar, on loan from the Big House Museum.
The musicians did five takes of each song as well as a live broadcast for “The Creek” 100.9 FM. They gave feedback and shared ideas for the songs, joked with each other and listened to snippets of the recordings in between performances.
The songs will be mixed in Nashville and probably put on iTunes, with proceeds set to go to the building project, Ivey said.
Macon’s music heritage is tied to the Capricorn studios building, and Mercer Music at Capricorn is a way to bring the music scene back to downtown and help young musicians, Mercer University President Bill Underwood said.
“I think it’s part of a long-term effort to revitalize Macon,” he said. “As important as history is, more important is encouraging young musicians.”
The recording session was a great way to kick off the beginning of Mercer Music at Capricorn, Ivey said. The community has shown a big interest in the revival of the studio, and musicians have already contacted Ivey about recording there.
Mercer Music at Capricorn isn’t ready to host other sessions yet, he said, but there will be a big announcement when it is.