A Southern Rock Revival

Words by Ashley Locke

Photos provided by Mercer University

They say everything old becomes new again. Capricorn Sound Studios is back to prove it.

When you think of Southern Rock, a few bands come to mind––The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, and The Charlie Daniels Band, to name a few. They all have one thing in common––they recorded at Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Georgia, the birthplace of Southern Rock.

The space was originally purchased in 1967 as a recording studio for Otis Redding and other musicians on the label he created with Phil and Alan Walden, RedWal Music. When Redding died in a plane crash, the Walden brothers began a new label with Frank Fenter––Capricorn Records––and officially opened the studio on December 3rd in 1969. 

In its heyday, the studio became a mecca for Southern Rock bands, attracting Wet Willie, the Dixie Dregs, and Elvin Bishop. It also welcomed black musicians like Swamp Dogg, a rare example of interracial cooperation during a divisive era. With hit after hit streaming out of the studio, it didn’t take long for the “Macon Sound” to become synonymous with Southern Rock.

The studio closed in the late 1970s, left ignored and falling into disrepair. Then, in 2016, real estate developer Sierra Development donated the space to Mercer University. The University saw the potential still in the studio, and they began a years-long restoration to bring new life into the old space. After a lot of work, the building now houses two recording studios, sound booths, state-of-the-art mixing capabilities, rehearsal rooms, and educational spaces–including an interactive museum that tells the history of the Capricorn. 

The studio, relaunched as Mercer Music at Capricorn, was ready to reopen just in time for the 50th anniversary of the space, December 3rd, 2019. To celebrate, they brought back its former glory with performances by Chuck Leavell of The Allman Brothers Band and Chris Hicks of The Marshall Tucker Band. The public was also able to tour the studio, getting a first hand look at the 70s style made modern, digital and analog recording equipment, and a psychedelic green room. 

Mercer University hopes for the studio to honor its history, but also open doors to musicians of a new era. Its goal is to become an incubator for developing musicians, just how it used to be.

To learn more about the glory days at the Capricorn, as well as its future, you can visit the museum Wednesday through Sunday, and studio tours are available on Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit the Macon Music Trail website.