Diamonds for SugarHill

Jan 1, 2007 12:00 PM, Compiled by Sarah Benzuly


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Houston-based SugarHill Recording Studios ( has just wrapped up celebrating its 65th year as a top recording facility on the Gulf Coast. Bill Quinn (right) established the facility in October 1941 as Quinn Recording, honing his skills recording radio commercials and birthday greetings. After releasing its first major hit song, “Jole Blon” by Harry Choates, and a slew of other successes, Quinn changed the facility's name in 1950 to Gold Star Studios. During that time, Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins, George Jones, Johnny Preston, James O'Gwynn and Willie Nelson could be found recording at the facility.

By the early 1960s, Gold Star witnessed the beginnings of the psychedelic Texas rock era, particularly with the release of the Sir Douglas Quintet's “She's About a Mover” (produced by Huey P. Meaux). In January 1968, International Artists Record Company leased Gold Star, and attracted other top names in psychedelic rock, including 13th Floor Elevators, the Red Krayola, Bubble Puppy, Continentals 5, the Bad Seeds, the Moving Sidewalks (ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons' first band) and the Zakary Thaks. B.J. Thomas would also record a portion of his first commercially successful album, Tomorrow Never Comes, during this time.

Producer Meaux took over the studio in the early '70s, officially naming it SugarHill Recording Studios and working on seminal albums from Freddy Fender. In 1986, Modern Music Ventures Inc. bought SugarHill and it became home base for successful Tejano recording artists. Concurrently, Modern Music Ventures established its Tejano label, Discos MM, and released hit records by Elsa Garcia, Jerry Rodriguez & Mercedes and the Hometown Boys.

The late '90s would see another change in ownership to RAD Audio (a company formed by engineers Dan Workman, Andy Bradley and Rodney Meyers). During that time, SugarHill recorded Destiny's Child, Robert Minot, Ann Margaret, Solange Knowles, Brian McKnight, Twista, Smash Mouth, Michelle Williams, Hubert Laws, Clay Walker and Calvin Owens.

Last year, SugarHill partnered with the Pacifica Radio Network and launched The SugarHill Sessions radio show, offering a place for local music to shine. Current owner/studio manager Workman said, “With the advent of modern low-cost recording equipment, our new focus is to be the region's production company — the place you go to connect with the people who know how to make your music sound the very best it can. The music can only get better as we are liberated from being ‘the keepers of the holy machines.’ Now, we can concentrate on every aspect of our clients' musical performances.”

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