Mercer University plans to re-open the historic Capricorn Sound Studios in downtown Macon by the end of 2019, the 50th anniversary of Capricorn’s founding, with a $2 million boost from the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The recording studio captured and defined the 1970s Southern Rock sound with a roster of talented artists who would become legends: the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Charlie Daniels Band, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop and many others.
Building on the studio’s legacy, Mercer Music at Capricorn will be a multi-purpose, 20,000-square-foot complex designed to leverage Macon’s music heritage to create Macon’s music future. It will contain the fully restored historic recording studio, plus an additional, larger studio suitable for orchestral recording and film scoring, as well as live performances. The facility will also feature an interpretive space that tells the story of Capricorn and Macon’s music history through artifacts and interactive exhibits.
The heart of the project is a music incubator featuring 13 rehearsal rooms of various sizes to facilitate the development of music talent. The incubator will be available to musicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Plans also call for offices and meeting spaces for related arts and cultural organizations.
With $1 million each from Peyton Anderson Foundation and Knight Foundation, construction will proceed while the University continues its fundraising efforts to complete Mercer Music at Capricorn. Peyton Anderson Foundation made previous grants to purchase the building out of foreclosure and stabilize it after the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation placed the building on its “Places in Peril” list in 2010, bringing the foundation’s total support to nearly $2 million.
“We are deeply grateful to the Peyton Anderson Foundation and Knight Foundation for these major grants that will advance our efforts to re-open Capricorn by year-end,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “Mercer Music at Capricorn will contribute to Downtown Macon’s continued revitalization while providing a space that will cultivate the next generation of music talent and enhance the local music scene; draw tourists from around the world; and allow bands and musicians to record in an iconic studio that birthed Southern Rock. It will further solidify Macon’s international reputation as a place that has made, and continues to make, important contributions to music and culture.”
“Timing has never been better to launch Mercer Music at Capricorn, where Macon’s music scene will be nurtured and supported by an innovative, collaborative effort, rooted in legendary history and surrounded by a vibrant, growing downtown,” said Karen Lambert, president of the Peyton Anderson Foundation. “This revitalization of the historic studio space will be vital to attracting and retaining talent, fostering the arts, contributing to the tourism industry and creating a keen sense of place and identity from that Macon music sound.”
“Accelerating the revitalization of Downtown Macon and energizing its creative economy is essential to fostering the city’s future as a great place to live, work and play. The rebuilding of Capricorn Studios will fill a key gap in the downtown landscape, adding to the area’s vibrancy and connecting the university community to downtown’s cultural life,” said Lynn Murphey, Knight Foundation program director for Macon.
The building – actually four historic structures that were assembled into one complex – that would become Capricorn Sound Studios was purchased in 1967 by Redwal Music, a company owned by Mercer alumnus Phil Walden, his brother Alan Walden, and Otis Redding, whose career was beginning to take off before his untimely death later that year. The studio opened in 1969, when Capricorn Records and the Allman Brothers Band were established in Macon.
The University is planning a daylong series of events on Dec. 3 to celebrate the studio’s re-opening, including live music and tours of the renovated facility.