Music Row Years, Repair Shop History
Davidson Amplifier Repair opened November 1, 1993 at 812 19th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee. In January 1995, I moved my business to 19 B Music Square West, in a building known to the music business as "The Barn". In August, 1999, Davidson Amplifier Repair moved to 1608 17th Avenue South, as Music Row expanded South toward Belmont College. In the Spring of 2004, I moved my business to a private location in Lockeland Springs, a few blocks past the Radio Cafe, which is now a yuppie joint called Mad Donna's. After being open daily for walk-in service for over ten years, Davidson Amplifier Repair is now open by appointment only.
1993 and 1994
Above is Davidson Amplifier Repair's first Music Row location, at 812 19th Avenue South. It had a convenient loading dock at the front door. Music Row was just buzzing back then. It was incredibly exciting! I remember my first conversation with Ruyter Suys. Apparently her husband Blaine Cartwright, of Nine Pound Hammer, had played a rough gig where somebody dumped a beer down his Marshall, shattering the tubes. A few days later he arrived at my shop on a Sunday night, having carried his 100W Marshall head all the way from his apartment. I sold him tubes, biased his amp for nothing, and gave him a ride home. We became good friends and helped each other a lot. I sold them my Gibson SG when business was bad, and my guitar became famous, even though I didn't.
This location on 20th Ave. So. was home to an old frame building where Blaine Cartwright and Ruyter Suys lived from 1993-1995. The South Street Restaurant is still there, to the right. They lived on the second floor and kept their front door open so that the apartment always smelled like smoke from the restaurant's barbecue. In 1995 the place burned, and two of the best friends I ever had moved to Athens, Georgia. It's hard to believe that this Layla Rul place has replaced the old dump.
This is the South Street Restaurant. It's just like it was when I got here in 1993. It's great for shrimp, barbecue, beer and hanging out with songwriters. I still remember hanging out drinking beer with Hank III's fiddle player, Michael McCanless, after their performance at Uptown Mix. Michael is no longer with us; a terrible loss to Music City and music.
This is my original location viewed from the street, 12 years later. My neighbors included Dixiana, Martina MacBride's management, Confederate Railroad's management, and the Perfect Ten Nail Salon. I admit that I miss those days when Garth-mania was at its peak, and beautiful women wandered down the streets with backpacks and guitars, looking for a deal. I was constantly meeting key figures in the industry and had no clue who they were, being from rock and roll and not country. Silly me!
Above is shown my second location at 19 Music Square West, Nashville, otherwise known as the "Barn". My shop was on the right side of the building facing #15, then MARFAC and NSAI. The building's owner was Gerald Fisher, a colorful character who would go around the building with a box of donuts once a week and see how you were doing. In the early 1960's Nashville got its most amazing piece of tube gear ever, far wilder than any giant tube mixing console. It was a computer! Yep! A vacuum tube computer, and Gerald Fisher was one the people who got to program and operate it. I imagine it was a headache, but an interesting one. I learned a thing or two from him and was thrilled to bump into him in 2006 renovating a property near my current location. No donuts, but funny stories and advice in abundance!
This is Robert's Western World, a rockin' country bar that also sells boots, on Broadway in Music City. On my first New Year's Eve in Nashville, Jay MacDowell called me at 4 p.m. . It seems that while recording the new Hellbilly album, some genius had put a blanket over Jay's Quad Reverb amp to quiet the hum. This covered the pilot light and so the amp got left on overnight with the blanket still on. Ouch! I told him I would try to fix it that night if he would pick it up New Year's Day. I did, and he did. In April 1995 he was playing a show at Robert's Western World and Chet Atkins came to see the new band. A few minutes after Chet sat down, front and center, a tube fell out of Jay's amp. He reached in back and plugged the tube in.....WRONG! He turned the amp back on and smoke erupted from the back....with Chet watching. Jay turned up at my shop the next day and I fixed it for that night's show. Chet was there again... and BR5-49 was signed a few weeks later. ( Obviously Chet knew that anyone who can get an amp fixed so fast was a very happening dude!)
This photo shows Starstruck Entertainment and the United Artists tower just one block south on the other side of Music Square West in 2005. UA was up when I arrived in Music City, but Starstruck was just being started. They didn't blast the bedrock; they chiseled 20 feet down with gigantic jackhammers attached to backhoes. The hammering went on all night so it wouldn't interrupt the 10,2,6 recording sessions. This was started in January 1994 and finished after I got to 19 B.
From 2000 to 2004, the shop was at 1608 17th Avenue South. Unfortunately I can't locate
any pictures from this period; and there are no significant buildings close by. I tried
branching out into custom audio at this point. I built some custom amplifiers, and a tube
tester and mic pre or two. I also did a fair number of tube tape head conversions to
mic pres, such as Ampex, Berlandt, and so on. I was heavily involved in designing a
completely new style of tube recording compressor when the property changed hands,
and I agreed with the new owner that my space was overdue for remodeling. So I
gave up the Music Row rat race and moved to Lockeland Springs in East Nashville,
about 3 blocks southeast of then Mayor Purcell's house.
Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 By Jon Davidson Nashville