The former headquarters of Acuff-Rose Publishing Company, located at 2510 Franklin Road in Nashville, sits across the street from a Firestone service center flanked by a barber shop/nail salon and a Greek-American diner. While the Melrose area of South Nashville has seen a flurry of new development in the last couple of years, the neighborhood retains the low-slung, working-class vibe it had when the Acuff-Rose Building was dedicated on July 10, 1967. That the music publishing powerhouse chose to locate their headquarters some 2 ½ miles to the southwest of Music Row makes more sense considering the firm had been operating out of a green-awninged, shopping strip complex at the site for twenty years before constructing their new 23,500-square-foot modernist facility.
There was no Music Row back in 1946. When Fred Rose (1897-1954) began scouting out new office space after the publishing firm he’d founded with Roy Acuff (1903-1992) had outgrown its one-room-and-a-hall setup near the State Capitol in downtown Nashville, he had the whole city to choose from. Music Row didn’t come into being until 1954, when Owen Bradley and his brother, Harold, built that neighborhood’s first recording studio at 804 16th Ave. South, adding the now legendary Quonset Hut to the rear a few months later.
Acuff-Rose Publishing Company incorporated on October 13, 1942. The alliance between the popular Grand Ole Opry performer from East Tennessee and the pop music songwriter and piano player from Chicago would prove to be both lucrative and influential. While Roy Acuff had become fairly successful in privately publishing his own catalog of songs, he realized Nashville needed a “real” publishing house to serve country music writers. Acuff had the start-up capital and the itch to form a new venture; what he lacked was an insiders’ knowledge of the music publishing industry. He knew he needed someone with the experience and expertise to setup such a firm and had a strong hunch about Fred Rose, whom he had met a few times at the WSM studio where Rose hosted a daily radio program. 1 After a bit of professional courtship, the two men founded the eponymously named company Acuff-Rose, Nashville’s first country music publishing business.
Roy Acuff had made a wise decision. Fred Rose’s penchant for finding and developing talent, peerless songcraft, and production prowess left an indelible imprint on the country music industry. Indeed, the composer of numerous pop and country music classics, including “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961. 2
There would seem to be a fairly simple explanation for why Acuff-Rose chose to locate where they did: convenience. The Melrose retail strip Fred Rose decided to rent was only a ten-minute walk from his home at 2403 Kirkman Avenue (now Vaulx Lane). The publishing firm had only one section of the shopping center at first, but worked out a deal to lease the rest of the spaces as each tenant moved on. Until then, Acuff-Rose rubbed shoulders with a hardware store, beauty parlor, tobacco shop, antiques dealer, and vacuum cleaner store – no doubt reminding staff songwriters of where their bread was buttered. Before taking over the complex, storefront by storefront, Fred Rose used his nearby flagstone-clad house as an annex of sorts. His garage doubled as a recording studio, with production duties handled in the attic. Several hit songs were recorded in Rose’s home studio, including “Cry, Cry Darlin’,” “Good Deal, Lucille” and “Too Old to Cut the Mustard.” 3
[“Good Deal Lucille” by Al Terry (1954) – Early Hickory Records hit, reportedly recorded in Fred Rose’s garage studio.]
With success came more success. In 1946, Fred Rose signed a little known country singer and songwriter by the name of Hank Williams. With such Hank Williams hits as “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Jambalaya,” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart, the music publisher was ensured a steady revenue stream for many years to come. Acuff-Rose had a deep roster of talent, and the hits kept coming, including Patti Page’s huge 1950 pop hit, “The Tennessee Waltz.” A listing of only a handful of the hit songs published by Acuff-Rose includes: “Bye Bye Love,” “Dream, Dream, Dream,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “When Will I Be Loved,” and “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Many of Nashville’s finest songwriters were affiliated with Acuff-Rose, including such luminaries as Don Gibson, the Everly Brothers, Felice and Boudeleaux Bryant, Pee Wee King, Roy Orbison, John D. Loudermilk, Marty Robbins, and Bob Luman. 4
After Fred Rose’s death in 1954, his son Wesley Rose became president of the firm. This was a position he was well prepared for, as he had been serving as general manager of Acuff-Rose since 1945. Under his leadership, the organization would continue to play an integral role in the music industry for many years to come.
As for their headquarters, the firm eventually purchased the entire Franklin Road complex. The demands of housing music publishing offices and providing space for songwriters, printing presses, distribution facilities, and recording studios led to the construction of their new modernist building in 1967. The building was also home to Hickory Records. The Acuff-Rose Building continued to house the storied music publisher until the firm’s sale to Ed Gaylord, owner of Opryland and the Nashville Network, in 1985. The long delayed move to Music Row finally came in November 1986, during which time Acuff-Rose was rechristened Opryland Music Group and shifted its operations to 66 Music Square West. 5
[Part Two delves into the architectural features of this eclectic office building and recent alterations to its distinctive façade.]
- Elizabeth Schlappi, Roy Acuff, the Smoky Mountain Boy, (Gretna, La.: Pelican Pub. Co., 1993), 150-153. ↩
- John W. Rumble, “Knowles Fred Rose,” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998), 810. ↩
- Lee Zhito, “A Handshake and a Promise,” Billboard Magazine, February 3, 1968. ↩
- Don Cusic, “Acuff-Rose,” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998), 2-3. ↩
- Schlappi, 259-260. ↩
© 2014 – 2018, David Sprouse. All rights reserved.