On Wednesday, March 30, 2016, the Midtown Memphis Development Corporation (MMDC) presented the second annual Mojo Of Midtown Awards to people and organizations who, through their talent, motivation, innovation and Mojo, have made a significant difference in promoting and preserving this most vital part of the City of Memphis. The event will took place at Midtown landmark Circuit Playhouse, 51 South Cooper.
And the winners are…
ARDENT STUDIOS – JODY STEPHENS ACCEPTING
Among both fans and creators of Memphis music, the names of recording studios and record labels are almost as well known as the artists themselves. Ardent Studios is one of those, along with Sun Records, Stax Records, American Studios and Hi Records. From Soul to Rock to Power Pop to Contemporary Christian, Ardent Studios has been the source of some of the world’s great music for fifty years. As the late John Fry put it, “Something good happens here.” Ya think?
In 1959 John Fry, at the age of fifteen, cut his first single. In 1966 he moved his makeshift recording studio out of his parents’ garage and Ardent Studios began. The Madison Avenue studios – on the edge of Overton Square – have been Ardent’s home since 1971.
Try wrapping your head around even this brief sampling of performers who have recorded at Ardent: Isaac Hayes, Led Zeppelin, Sam and Dave, The Staple Singers, Bob Dylan, Al Green, The Allman Brothers Band, The White Stripes, Big Star. Then there’s the talent at the recording consoles. Besides Fry there were Jim Dickinson, Terry Manning, John Hampton, Joe Hardy and Jim Gaines. The current engineering/production staff includes Adam Hill and Mike Wilson.
Ardent Studios is celebrating its first fifty years this year by moving forward into its next fifty. Led by its new Chairman, Pat Scholes (past Ardent senior staff, co-owner) along with other senior staffers – Elizabeth Montgomery, Dan Russo and Reed Turchi – the team continues to build momentum with artist development as a core theme. New releases on both Ardent labels and anniversary studio promotions feature a “giving-back” component by offering 50 free days of studio time and other packages to emerging artists.
Jody Stephens is now Director of Business Development at Ardent. He recorded there too, first as the drummer for the legendary Memphis band Big Star. He says the key to Ardent’s success and longevity was that John Fry knew “creative relationships were based on personal relationships” and that “you know great things can happen here because great things have happened.” Just looking at the gold and platinum singles and albums on the walls of Ardent, it’s easy to see that he’s right.