Strike a tuning fork against the floor of Capricorn Sound Studios, which recently reopened, and you can still hear reverberations of the “Macon sound.” In 1969, local impresario Phil Walden heard Duane Allman bend guitar notes that defied physics, and built a studio around him.
Soon enough, ax slingers trailing long corn-silk hair made the pilgrimage to the geographical navel of Georgia with hopes of cutting a hit track—Wet Willie, the Dixie Dregs, the Marshall Tucker Band. “We longhairs stuck together,” says producer and keyboardist Paul Hornsby. “I take pride that we created a whole new genre of music: Southern rock.”
The downtown studio also became known as an oasis of interracial cooperation in an otherwise divisive era. “It was this color-blind place,” says Jerry Williams, a black vocalist and producer known as Swamp Dogg who recorded there. Capricorn closed in the late 1970s, and the building fell into disrepair and stayed shuttered for decades.
Now, Mercer University in Macon has restored it to its vintage glory, rolling out fresh shag carpeting and rehanging psychedelic art in the greenroom. Recording equipment includes both state-of-the-art digital and old-school analog modeled on the original. Young and seasoned bands alike can reach for that ’70s vibe, or book the studio to pioneer something new.
The renovated building also functions as a “music incubator” for the university, with twelve rehearsal rooms and an exhibition space featuring a digital catalogue of songs recorded during the heyday.
The grand reopening, earlier this month, came fifty years after Capricorn first rocked Georgia, and the nation. An interactive museum, where visitors can listen through a digital archive of music recorded there, opens January 2, 2020.
All photos courtesy of Mercer University