Ardent Celebrates 45th Anniversary with Gala Gathering

Celebrations Rock Legendary Memphis Recording Studio

Pictured during celebrations at Ardent in Memphis is the studio staff surrounding founder John Fry. Photo by Tommy Bridwell.


Ardent Studios, founded by John Fry, is celebrating 45 years as a center of unforgettable music emanating from the heart of Memphis, Tennessee.
Capping off a year of celebration, friends and the extended family of Ardent producers, engineers and musicians gathered for a gala reunion gathering and a toast to the next era of the famed studio.

Ardent Studios began its rich history with early classics by Sam & Dave, Led Zeppelin, Isaac Hayes, Leon Russell and The Staples Singers, then scored hits in the 70s, 80s and 90s with such artists as James Taylor, ZZ Top, REM, George Thorogood, The Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

21st Century stars continue to walk through the doors: Three 6 Mafia, Cat Power, North Mississippi Allstars, Three Doors Down, White Stripes, a reunited Big Star, Bob Dylan, John Hiatt, the Raconteurs and Smashing Pumpkins, among many others. Ardent’s passion for the music has translated into more than 75 gold and platinum albums and singles — and still counting.

The Ardent story began when the teenage John Fry built a studio in his family’s garage, where he recorded his first Ardent Records 45s. “In 1966, I was done with school and my family sold our house,” he recalls. “I felt it was time to make a career commitment to recording music.” He found a new store building on Memphis’ National Street, which he shared with a bookshop.

The original equipment came from the garage operation: Altec tube console, Ampex 2-track, Pultec EQ and Neumann mics — some of which are still in use today. The legendary Tom Dowd was consulting with Auditronics on an early multitrack console for nearby Stax Records, and Fry ordered the same input modules for his second board. Next came a Scully 4-track, the first EMT plate reverbs in the area, and the beginnings of a world class collection of gear.

As a young studio owner, Fry was fortunate to get the overflow work from Stax Records. Walking through the Ardent doors came Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MGs, The Bar-Kays, Johnny Taylor, Rufus Thomas, and Albert King, as well as Leon Russell and artists on his Shelter label. “It was great to have the chance to work with all these great artists and producers,” Fry says, “We were amazed that they would take a chance on a bunch of young kids.” Top artists came back, and brought their friends.

Ardent became home to young producers and engineers such as Jim Dickinson, Terry Manning, Joe Hardy, John Hampton, Paul Ebersold, and later, many other successful figures who are part of the Ardent family circle, which includes Skidd Mills, Jeff Powell, Jason Latshaw, and Pete Matthews.

In 1971, Ardent Studios moved to its present location on Madison Avenue, followed by the acquisition of 24-track recorders, bigger consoles and more gear. During this 45th Anniversary year, the famed Studio C control room was completely torn down and rebuilt, while the venerable vintage Neve console was repackaged as a sidecar for the newly installed SSL Duality desk. “It was time to bring Ardent into the 21st Century world of recording, yet keep the legacy intact,” added the studio’s founder and first engineer, John Fry.

Fry cites several reasons for his continued success in a business which has few survivors from the early days. “We’re flexible and we’ve always strived to adapt to the changes in the recording industry. We’ve also been fortunate to have so much talent on our staff, and long term relationships with successful artists and producers. Also, having a production company, a record label, and a publishing business has allowed us to be one of our own best clients.”

For information about Ardent Studios, visit: http://www.ardentstudios.com

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