Famous Homes Where American Music History Was Made
With their musical achievements crafted in attics, basements, bungalows, Victorians, Jersey cottages and Hollywood mansions, the legends of pop, folk, alternative, rap and rock have shown that home may not be where the heart is, but it’s definitely where the art is.
From the hills of Los Angeles to the lakes of Tennessee, some of America’s most original and game-changing creators have called upon special, sometimes spiritual places to conjure their muses to bring forth the tunes.
We went on a magical mystery tour to uncover some of the iconic locales where award-winning music was inspired, written and recorded.
710 Ashbury Street, San Francisco CA (above)
The Summer of Love took place in 1967 in the center of the flower power universe: Haight & Ashbury. And right in the thick of things was the Grateful Dead, who famously occupied 710 Ashbury Street (above) from 1966 until 1968. It was there that Jerry Garcia & the gang spawned not just a new music scene, but a new pop culture era that bent all the Establishment’s rules.
That the Dead’s transformational musical legacy was housed in a particular Victorian row house in The Haight neighborhood only makes the Dead so easy to find on our cultural and musical maps.
Part of the Hayes Valley real estate market, this Victorian was the site of the Dead’s famous drug bust in 1967. Garcia managed to move on to bigger and more spacious digs later in life, including this Marin County home that was listed for sale in 2010
Jefferson Airplane hit the scene in 1966, a year before the Dead, and occupied a similarly famous Haight-Ashbury dwelling — a Victorian at 2400 Fulton St. that was right near Golden Gate Park. Airplane founder Marty Balin talked about the place in a video he shot in 2009, when he revisited the house that is now privately owned:
“Yup, 2400 Fulton Street. This was the Airplane mansion. This was our office and at one point, we all lived here. It was quite a party pad. We had the Dead, Big Brother, Janice and anybody else in town would come over. We had a pool table in there and we had a recording studio in the basement,” Balin said.
The house figured so much into the Airplane’s early days they named a record after it: 2400 Fulton Street.
Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
One of the most famous homes in country music — or any musical genre, given the reach of Johnny Cash’s career — was the home of Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash. The property figured in the Cash bio-pic, “Walk The Line” and for nearly all of their 35-year marriage, the Cash family lived in the massive, 13,880-square-foot home that ran along on Old Hickory Lake. The lake house was set on a solid rock foundation, the property had an outdoor swimming pool, bell garden, four large, 35-foot round rooms, seven bedrooms, and five full baths.
But it was more than a house. It was the spiritual home of Cash and the artistic and cultural universe he created, drawing likes of Bob Dylan, evangelist Billy Graham, Carl Perkins, Brooks & Dunn and other high priests and priestesses of the music industry and entertainment and political worlds. The place was memorialized in a song by Cash’s daughter, Rosanne Cash, “House On The Lake.”
After Johnny and June both died six months apart in 2003, the house was sold to singer Barry Gibbs and his wife, who were undertaking a massive renovation. Their plan was to pay homage to Cash and his legend by inhabiting the famous home, but that never happened. The home burned down during the remodel. The event prompted none less than the Oak Ridge Boys to remark that it might have been God’s will; no one else but Johnny Cash was meant to live in that house.
What is less known, however, is that Cash wound up living in the house he owned across the street at 187 Claudill Drive. The ranch home (photo right) was built by the same architect, and Cash had used it to house his own parents prior to their passing.
“He spent his last days there after it was harder for him to get around in a wheelchair in lake house,” said Stan Peacock, whose father-in-law — a former Grand Ole Opry musician — bought the house from the Cash family in 2004.
The ranch house, which was always referred to as “Mama Cash’s house” because it was where Cash’s mother lived, has been listed for sale for a modest $595,000. It once housed some very unique Cash mementos, including the Gold Record for Cash’s major hit: “I Walk The Line.”
We’re not sure there’s a house so singularly identified with a band, The Band, and its iconic, genius collaborator, Bob Dylan, where an album was written and recorded and still celebrated for its dramatic and enduring success.
Welcome to “Music From Big Pink,” where the house used by The Band generated one of the greatest albums of all-time. Located just outside of Woodstock in upstate New York, Big Pink was a rental property found by The Band member, Rick Danko, (may he rest-in-peace) who in turn brought in Dylan, who used the place as a retreat and place for experimentation that resulted in songs like “Chest Fever,” “The Weight” and “Long, Black Veil.” In addition to “Music From Big Pink,” the pink-sided dwelling also spawned “The Basement Tapes.”
Since 1998, Big Pink has been owned by Don and Susan LaSala, who call themselves stewards of this musical shrine. Good thing, since many fans of The Band and Dylan continue to make pilgrimages to the grand, pink house of music.
The Mansion, owned by Rick Rubin
8134 Tianna Rd. Los Angeles CA (above)
He doesn’t know how to work a sound board. He doesn’t read music or play any instruments, but Rick Rubin knows what makes a good song and great records. That’s why this producer is called a musical guru and his three-story, 1923 Spanish villa is considered one of the most deeply steeped venues in music history.
After starting Def Jam records with Russell Simmons, Rubin has continued to reinvent the music industry, marrying rap with metal and by bringing artists to record ground-breaking, career-shaping music in his mammoth studio: Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Jakob Dylan, Dixie Chicks, Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z. While the guru now prefers to live on the beach at Malibu, his home continues to be a mecca for Grammy-making music.
Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A.
2646 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit MI (above)
This is the cradle of the Motown Sound. “Hitsville U.S.A.” — a former photographers’ studio — was Motown’s first headquarters which Motown founder Berry Gordy bought in 1959. What came next was a recording studio where a non-stop creative churn filled the airwaves with a sound that changed radio and the music industry with a stable of uber-talent.
Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, The Four Tops and The Temptations, who won the recording studio its belated first Grammy in 1972 for “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”
While Gordy finally moved to Los Angeles to create Hitsville West, the Motown sound will always be known for its birthplace in the Motor City, where Gordy mirrored the assembly-line approach of the car industry — to sweeter strains.
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
Unlike the homes where music history was made for all the right reasons, Kurt Cobain’s home in Seattle made history for all the wrong reasons. The Nirvana front man who brought grunge music from the rain-slicked Pacific Northwest to a hungry world audience took his life in the greenhouse over the garage of his Denny-Blaine neighborhood home.
It was an abrupt and stunning end to a life and artist who had taken all the angst and swirling mix of nihilistic pessimism of his Aberdeen, WA childhood to a new musical frontier. While his larger-than-life wife Courtney Love tore down the garage and sold the property in 1997, the cedar shake-sided house overlooking Seattle’s Lake Washington continues to be a mecca for fans of one of music’s most intensely talented and tortured souls.
There are no shortage of real estate listings that tempt buyers with the invited sales pitch promising that the property is a veritable “Shangri-La.” In the case of the famous Malibu music studio that hosted milestone recording sessions for many top artists, it is a real Shangri-La.
Originally built by actress Margo Albert, who starred in the movie “Lost Horizon” and who aimed to recreate a mystical place, the Zuma Beach property continues to elicit ethereal performances from some of music’s biggest stars: Bob Dylan, The Band, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker and more.
The place is a who’s who in recording history, including the 2012 Grammy favorite Adele, whose song “Rolling in the Deep” was not only recorded at Shangri-La Ranch, but the music video was also filmed there.
Shangri-la went on the real estate market last May for $4.1 million.
The dark and mysterious nature of the Eagles’ mega-hit album stems from its use of one of the oldest literary tricks in the book: A weary traveler stops into an inn that at first glance holds a fascinating promise, only to entrap the traveler in its frightening confines.
While the Eagles have endured decades of miserable interpretations about what the title song of their all-time great recording meant, one element of the song and album reveals itself with some clarity: Since the cover of the album is a picture of the Beverly Hills Hotel, there’s no mistaking that famous landmark as a metaphor for the trappings of American excess, particularly the Los Angeles music scene of the ’70s.
“Hotel California” is Rolling Stone magazine’s 49th greatest song of all time. It’s one of the 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n roll, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It won “Record of the Year” at the 1977 Grammy awards and it is ranked No. 8 in the Top 100 Guitar Solos, according to Guitar Magazine.
7 1/2 W. End Ct. Long Branch, NJ (above)
In 2009, fans of Bruce Springsteen beat out potential developers seeking to turn this commercial-area bungalow into another strip mall, or something. What the fans recognized is that posterity was more important than bulldozers. Why? Because this is the house where Jersey’s famous singer/songwriter/rocker penned the music for his breakout album, “Born To Run.”
The home appears to have such special allure that in 2009, reports have it that Bob Dylan was found wandering in the rain near the 890-square-foot house. Given Dylan’s respect for music history, with his affinity for legends like Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, that all but cements the value of this little white refuge.