Preserving United Sound Systems

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United Sound Systems (USS) was the site of numerous well-known recordings, including those by the most popular artists of many genres. Jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, blues legends like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, Motown stars such as Jackie Wilson and Smokey Robinson, soul singers such as Aretha Franklin and Isaac Hayes, funk groups like Parliament and Funkadelic, and rock bands like Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, all recorded at USS. When USS reopens for business later this year, it will be one of the nation’s oldest, still operating, independent recording studios.

Because of this incredible legacy, the Detroit Sound Conservancy is pleased to announce that we have been asked by the owners of USS to head the efforts to preserve the historic United Sound Systems in Detroit.

In this effort, the DSC has asked historical preservationist Rebecca Binno Savage to begin the process to achieve historical designation in Detroit. The DSC believes that the Detroit City Council should designate the United Sound Systems building as an historic district in Detroit.

The USS building meets the criteria for designation for the following reasons:

It has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.

Housed in a converted residential structure, it has been leasing recording studios at this site since approximately 1940.

It deserves to be protected under the City of Detroit’s Ordinance in Chapter 25, Article 2 for Historic Districts.

For these reasons, yesterday, Thursday, January 30th, 2014, the DSC submitted a request to the Detroit City Council via the Detroit City Clerk to designate USS an historic district in Detroit.

USS is currently threatened from a planned I-94 highway expansion that would, according to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, 2004, tear down the studio. Since 2012, the DSC Landmarks Committee has been working to bring this alarming situation to the attention of Detroit music lovers throughout the world. In the fall of 2013, the present owners of USS went public with their desire to reopen the studio and protect the building. They want to see this nationally significant property protected for future generations. According to owner Danielle Scott, “We must preserve USS to remind us of the kind of musical people we have been. We must preserve USS to remind us of what kind of musical people we can be in the future.”

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2 Responses to “Preserving United Sound Systems”

  1. Marissa Caliguire

    Please let me know if this is something you would like featured in our online magazine. I am the C.O.O. and can be reached at the above email address.