Traverse City Record-Eagle


July 4, 2013

Highway plan threatens Detroit recording studio

DETROIT (AP) — A plan to increase the size of a Detroit freeway is threatening a recording studio that welcomed the likes of Aretha Franklin, Berry Gordy and Eminem.

The United Sound Systems building — the spot where Gordy cut a record that would lead the way to the Motown dynasty and where Franklin laid down the vocals to her 1980s hit "Freeway of Love" — could be leveled as part of a project to reconstruct Interstate 94.

Officials are looking to add a lane on both sides and install continuous service drives along the freeway.

It's not going to happen without a fight.

Leaders with the Detroit Sound Conservancy, a nonprofit working to preserve and share the city's music history, have started the process of trying to find an alternative to destroying the revered music house.

"United Sound Systems ought to be the linchpin, the centerpiece of a 21st century Detroit soundscape," Carleton Gholz, who founded the Detroit Sound Conservancy, told the Detroit Free Press for a story Wednesday ( ). "It is Exhibit A of Michigan and Detroit's impact on global sound. It should be alive and cooking."

The Michigan Department of Transportation has preliminary plans to use the land for an off-ramp, but department spokesman Rob Morosi said those plans could change as the project moves ahead.

"We have not designed this project," Morosi said. "What we did was a study, justification that this is needed. But we have not completed it. This is the worst-case scenario. Either we can alter the design of the service drive, or we could move (the recording studio). We're not just putting our hands up and saying, 'It's got to go.'"

The building, which was made into a studio in 1933, doesn't have an historical marker or designation. Wood covers the windows on the front, and it hasn't been used regularly for more than a decade.

Funkadelic recorded most of their music there, and Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and Luther Vandross are among those who also recorded tracks at the Second Avenue structure.

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