Sound systems

The fight to save United Sound Systems Recording Studios continues

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The historical marker visible to all symbolizes the importance of the construction of the United Sound Systems recording studios. But the hum of construction a few steps away is a symbol of its eminent relocation.

AJ Walker


(CBS DETROIT) – The historical marker visible to all symbolizes the importance of the construction of the United Sound Systems recording studios. But the hum of construction a few steps away is a symbol of its eminent relocation.

With a history dating back to 1939, United Sound System was one of Detroit’s first independent recording studios. Greats like Dizzie Gillespie, Jackie Wilson and many others have recorded there.

Now it belongs to the Michigan Department of Transportation. Terry Stepanski, lead project manager for their I-94 project, explained that the studio is well on its way to building the project. And this work must take place.

“Motorists are experiencing a higher accident rate along this corridor than they should because it’s really built to 1950s standards,” Stepanski said. “What we’re going to do is upgrade I-94 in this area to modern standards to make it safer. It really is a safety project.”

Janis Hazel also fought to save the studio. She doesn’t want it moved.

“Far too often, black people in Detroit and other urban areas have been displaced in the name of progress. At some point, history has to be preserved,” Hazel said. “I don’t think this building should be sacrificed for the freeway, the off-ramp, or anything MDOT wants to do.

We want this building to stay where it is because the studio, a wonderful studio, is in the basement and you can’t lift a basement structure.”

“I know our historians are looking at this very, very closely,” Stepanski said. “I’ve been there myself and I’m sure there’s been a lot of great activity there. And we want to recreate the sound studio as close as possible to what it is now.”

Stepanski said MDOT bought the building to save it, but so far didn’t have enough information about the cost and what would happen to the studio’s basement.

But one thing is certain, the i-94 project continues and so does the fight for this Detroit treasure.