Tucked away on a hill on Old Hillsboro Road is the Franklin landmark, Castle Recording Studios. The studio and event venue has hosted a who’s-who of superstar clients during its tenure and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
“It’s pretty crazy,” says studio manager Lance Van Dyke. “You name a Nashville artist, they’ve probably been here at some point in their career.” He recalls recent visits by Carrie Underwood and Alan Jackson, as well as sessions with Chris Stapleton, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley, Faith Hill, Miley Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus.
Owner Jozef Nuyens agrees, “We’ve welcomed the greatest of each genre—Lionel Richie to Whitney Houston to Neil Diamond to Metallica, and everything in between.”
But the intriguing history of The Castle dates back long before Nuyens turned it into a recording studio in 1983.
“The building was built between 1928 and 1932 under the auspices of Al Capone,” Nuyens says. “A mason literally took the rock out of the ground and carved it and built it. Capone used it as a rest stop when they were traveling between Chicago and New Orleans or Miami.” A gambling ring and speakeasy also operated out of the basement of the medieval-style building until it was raided by local law enforcement.
“In the ‘40s, it was a restaurant,” continues Nuyens. “Spencer Tracy and Bob Hope came here when they were filming nearby. There is a guest book with their signatures in it, and we have one of the original menus—with more drinks than food, of course.”
When the 1950s rolled around, the property was sold and remained in private hands for about 30 years. Ultimately, it was purchased by the Nuyens family, a popular internationally touring bluegrass band originally from Belgium.
Jozef Nuyens was attracted to The Castle’s unique history and picturesque location far away from Music Row. It offered the opportunity for space and creativity, which also suits it today as an event venue.
As an artist and musician, Nuyens had never been fully satisfied with the quality of his family’s recordings. “I wanted to get equipment that would make the sound like I always wanted to hear it,” he recalls. To achieve those results, he turned The Castle into one of the first digital recording studios in the world. Since then, its 40-year history also includes time as a publishing and production company, as well as a joint venture with Arista Records and its legendary leader Clive Davis.
Says Nuyens, “We’ve had over 500 gold and platinum acts come out of here, and the history is still going strong!”
MEET JOZEF NUYENS
Jozef Nuyens is an entrepreneur and owner of Castle Recording Studios, as well as other ventures focused on healthcare and technology. A native of Belgium, his career in music began as a multi-instrumentalist (banjo, guitar and keyboards) in his family’s bluegrass band. Nuyens attended Vanderbilt University and Belmont University before officially opening The Castle Studios in 1983.
The Castle is constructed by John P. Welch, an affiliate of Chicago mobster Al Capone, who decides Franklin is a prime location to build a hideout for use while traveling to Miami or New Orleans.
The Castle operates as a gourmet restaurant, speakeasy and underground casino. During this tenure it welcomes guests including Bob Hope, Spencer Tracy and Betty Grable.
The property is in private hands.
The Nuyens family, a successful bluegrass band originally from Belgium, purchases the property.