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Detroit’s Historic United Sound Systems Recording Studios for Sale

By Clive Young. Legendary Detroit facility hits the market with a $1.5 million price tag.

Detroit, MI (June 15, 2018)—United Sound Systems Recording Studios is up for sale, with an asking price of $1.5 million. Since opening as a studio in 1939, the facility at 5840 Second Ave. has recorded artists ranging from John Lee Hooker to Dizzy Gillespie to Eminem to cult rockers Death, and hosted the first session for Berry Gordy’s Tamla label in 1959, paving the way for Motown Records.

The building was built in 1917 and converted into a studio in 1939, remaining an active facility until the 1990s. During that time, artists who recorded there included Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Jackie Wilson, Bob Seger, the MC5, the Doobie Brothers, Miles Davis, Luther Vandross and Anita Baker, among many others.

Some of the notable recordings created there include Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” were recorded at United, as was Keith Richards and Aretha Franklin’s mid-1980s remake of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and Franklin’s duet with Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox for “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves.” George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic recorded “Mothership Connection” at the facility, and John Lee Hooker laid down “Boogie Chillun” at United as well.

Shuttered for years, the facility fell into disrepair and financial troubles. In 2009, the site was purchased by Danielle Scott in foreclosure for $20,000 and underwent restoration for the next five years, eventually opening for tourism and the occasional session in 2014. 

In 2013, however, United’s days looked to be numbered when it was earmarked to be demolished as part of a project to expand the nearby I-94 highway by adding more traffic lanes on both sides. A campaign by preservationists—the Detroit Sound Conservancy—prevented the demolition, and the facility was designated a local historic district by the City of Detroit in 2015. Last June, the site was granted a historical marker that recounts the history of the studio and its importance to the Detroit music scene over the years.

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Currently, United is zoned for commercial use; located in the city’s burgeoning Tech Town entrepreneurial area, an urban technology and research business park, the studio is also near the Detroit Pistons NBA team’s upcoming training facility, currently being built.

As photos from the real estate listing reveal, United Sound Systems shows its history and could use some TLC in numerous areas, but has a recently remodeled kitchen and bathroom, among other offerings.

United Sound Systems Recording Studios •