Aaron Shelton, Recording Pioneer, Dies in Nashville

Aaron Shelton, a pioneer in Nashville’s recording industry, died Sunday in Nashville. Cause of death was not released by the family. Services will be held at 10 a.m. CST Thursday at Mount Olivet Funeral Home, 1101 Lebanon Road in Nashville.

Mr. Shelton was born July 23, 1910, in Erin, Tenn. While an engineer at radio station WSM, he founded the Castle Recording Studio in 1946 with two other WSM engineers, Carl Jenkins and George Reynolds. They used a WSM studio in the old National Life Building located at Seventh Avenue North and Union Street, then moved to the former dining room of the Tulane Hotel on Church Street as business increased. Castle derived its name from WSM’s moniker, “Air Castle of the South.”

“He was an engineer’s engineer,” says country music historian Dr. John Rumble of the Country Music Foundation. “His knowledge of microphone placement and his rapport with country artists added so much to Nashville’s success as a recording center.”

Cincinnati’s King label, Nashville’s Dot and Bullet labels and all major labels except RCA made recordings at Castle. Among the most famous hits to come out of the studio were Red Foley’s “Chattanoogie Shoeshine Boy” and Hank Williams Sr.’s “You Win Again.” All but two of Williams’ sessions were done at Castle. Ernest Tubb recorded “Blue Christmas” there. Snooky Lanson’s jingle for the Harold Shyer Jewelry Company is believed to be the first advertising jingle recorded in Nashville. Castle closed in 1956 when a WSM policy forced employees to divest themselves of sideline enterprises. Mr. Shelton eventually retired from WSM after 47 years of service.

Mr. Shelton also taught at Vanderbilt University from 1945 to 1955. He was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy Brothers Shelton, and son, William A. Shelton. He is survived by his wife, Stella Shelton of New Johnsonville, Tenn.; his sons, Aaron C. Shelton Jr. of Dallas and Gene B. Shelton of Cape Coral, Fla.; two brothers, J.W. Shelton of Kansas and Boyd Shelton of Texas; four grandchildren; and one great grandchild. Visitation continues from 4-8 p.m. today (April 19) at Mount Olivet Funeral Home. Burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery will follow Thursday services.

(Information on the Castle Recording Studio comes from an entry by Dr. John Rumble in the Country Music Foundation’s Encylopedia of Country Music.)