Freddy Fletcher built the studio in 1984 and named it for his old man Arlyn “Bud” Fletcher, the fiddle-playing bandleader who launched the careers of Bobbie Nelson and her little brother Willie. Just out of sight from the trendy storefronts of South Congress Avenue, the studio occupies part of the building that used to be the Austin Opera House, a concert hall and outlaw country headquarters that Willie owned with Direct Events owner Tim O’Connor. Arlyn’s sound booths have harbored the likes of Frank Sinatra, Robert Plant, Doug Sahm, Kris Kristofferson, and wouldn’t you guess, Willie Nelson.
A few landmark albums were cut there too. Sublime’s six-times-platinum swan song was overdubbed and mixed at Arlyn, as were breakouts from the Butthole Surfers (Electriclarryland) and Meat Puppets (Too High To Die). The hits stopped around 2002, when the Fletchers began booking Arlyn exclusively to MediaTech as an audio engineering school and focused recording projects into sister studio Pedernales.
“I bugged Freddy for four years – that’s all it took,” recalls new Arlyn partner Will Bridges, 30, an Austin native who co-owns Downtown barbecue joint and music venue Lamberts. “I told him that if he ever reopened Arlyn as a commercial recording studio, he should let me run it.
“I think he said something like, ‘Talk to me in a few years.'”
Bridges talked his way into a three-way partnership with the Fletchers and his friend T. Murphey, son of the departed Tonky Murphey, an important link between the music and business worlds during Austin’s blues era. Prepping an Aryln renaissance, the team is consolidating equipment and clientele while making major upgrades that include uncovering the studio’s original cedar beams, expanding one of the cutting rooms, and adding a second studio to cater to post-production for film and video.
The best renovation, though, probably originated in some record producer’s wet dream. The centerpiece of Arlyn’s control room was an API recording console – a top-shelf vintage British soundboard. Pedernales had a rare Neve console, one of just four in existence.
“We upped the ante,” glows Bridges. “Both the Neve and the API are in Dallas right now getting married into a 21-foot superconsole with matching meter bridge, matching faders, and a custom center section designed by Fred Hill.”
“It’ll probably be the coolest board in town,” Butthole Surfers guitarist and Sublime producer Paul Leary says. “To me, the ultimate is to record on a Neve and mix on an API. It’s fairly common practice to put two vintage boards together, but it’s usually two of the same kind. I’d love to work on a board like that.”
Speaking of luxury gear, the studio’s courtesy car is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ’78 El Camino fitted with a 351 police special engine. It was handed down to Murphey from family friend Jimmie Vaughan. Not a bad ride for a between-song beer run.
“We want to take all the memories and experiences of Arlyn – and even some of that Opera House fairy dust – and bring it up to present day standards to make this a world class studio that’s also a hub for local creativity,” beams Bridges. “If there’s one thing important to all of us, it’s this sense of Austin community. We want this to be infrastructure to elevate the Austin music industry.”
Bridges says Arlyn will open in mid to late November.