Ed Note: All this week, to celebrate the release of Dr. Roger Wood and Andy Bradley's new book House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios and preview this weekend's related festivities at Sig's Lagoon and the Continental Club, Rocks Off and Lonesome Onry and Mean are looking at the history of the legendary Houston recording compound, decade by decade. Monday, we did the 1940s; Tuesday, the '50s; Wednesday, the '60s; and today, the '70s and '80s.
After the phenomenal successes of the 1960s, the first half of the 1970s proved to be a virtual dry spell for International Artists Studios as far as hits went.
Hampered by incompetence, stock fraud and bankruptcy, between Bubble Puppy's "Hot Smoke & Sassafras" in late 1969 up until 1975, the studio managed to produce only three charting singles: Little Royal's "Jealous" (No. 35) and "I'm Glad To Do It" (No. 88), plus Bobby Bland's "This Time I'm Gone For Good," which went to No. 5 on the R&B chart. With the disintegration of the International Artists Corp., Huey P. Meaux, only recently out of prison, bought the studios and renamed them SugarHill.
But beginning on Jan. 11, 1975, the studio became the site of one of the greatest strings of hit records in history when Meaux recorded Freddy Fender's "Before The Next Teardrop Falls," the first bilingual song ever to climb to No. 1 and the first song to reach No. 1 on both the pop and country charts. By June, Fender had another country No. 1 (No. 8 pop) with "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights."
The first two Fender albums also went to No. 1 on the country charts in 1975 and money was pouring in faster than Meaux could count it. Before the decade was over, Fender would place an unbelievable 25 singles and albums in the charts.
After three strong decades, the 1980s were fairly unremarkable. The decade began with Fender again charting with "My Special Prayer," "Please Talk to My Heart," and his final SugarHill hit, "Chokin' Kind." The studio then entered another dry spell that would last until 1988, when an unlikely genre - jazz - would become the main focus.