Arts & Culture
1:53 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Detroit music landmark could be lost to I-94 expansion

The United Sound Systems building on Second Street in Detroit could be demolished in an I-94 expansion plan. The recording studio has a rich musical history dating back to the 1930s.

The United Sound Systems building on Second Street in Detroit could be demolished in an I-94 expansion plan.
Credit DetroitWiki

Artists such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis and George Clinton have recorded there.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has been planning to widen I-94 for over 10 years. Carleton Gholz with the Detroit Sound Conservancy says there have been few if any organized efforts to save Detroit's musical landmarks. A Motown building on Woodward Avenue was replaced with a gravel parking lot for the Super Bowl in 2006. The Grande Ballroom on Grand River still lacks a historical landmark designation. Gholz says there would have to be an organized community effort to preserve these pieces of Detroit music history.

"Any plan to save the building would have to come with a very robust plan to make the building a sustainable, living, sonic space again," he said. "That's going to take a lot of people planning, it's going to take a lot of collaboration, it's going to take a lot of money. We have to start thinking about if we are prepared as a community to do that."

A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation says the expansion is still in the planning states, but they'd like to avoid demolishing the building. He says they've been trying unsuccessfully to reach the building's owner.

While the building hasn't been used regularly since 2008, Gholz says it is still a valuable asset to the Detroit music community.

"We know people in the community care about Detroit music, and we're just trying to help as best we can collaborate with those individuals," he said. "We know they care, but we have to organize."

Listen to Aretha Franklin's version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" below. The song was originally performed by The Rolling Stones and was covered by Franklin at United Sound Systems for the album Aretha and the film of the same name. This track features Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on bass and guitar.

-Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom