PHILADELPHIA, PA—Since 1971, the iconic blue neon sign flashing “Philadelphia International Records” over the studio at 309 S. Broad St. has welcomed some of Philadelphia’s greatest soul artists for recording sessions at the city’s famed studio. Founded by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame producer/songwriters Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the studio/record label headquarters became known as the birthplace of the “Sound of Philadelphia,” with singles including “Love Train” by the O’Jays, “TOSP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” by MFSB, and “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead, produced on site.
Originally the facility was two studios, built by Cameo Parkway in 1963; a few years later, it was renovated and renamed as Regent Sound Studios, where it hosted acts such as Hall & Oates and Stevie Wonder. In the early 1970s, Gamble and Huff purchased the facility, turning one studio into offices and leasing the other studio to Sigma Sound, which named the site Sigma Sound South, recording the production team’s work there until Gamble and Huff ended the lease in 1988 and took over the facility, using it mainly for archiving and creating compilations.
After suffering a devastating arson fire back in 2010, when an inebriated man broke into the studio’s offices and set fire to it, destroying much of the facility’s priceless memorabilia, the studio was unable to repair the building. On October 15, CBS Philadelphia reported the property was sold to Dranoff Properties, which will demolish the building to make room for a condo and hotel.
“It’s bittersweet,” Chuck Gamble, executive vice president of Gamble-Huff Music, told CBS. “Here’s an entity that my uncle and his partner created some 50 years ago…. The Jacksons recorded here, Elton John, and many others.”
The blue neon sign was removed in mid-October in preparation for the demolition, marking the end of an era in the city’s musical history. The 2010 fire destroyed most of the office space at Philadelphia International Records, while much of the studio space, including the original orange shag carpet, was saved. However, at the time, most of the company’s revenue came through licensing and marketing, rather than recording.
The sign and all surviving memorabilia will be put in storage, with the eventual plan to create a museum to permanently house the historic items.
Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff