Kiva Studio, seen here in July, 2014, was destroyed in an arson fire in early November, 2015. The fire caused an estimated $1.25 million in damages. Photo: Google Maps.
Memphis, TN (November 18, 2015)—Kiva Recording Studio, located on Rayner Street in Memphis, was the site of an arson fire in the early morning of November 5. Firefighters were called to the scene just before 4 a.m. and had the flames out within half an hour, despite a fireman sustaining a minor injury. Nonetheless, the damage had been done. The two-story building endured an estimated $1.25 million in damages, the vast majority of it to the contents of the facility.
Once authorities got inside the charred building, they discovered that various musical items had been stolen—guitars, amplifiers and gold record awards—and areas had been vandalized with spray paint. The dead giveaway as to the cause, however, was the stench of gasoline.
It wasn’t the first time police had come to the studio in recent months; in fact, authorities had been there 15 times this year alone, responding to reports of intruders, theft of a tour bus, alarms going off and graffitied death threats on the side of the building. One of the owners suspected he knew why the fire was started, however, telling local TV news WMC, “About four months ago, we were confronted at the front door. [There were] four guys saying that the previous owner owed them a debt, and that we were going to make their debt whole by giving them free recording studio time.”
The studio has been a fixture of the Memphis music scene since the 1960s, changing hands numerous times over the years as it was alternately became Sounds of Memphis, Kiva and House of Blues. The current owner is production company Tattooed Millionaire Entertainment, which acquired the business in late 2014. Aiming to turn the building into an all-in-one production facility, the studio had undergone renovations in recent times, with the aim of being able to handle not only recording sessions but video production, documentary shoots and more.
Over the decades, the facility hosted many big names, including Solomon Burke, The Bar-Kays, Martha Reeves, Gloria Gaynor and Rufus Thomas, among others. During a stretch in the 1970s when it was known as Sounds of Memphis, the studio was an in-house production space for legendary country producer Mike Curb. In the 1980s, the facility underwent a major refurbishment and gained a Tom Hidley-designed live room in the process.