Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard + More Classic Country Recordings Destroyed in Universal Fire
According to a new report from the New York Times, a fire that swept the Universal Studios backlot in Hollywood, Calif., in 2008 resulted in massive damage that wasn't publically reported, including losses of irreplaceable master tapes from some of country's biggest names.
Universal claimed after the fire in 2008 that the damage was "relatively minor." The company reported that a vault of video and television media was destroyed, along with a portion of the studio tour.
The Times cites a confidential report from UMG issued in 2009, revealing that the master tapes to more than 500,000 song titles were completely destroyed in the fire. The catastrophic damage included masters from country performers and acts who had a direct impact on the genre. Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Merle Haggard, George Strait, George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizell, Steve Earle, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Holly and Don Henley are all among the artists who had materials burned in the disaster.
In addition, Aretha Franklin's first-ever commercial tapes, recorded when she was a teenager singing in her father's church, might be among the long list of artifacts that were destroyed.
No musical destruction was reported by Universal or news outlets after the fire in 2008. The archival rooms housed music from the 1940s and beyond along with sessions that have not been made public.
UMG downplayed the loss of priceless artifacts in public, but the internal documents published by the Times tell a different story. "The West Coast Vault perished, in its entirety. Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage," a document written in March of 2009 states.
Variety reached out to UMG for comment on the fire after the Times published their report.
"While there are constraints preventing us from publicly addressing some of the details of the fire that occurred at NBCUniversal Studios facility more than a decade ago, the incident — while deeply unfortunate — never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists’ compensation," the company states. "UMG invests more in music preservation and development of hi-resolution audio products than anyone else in music."
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