Hollywood's legendary Grandmaster Recorders building, where generations of artists recorded songs that became famous, has been sold to a developer who plans to turn it into restaurants or a lounge.
The two-story brick structure at 1518 N. Cahuenga Blvd. dates to 1920, when it opened as a silent-movie hall. In the 1970s, musician Alan Dickson bought it and turned the former Bijou Theater into the Hollywood Bijou Studio.
One of the first artists to work there was Stevie Wonder, who wrote and rehearsed his acclaimed 1976 double-album "Songs in the Key of Life" while the control room was still being completed, according to the studio's website.
In the early 1980s, nearby business owners complained that the place looked nearly abandoned, with shattered, boarded-up windows and the facade covered in grime and graffiti.
"We like it this way," manager Jimmi Mayweather told The Times in 1984, "nobody would ever think there was a studio back here."
Hidden behind the broken-down exterior was a luxurious, well-appointed studio with nearly $1 million worth of recording equipment, The Times said.
Later in the 1980s, Dickson changed the name of the place to Grandmaster Recorders.
Through the years, artists such as David Bowie, Ringo Starr, Johnny Mathis and Bonnie Raitt slipped in to record songs.
Among the albums recorded there were the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "One Hot Minute"; the Black Crowes' studio debut, "Shake Your Money Maker," and Beck's "Midnight Vultures."
Dickson died last year. His family sold the property last week for $6.1 million to Los Angeles investment firm Cahuenga Investors, according to real estate broker Kathleen Silver of Silver Commercial Inc.
"We loved this building from the minute we walked in the door," said Rick Moses of Cahuenga Investors. Moses was formerly chief development officer for Caruso Affiliated, where he worked on the Americana at Brand shopping center and other projects for the Los Angeles real estate company.
The recording operations ended with the sale, but the new owners may incorporate some of what Moses calls "the funky appeal" of its 9,200-square-foot interior into restaurants or a lounge. He said he hopes to have the new businesses open by next year.
The neighborhood around the former studio has changed substantially since those rougher days in the 1980s. There are at least 15 planned or ongoing developments nearby, including a proposed 275-room Marriott hotel next door at Cahuenga and Sunset boulevards, Silver said.
The $110-million Dream Hotel complex that includes multiple restaurants and nightclubs is nearing completion at Cahuenga and Selma Avenue.
"It's a high-demand area," said broker Kay Sasatomi of Silver Commercial.