I recently made a rather educational visit to the United Record Pressing. It’s quite literally a hit factory over there.
Serving planet Earth since 1949 and from their current location since 1962, United Record Pressing began as Southern Plastics and is the oldest continually operating and largest vinyl record pressing plant in the US. It’s a time capsule in all the best possible ways.
If you’re a sucker for “how things are made” documentaries, a short, wordless film about the birth of vinyl records can be seen here, but really you’re better off taking a tour of the plant yourself. I would suspect most casual music fans don’t know the place exists, much less the fact that you can walk through the factory.
Directly above the factory is United Record Pressing’s upstairs lounge known as the Motown Suite, where black Motown artists used to stay in the 60’s because hotels wouldn’t allow them a room. Records weren’t kept of the visitors who stayed, but considering the roster of Motown artists of that time, it’s surely an impressive list. The Motown Suite party room, which is a few steps away from the bedroom, still has all the original furniture from 1962. It’s the spot where a 16 year-old Hank Williams Jr. had his first record contract signing party. The space is still a break room for employees but also occasionally doubles as a recording studio, where artists like Brendan Benson and The North Mississippi All-Stars and have recorded live, exclusive URP releases.
My favorite part of the tour had to have been the peak inside a nondescript upstairs room – quite possibly a storage closet at one point in time – where a dude named Oscar sits and listens to literally every single test pressing of every record that is birthed at URP. It’s his job. Before the test pressings are sent to the customer, he must notice any bump, peak or blimp in the record in case of a faulty stamper, which could lead to a screw up in plating. Once approved by Oscar, the test pressings are sent to the customer for their blessing and then production commences.
Special thanks to Jay and Richard at URP for the incredible hospitality!
See a larger gallery here.