NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Berry Hill is an incorporated city only 5 miles south of downtown Nashville. It's a small community that has dozens of recording studios.
News4 toured one famous studio that doubles as a church. Musician Buzz Cason is credited with establishing the first recording studio in Berry Hill. His Creative Workshop was built on decades of hard work, dedicated professionals, and great songs.
"Forty studios in a one square mile radius of Berry Hill. And every little house you see just looks like an innocent little home, but it may have a studio in it,” Cason said.
There’s nothing particularly flashy about the building’s exterior. But plenty of household names struck gold inside - everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Olivia Newton-John. Today the studio continues a tradition of excellence that started in 1956 when teen rock and roller Buzz Cason and 'The Casuals' became stars.
"A little shouting can't hurt, you know. We've kind of come full cycle. But, there's a little rock in the gospel out here,” Cason jokingly said.
Every first Tuesday of the month the recording studio welcomes visitors from all walks of life for a nonprofit program called The Gift Nashville, where food, music, prayer, and fellowship helps transform lives.
"We formed a 501(c)(3) foundation. And all the money we take in - every penny goes out to help someone in the music business,” said Cason.
He adds that a very small percentage of the people helped by GIFT might not have any ties to the music industry at all.
"GIFT stands for giving in faith together. And it was formed about 20 years ago by Dickey Lee, a hall of fame songwriter and myself.” Cason said.
Some of the attendees arrive up to an hour before the program starts. They socialize and eat a hot meal that’s capped off with a variety of desserts. After they finish eating they move into the main recording studio, where dozens of chairs are set up.
We watched as Dickey Lee opened the program with a prayer. Dallas Frazier was the special guest speaker for this event. Frazier wrote the hit song Elvira. He is also an ordained minister. He joked with the crowd of several dozen performed two songs, read scripture, and encouraged people to read the Bible for themselves.
After the program we talked to Terry Tibbott, who was helped by GIFT after he lost his job. "I worked in Franklin, Tennessee at a company for 41 years. And it went bankrupt and locked the doors. I was 60 years old and didn't know which way to turn. And Buzz and Dickey said come to GIFT. I said I don't really fit in. The first person I met when I walked in was Dallas Frazier. That was 11 years ago and it's made such an impact on my life. I can't thank them enough,” Tibbott said.
Vickie Cason, who helps run the GIFT program, met Buzz during a GIFT meeting several years ago. They eventually got married. She told News4 that Buzz gets a lot of joy out of helping people from various backgrounds. "I know for a fact that we have nonbelievers that attend and that's wonderful! We love for them to come and hear the Christian speakers. So I think it is transforming lives in different ways."
"It's great. I mean I love it,” said Cason’s wife.
The GIFT program offers assistance in several ways. "We may buy gift cards for someone for groceries. We have another situation where a couple is struggling and we're helping with their children's child care,” Buzz Cason said. He offered several more examples, including giving financial help to someone who was having a difficult time paying for nursing home care.
The GIFT program doesn’t have a large budget, but Cason said they try to make the dollars stretch until they’re all gone. They encourage more people to get involved. "Come on in and see what it's about. That's what I did. It was a blessing. That's the best thing I can say," said Terry Tibbott.
And it seems Buzz Cason’s good work over the years is not going unnoticed. The "Father of Nashville Rock" recently received an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree from Campbellsville University in Kentucky, where he was a former member of the university’s Board of Trustees. Cason said when God leads the way good things happen. He hopes his many blessings and gifts translate into gifts for those who really need help.
For more information about the GIFT Nashville program, click here.