It takes a lot of nerve to start a recording studio anywhere, to open up shop in Northwest Alabama along the Tennessee River amongst 4 small towns just a few hours from Nashville; but in 1959, Rick Hall started FAME Recording Studios with his buddies who ultimately opened another hit studio called Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. ‘The Shoals’ sound is as legendary as the musicians who recorded there.
Start your your journey into the heart of the Shoals sound with a trip to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, lined with Gold Records and gawdy costumes worn by Alabama native Hank Williams, Tuskegee’s Lionel Richie, Fort Payne’s Alabama, The Commodores and Montgomery’s Nat ‘King’ Cole. Drive from there to Sheffield to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where the Swampers- the Fame’s original rhythm section recorded with Lynard Skynard ~who can forget his hit- ‘Sweet Home Alabama’? Then there’s the Rolling Stones and Alicia Keyes just to name a few who recorded hit music with the Swampers. Head over to Muscle Shoals to Rick Hall’s longest operating, one owner recording studio in the world, FAME Studio! Rick Hall is known as the ‘Father of the Muscle Shoals Sound’ – he recorded such great artists as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett (Mustang Sally), Otis Redding, Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers who pitched a tent in the parking lot just to be near the recording sessions before he became famous! Known as ‘that hippie in the parking lot when record companies asked about his performance with Wilson Pickett’s rendition of ‘Hey Jude’; Paul Anka, the Osmunds, Tina Turner, the Beatles, Elton John, Ronnie Milsap, BB King, Tim McGraw…. whew the list goes on, just like the Muscle Shoals beat….and if that’s not enough?
‘The Father of the Blues’, W.C. Handy was born and raised just across the river in Florence Alabama where there is a statue in his honor, a museum and library ~ every year there is a W.C. Handy Music Festival as well.
Camellia thinks I’m gettin’ longwinded, I think we’re gonna have to have a part 2 on the Shoals! So much more to see and do…but remember this- when a good many of those musicians were down and out , thinking their careers were over- they got back their nerve and went to Muscle Shoals to find Fame! Hold it down Camellia, you’re singin’ so loud I can’t think! You might want to update your playlist folks!
Love y’all, Allie Mac
*must see: PBS- Muscle Shoals Documentary ,