Thursday, August 30, 2012

FAME ... The Rest of the Story

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was formed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 1969 when musicians Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins(drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass) (called The Swampers) left FAME Studios to create their own studio. The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, as they became known, was the first rhythm section to own its own studio and, eventually, its own publishing and production companies. The distinctive accompaniment and arrangements of this group of talented musicians have been heard on a tremendous number of legendary recordings at the original FAME studio including those from Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and the Staple Singers amongst others. Many artists have recorded hit songs and complete albums at the studio.

The original rhythm section that broke away to create these studios first formed in 1967 and initially played sessions in New York and Nashville as well as on the famous FAME recordings. The initial successes led to the arrival of more mainstream rock and pop performers among them The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Dr. Hook, Elkie Brooks, Millie Jackson and Julian Lennon. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, along with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, moved to new facilities off Alabama Avenue in Sheffield in the late 1970s.

The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, who owned the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, are referred to as "the Swampers" in the lyrics of "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios building is located at 3614 Jackson Highway and is listed on The National Register of Historic Places.

Cher recorded "3614 Jackson Avenue" in 1969, which — literally — put the studio on the map. “Take a Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves was also recorded that year. The next year, Herbie Mann recorded “Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty,” and the name began to build in the consciousness of the music public.

“Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” were followup hits from the Stones recorded in ’69 and Keith Richard’s adventures here in the deep south were chronicled in his biography, “Life.”

The Staple Singers and Paul Simon had hits in 1970, including Paul’s “Kodachrome” and “Loves Me Like a Rock.” One of my old favorites, Canned Heat, recorded “One More River to Cross” while Art Garfunkel added “Breakaway” to his solo album and Rod Stewart added more English accents.

Bob Seger recorded “Katmandu,” "Night Moves,” and “Main Street,” as well as “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Cat Stevens also recorded here in the early ’70’s.

Then Al Kooper brought his newly discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd to record the album "Street Survivors" followed by "Skynyrd’s First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album." The original "Street Survivors" had flames licking the band's feet. After the plane crash and loss of many of them, the album cover was redone without the flames. I've got an original with flames. Hey Ron, are you collecting Skynyrd albums?

Dylan did “Gotta Serve Somebody,” and the Louisiana band of Dr. Hook recorded several hits in the late seventies.

Britain maintained a connection when John Lennon’s son, Julian, recorded “Valotte” in 1984. Although the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios relocated from 3614 Jackson Highway to an updated and larger facility on Alabama Avenue in Sheffield, the building (now owned by Noel Webster) still sees occasional use as a recording studio. The Black Keys album "Brothers," recorded there in 2009 achieved Grammy Award success in 2011 in the building formerly occupied by Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

The buildings (at least the originals) aren’t very impressive … but then neither is Sun Studio in Memphis … but the music sure is. I stood outside and I’m sure I heard some Greg and Duane Allman and Dickie Betts guitar strains echoing off the hardwood trees.

October 16th, 1971, inside of two weeks before Duane's death on Oct. 29th. Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, & Berry Oakley above. Duane and Berry died in separate motorcycle accidents— Duane in 1971 and Berry in 1972.

Duane Allman and Wilson Picket at Muscle Shoals in 1969

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