Nestled along the Tennessee River in the state of Alabama is a small town that attracts big names. You may not have heard of Muscle Shoals, but you’ve definitely heard its sound, thanks to a man named Rick Hall.
Hidden among the cotton fields and corn stalks of the rural south, Fame Recording Studios were first established atop a drugstore in Florence, Alabama. Hall started Fame Studios in the late 1950s as a publishing company and recording studio. His son, Rodney Hall, runs the studio today.
As the studio grew, it moved to a former tobacco warehouse, where it produced its first musical hit. “[My dad] recorded an artist named Arthur Alexander, with a song called ‘You Better Move On,’ which became a hit,” Rodney said.
“From there he recorded Jimmy Hughes, built this studio, and they’ve been doing it for over 60 years now.”
The studio’s session musicians – a group of funky white guys known as “the Swampers” – recorded with artists such as Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Clarence Carter, Candi Staton and Little Richard, and were responsible for the creation of what is known today. like the “Muscle Shoals” sound.
Little Richard performs “Freedom Blues”, recorded at Fame studios:
One of the most famous musicians to come through Muscle Shoals was the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Franklin credited Rick Hall with turning his rocky career around in the 1960s. His keen sense of sound and a recording business run from the perspective of the “color-blind” (a rare commodity in the rural south) were the perfect ingredients. to catapult Franklin musically, producing his hit “I Never Loved a Man the Way I”. I love you.”
“I think Aretha found her sound in Muscle Shoals,” Rodney Hall said. “She had done that before doing a lot of pop music that didn’t really seem to move her or other people. And so, she came to Muscle Shoals [and] I think she’s connected to her gospel roots, and she started feeling the music.”
Rick Hall was named “Producer of the Year” by Billboard Magazine in 1971; it also earned a Grammy nomination. He passed away in 2018, but not before earning himself the title “Father of Muscle Shoals Music”.
Today, Rodney Hall carries on the legacy his father started and the “Muscle Shoals Sound” lives on. “The music that was created here has a soul, the musicians had a soul, and it’s all about the feel of the music and the groove and what it feels like, which I think is the soul of the music,” he said.
Music fans young and old can tour and tour Fame Recording Studios and stand in the same room where artists like The Chicks, Kenny Chesney, Demi Lovato and The Rolling Stones recorded some of their greatest hits .
“Come experience it. Come experience the Southern way of life, the music, the laid back lifestyle, the river; it’s just an amazing place,” Hall concluded.
For more information:
Story produced and edited by Roman Feeser.