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15Feb/080

Muscle Shoals and the Rhythm Section

So anyway, here is an interesting thing. I was poking through my old vinyl record collection and pulled out a disc I picked up a long time ago ($4.99 at Madplatters - wherever that was) by the Muscle Shoals Horns called "doin' it to the bone." That reminded me of an article I had read, also along time ago, in Bass Player magazine - an interview with David Hood, the bass player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. I knew a bit about Muscle Shoals, because a lot of music came out of that little town in Alabama, with hits from artists like Percy Sledge, Etta James, Aretha Franklin (there's an interesting story why she only recorded a couple of tracks there - one of which was unfinished - and never returned), Wilson Pickett, Cher, Paul Simon, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger and many more. It's also the birthplace of W.C. Handy and Hellen Keller. So there. Being that important in music history, I figured I should learn a bit more about Muscle Shoals, AL.

3614 Jackson Highway

A small studio started by Rick Hall and partners called Fame Studios seems to be the genesis of the whole thing. They attracted early attention with a big hit by Percy Sledge - "When A Man Loves a Woman" - and later a bunch of musicians hanging around there garnered interest from Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Studios in New York. This bunch, which came to be known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (a.k.a. The Swampers) and consisting of David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett, decided to buy a studio housed in a former casket factory at 3614 Jackson Highway (now a museum) in nearby Sheffield. This group at this studio is responsible for recording, producing, and performing on an amazing number of big hits, covering a wide range of musical styles. They were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995 ("Non-Performing Achievement" ?? Whut?). That's just the bare outline to this whole story, so if you're interested finding out more (as I am), see below.

There's a book on the music emanating from the Muscle Shoals area called Music Fell on Alabama, by C.S. Fuqua. I hear it's pretty good, but it's not in any of my local libraries, so I haven't been able to read it yet. I think I may order a copy online.

Of course, there is also a lot of info on that internet-web thingy (and you can pretty much believe everything you read there). Here are a few links to get you started:
prosoundweb story
FAME Studios History
FAME Studios - Musician History
MSRS Bio
Muscle Shoals area attractions including the log cabin that was the birthplace of the father of the blues, and the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

Or, you could just google it.

Anyhow, gotta get that vinyl spinning on the old Systemdek ....

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