This small northwest Alabama town was once a sought-after recording location for some of the world’s best-known musical artists looking to get a taste of the Muscle Shoals sound and the fame that comes with it. While the town may not be the “Hit Recording Capital of the World” as it was in the 60s and 70s, tourists and musicians alike still come from miles away for a little of that Muscle Shoals sound.
FAME Recording Studios
FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios was started in the 1959 by Rick Hall in Florence and was moved to its present location at 603 East Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals in 1961. The studio recorded its first hit record Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” in 1961, and word about Muscle Shoals began to spread. FAME started off recording soul and R&B with artists like the Tams, Aretha Franklin, and Etta James. The studio expanded into pop hits with the Osmonds and then heavily into the country hits in the 1980s with artists like Jerry Reed the Gatlin Brothers. The studio has produced a large number of hits that have become known as the “Muscle Shoals sound” and is still an active recording studio.
The session musicians at the studio became known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or the Swampers. In 1969, the four primary members left to form a competing studio just down the road.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was formed in 1969 by the Swampers when they left FAME Recording Studios to create their own studio. While FAME recorded a lot of soul and R&B, Muscle Shoals Sound recorded more rock and pop performers, including The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Bob Dylan. The original studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield closed in April 1979, and the recording facility was moved to 1000 Alabama Avenue, which closed in 2005. The 3614 Jackson Highway studio is now a museum, with Beats Electronics and the Muscle Shoals film bringing in the funds and attention needed to renovate the location. Major restoration work began in September 2015, and the studio was closed to visitors. Before it had even reopened in January 2017, the Alabama Tourism Department had selected it as the state’s top tourist attraction for the new year.
Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Thi 12,500-square-foot exhibit hall was opened in 1990 in Tuscumbia, just a few minutes from FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound studios. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame honors the accomplishments of Alabama singers, songwriters, producers, and a multitude of Alabamians that have made a significant impact on the music industry across all genres of music. Achievers are honored on the Hall of Fame roster, with a bronze star on the walk of fame, and through informative exhibits, from costumes and instruments to wax figures and Alabama’s Southern Star tour bus.
Me and Mick Jagger are just like two peas in a pod!
What’s your favorite piece of Alabama music history? Tell me in the comments!