Rick Hall

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Rick Hall
Rick Hall at FAME Recording Studios.jpg
Rick Hall at Fame Recording Studios
Background information
Birth name Roe Erister Hall
Born (1932-01-31) January 31, 1932 (age 82)
Tishomingo County, Mississippi, United States
Genres Soul, pop, country
Occupations Record producer
Years active 1959–present

Roe Erister "Rick" Hall[1] (born January 31, 1932) is an American record producer, songwriter, music publisher and musician who is best known as the owner and proprietor of the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Life and career[edit]

Hall was born to a family of sharecroppers in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and was raised in Franklin County, Alabama.[2] He moved to Rockford, Illinois as a teenager, working as an apprentice tool maker, and began playing in local bar bands. When he was drafted for the Korean War, he declared himself a conscientious objector, joined the honor guard of the Fourth United States Army, and played in a band which also included Faron Young and fiddler Gordon Terry. He later returned to Alabama to work, but, after both his young wife and father died in quick succession, he decided to support himself by playing music, and joined Carmol Taylor and the Country Pals, a group who appeared on a weekly regional radio show in Hamilton.[3]

After meeting saxophonist Billy Sherrill, the pair began writing songs together, and formed an R&B band, The Fairlanes, fronted by singer Dan Penn with Hall playing bass. Hall had his first songwriting successes in the late 1950s, when George Jones recorded his song "Aching Breaking Heart", Brenda Lee recorded "She’ll Never Know", and Roy Orbison recorded "Sweet and Innocent".[2] Hall and Sherrill then accepted an offer from recording studio owner Tom Stafford in 1959 to help set up a new music publishing company in the town of Florence, to be known as Florence Alabama Music Enterprises or FAME. However, in 1960, Sherrill and Stafford dissolved the partnership, leaving Hall with rights to the studio name. Hall then set up a studio at Muscle Shoals, where one of his first recordings was Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On". The commercial success of the record gave Hall the financial resources to establish a new, larger, FAME recording studio.[2][3][4]

Hall's successes continued after Atlanta-based agent Bill Lowery brought him acts to record, and the studio produced hits for Tommy Roe, Joe Tex, The Tams, and Jimmy Hughes. However, in 1964, Hall's regular session group, who included David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, Jerry Carrigan, Earl "Peanut" Montgomery, and Donnie Fritts, became frustrated at being paid minimum union-scale wages by Hall, and left Muscle Shoals to set up a studio of their own in Nashville.[3] Hall then pulled together a new studio band, including Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Johnson, David Hood and Roger Hawkins, and continued to produce hit records. In 1966, he helped license Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman", produced by Quin Ivy, to Atlantic Records, which then led to a regular arrangement under which Atlantic would send musicians to Hall's Muscle Shoals studio to record.[5] This resulted in further hits for Wilson Pickett, James and Bobby Purify, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding and Arthur Conley, Hall further enhancing his reputation as a white Southern producer who could produce and engineer hits with black Southern soul singers.[2][3] He also produced for other artists, including Etta James. However, his fiery temperament led to the relationship with Atlantic ending after he got into a fist fight with Aretha Franklin's husband, Ted White in late 1967. The session group, by now generally known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, split up shortly afterwards, several of them establishing a new recording studio, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.[3] In 1969, FAME Records, with artists including Candi Staton, Clarence Carter and Arthur Conley, established a distribution deal with Capitol Records.[4]

Hall then turned his attention away from soul music towards mainstream pop, producing hits for The Osmonds, Paul Anka, Tom Jones, and Donny Osmond. In 1971, he was named Billboard Producer of the Year, the year after having been nominated for a Grammy in the same category. Later in the decade Hall moved back towards country music, producing hits for Mac Davis, Bobbie Gentry, Jerry Reed and the Gatlin Brothers.[3] He also worked with songwriter and producer Robert Byrne to help local bar band Shenandoah top the national country charts several times in the 1980s and 1990s. Hall's publishing company of in-house songwriters also became responsible for some of the biggest country hits in those decades, for artists including John Michael Montgomery and the Dixie Chicks.[2][4]

Hall's life and career are profiled in the 2013 documentary film Muscle Shoals.

Awards[edit]

  • Hall received a Recording Academy Trustree’s Award in 2014.
  • Hall was nominated for a Grammy in the Producer of the Year category in 1970.
  • Hall was named Billboard's Producer of the Year for the World in 1971.
  • Hall was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1985, his citation referring to him as the "Father of Muscle Shoals Music."[2]
  • Hall received a Grammy Trustees Award in 2014 for his significant contribution to the field of recording.

References[edit]