Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section

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The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as the Swampers, is a group of American studio musicians playing soul, R&B, rock and roll and country, based in the city of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They have appeared on more than 75 gold and platinum hits.


The Swampers, one of the best-known groups of session musicians, crafted the “Muscle Shoals sound.” They were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995[1] with a “Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement” and into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008 (the performers inducted into the latter were the four founding members of the Swampers—Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), and Jimmy Johnson (guitar)—plus Pete Carr (guitar), Spooner Oldham (organ and piano), Albert S. Lowe Jr., Clayton Ivey, Randy McCormick, and Will McFarlane.[2]

Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson originally worked at Rick Hall’s FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. They left FAME in 1969 and started the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, where, as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, they backed numerous artists who were recorded there. The nickname “Swampers” was given to the group by the music producer Denny Cordell during recording sessions for Leon Russell.[3]

Jerry Wexler, of Atlantic Records, brought artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to record with the all-white group of Southern musicians after their success with Arthur Alexander and notably with Percy Sledge on “When a Man Loves a Woman.” In the 1970s, Stax Records, based in Memphis, also began bringing artists to the studio. Johnnie Taylor had a long run of R&B hits with the group, and the Staple Singers had their greatest crossover successes with songs like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” Later, the Swampers were the sound behind Bob Seger's hits, such as "Old Time Rock and Roll".

Other artists who recorded with the Swampers include Rod Stewart, Duane Allman, Boz Scaggs, Elkie Brooks, Paul Simon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Glenn Frey, Jim Capaldi, Julian Lennon,[4] Delbert McClinton, J. J. Cale, John Prine, Alice in Chains, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Little Milton, Sawyer Brown, Tony Joe White, the Oak Ridge Boys, Eddy Mitchell, the Rolling Stones,[5] and many more. Hawkins, Hood, and Beckett toured with the band Traffic for a while.

The studios in Sheffield were later bought by their longtime friend Tommy Couch, owner of Malaco Records, based in Jackson, Mississippi, and the group joined other session players, such as the keyboardist Carson Whitsett, backing Bobby "Blue" Bland and other notable artists recorded for that label, though Beckett left for Nashville, where he established himself as a producer.

Lynyrd Skynyrd mentioned them in the song “Sweet Home Alabama”:

“Now, Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
"And they've been known to pick a song or two
"Lord, they get me off so much
"They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
"Now, how 'bout you?”

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section is featured in the 2013 documentary film Muscle Shoals.

Selected recordings[edit]

Song Artist Date Charting on
US Pop chart [6][7]
Mustang Sally Wilson Pickett recorded November 4, 1966 #9
I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) Aretha Franklin recorded January 24, 1967 #9
Respect Aretha Franklin recorded April 1967 #1
Tell Mama Etta James October 1967 #23
Take Time to Know Her Percy Sledge recorded February 1, 1968 #11
Hey Jude Wilson Pickett recorded November 27, 1968 #23 featuring Duane Allman on guitar[8]
Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street) Clarence Carter recorded January 6, 1969
Take a Letter, Maria R.B. Greaves recorded August 19, 1969 #2
I’ll Take You There The Staple Singers September 1971 #1
Kodachrome Paul Simon recorded 1973 #2
Night Moves Bob Seger recorded 1976 #8
Mainstreet Bob Seger recorded 1976 #24

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Kreps, Daniel (29 October 2008). "Kid Rock, Keith Richards Help Induct Crickets, Muscle Shoals into Musicians Hall of Fame". Rolling Stone. 
  3. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  4. ^ Valotte (inner sleeve). Julian Lennon. Charisma, Universal Music Group. 1984. JLLP 1. 
  5. ^ Mastropolo, Frank. "45 Years Ago: The Rolling Stones Cut Three Classic Tracks at Muscle Shoals". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1992). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books. ISBN 978-0823082803. 
  7. ^ Muscle Shoals Sound (liner notes). Various artists. Rhino Records. 1993. R2-71517. 
  8. ^ The Muscle Shoals Sound: 3614 Jackson Highway (liner notes). CD. Rhino Records. 1993.

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