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 500 recordings, including 75 gold and platinum hits.[1] Originally the house band at Rick Hall's FAME Studios, the group went on to found their own competing business, the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. The group was inducted into the Nashville-based Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008 and into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995, "as four of the finest studio musicians in the world", also receiving the Lifework Award in 2008.[2]

History[edit]

The nickname "The Swampers" was given to the group by the music producer Denny Cordell during recording sessions for Leon Russell because of their "funky, soulful Southern “swamp” sound". [3][4] They are referred to as "The Swampers" in the lyrics of "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974) by Lynyrd Skynyrd and appear on the cover of Cher's 1969 album 3614 Jackson Highway.[5]

Affectionately called The Swampers,[6] but usually known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, this group was one of the best-known session musicians. Along with Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios they are recognized as having crafted the "Muscle Shoals sound".[7]

The four members of the rhythm section were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995[8] 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.[9]

Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson originally worked as the "house band" at Rick Hall's FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. They left FAME in 1969 and, in partnership with Jerry Wexler[10]

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,[11] 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,[12] and many more. Hawkins, Hood, and Beckett toured with the band Traffic for a while.

Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson closed the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway in April 1979 and moved the operation to a new studio at 1000 Alabama Avenue in Sheffield. They continued to operate at that new location until 1985 when they closed the business and sold it to their longtime friend Tommy Couch, owner of Malaco Records, based in Jackson, Mississippi. At that time, three of the rhythm section joined other session players, such as the keyboardist Carson Whitsett, backing Bobby "Blue" Bland and other notable artists recorded for the Malaco label and occasionally working at other studios. Becket, however, left Alabama at that time, moving to Nashville to work as a producer.[13]

During the 1990s and later, the group continued working as a studio band, often with Clayton Ivey on keyboards, for artists including Gregg Allman (All Night All Stars), T. Graham Brown, Jimmy Buffett, Melissa Etheridge, John Hiatt, the Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Paycheck, Etta James, and Joe Louis Walker.[14]

Lynyrd Skynyrd referred to the musicians as The Swampers in the 1974 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[15] Muscle Shoals.

Selected recordings[edit]

Song Artist Date Charting on
US Pop chart [16][17]
Notes
"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 February 14, 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[18]
"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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 1995. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Hailed as four of the finest studio musicians in the world, ... has appeared on classic recordings by top-name artists in virtually every musical genre. 
  2. ^ "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - 1995 Induction (Lifework Award) 2008". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame :: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". www.alamhof.org. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  4. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". www.alamhof.org. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  5. ^ Westergaard, Sean (2017). "Artist Biography". AllMusic. AllMusic, RhythmOne group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  6. ^ Westergaard, Sean (2017). "Artist Biography". AllMusic. AllMusic, RhythmOne group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. often affectionately called "the Swampers") is widely regarded as one of the most important American recording studio "house bands" emerging in the golden age of rock and soul. 
  7. ^ "Muscle Shoals". Muscle Shoals the Movie. Ear Goggles Productions Ltd. 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2017. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white musicians together to create music that would last for generations while also giving birth to the unique 'Muscle Shoals sound' and the rhythm section 'The Swampers'. 
  8. ^ "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Kreps, Daniel (29 October 2008). "Kid Rock, Keith Richards Help Induct Crickets, Muscle Shoals into Musicians Hall of Fame". Rolling Stone. 
  10. ^ "HISTORY - It's In The Water". MS Musicfoundation. MS Musicfoundation. 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. In 1969 Rick Hall's house band, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, left FAME and partnered with Jerry Wexler to found Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield. The studio, owned by Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett, cranked out hits on the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Traffic, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, the Staple Singers, Levon Helm, Joe Cocker and many more. 
  11. ^ Valotte (inner sleeve). Julian Lennon. Charisma, Universal Music Group. 1984. JLLP 1. 
  12. ^ Mastropolo, Frank. "45 Years Ago: The Rolling Stones Cut Three Classic Tracks at Muscle Shoals". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - 1995 Induction (Lifework Award) 2008". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  14. ^ Westergaard, Sean (2017). "Artist Biography". AllMusic. AllMusic, RhythmOne group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Muscle Shoals". Muscle Shoals the Movie. Ear Goggles Productions Ltd. 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1992). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books. ISBN 978-0823082803. 
  17. ^ Muscle Shoals Sound (liner notes). Various artists. Rhino Records. 1993. R2-71517. 
  18. ^ The Muscle Shoals Sound: 3614 Jackson Highway (liner notes). CD. Rhino Records. 1993.

External links[edit]