Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

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Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
3614 Jackson Highway September 2007.jpg
Original studios at 3614 Jackson Highway, Sheffield
Location 3614 Jackson Hwy., Sheffield, Alabama
Coordinates 34°46′4″N 87°40′26″W / 34.76778°N 87.67389°W / 34.76778; -87.67389Coordinates: 34°46′4″N 87°40′26″W / 34.76778°N 87.67389°W / 34.76778; -87.67389
Architectural style Early commercial
NRHP Reference # 06000437[1]
Added to NRHP June 2, 2006
New facilities for Muscle Shoals Sound off Alabama Avenue in Sheffield, Alabama (34°46′12″N 87°42′24″W / 34.7700°N 87.7067°W / 34.7700; -87.7067)

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama, was formed in 1969 by four session musicians called The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (and affectionately called The Swampers),[2] who had left Rick Hall's nearby FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, to create their own recording facility. The group closed the Jackson Highway studio in 1979, moving the operation to 1000 Alabama Avenue. The old studio, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since June 2006,[3] was partly restored in the early 2000s and was sold to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation in 2013. This group completed a major restoration and the location reopened on January 9, 2017.[4] The Alabama Avenue location ceased operations in 2005 when it was sold to a record label.[5]

History[edit]

Built around 1946, the concrete block building at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield (previously a coffin factory)[6] was converted to a recording studio in 1969 when a group of musicians, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, decided to start their own operation in competition with the FAME studio owned by Rick Hall. Over the years, artists who recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio included The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart and Cat Stevens. Cher's sixth album was titled 3614 Jackson Highway and this became the informal name for the studio in 1969. The studio at this location closed in 1979; the recording facility was moved to new premises at 1000 Alabama Avenue.

The Jackson Highway building had been partly restored and open for tours in 2013 when the documentary Muscle Shoals (film) raised public interest in a major restoration of the studio.[7] The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation was formed in 2013 to raise funds to purchase the building and to complete major renovations. In June 2013, Noel Webster who was then the owner of 3614 Jackson Highway (since 1999), sold the property, without the historic recording equipment, to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. The foundation praised the contribution made to the project by Sheffield resident, attorney Gene Hambey.[8] A large grant from Beats Electronics, a manufacturer of headphones and similar devices (owned by Apple inc.) founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, provided an essential $1 million. State tourism director Lee Sentell told the media in August 2015 that the 2013 Muscle Shoals (film) had significant influence.[9] "The financial support from Beats is a direct result of their film." Additional donations were made by other groups and individuals. In 2015, Rodney Hall, a foundation Board member, reminded fans of the value of the additional donations. "The foundation was able to purchase the building through the generosity of private investors like Gene Hamby, who understand the importance of preserving the legacy of Muscle Shoals music."[10]

As recently as August 2015, tours were visiting the partly-restored studio on Jackson Highway. It was closed when major restoration work started in September 2015. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio reopened as a finished tourist attraction on January 9, 2017. Owned and operated by the foundation, the interior is reminiscent of the 1970s, with relevant recording equipment and paraphernalia. There are plans for allowing artists to record music again.[11][12]

Even before the Jackson Highway studio reopened, The Alabama Tourism Department named Muscle Shoals Sound Studio as the state's top attraction in 2017.[13]

Early history[edit]

The four founders of the studio, Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass), affectionately called The Swampers,[14] but usually known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, were one of the best-known "house bands" or session musicians. (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".)[15][16] 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.[17]

Initially they worked for Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios and they are recognized as having crafted the "Muscle Shoals sound" in conjunction with Hall.[18] After leaving Rick Hall's FAME studio, the four musicians partnered with Jerry Wexler who provided start-up funding[19] to found Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield.[20] The first hit to the studio's credit was R.B. Greaves’ Take a Letter Maria. By December 1969, the Rolling Stones were recording at this new location for three days.[21]

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was the first group of musicians to own a studio and to eventually run their own publishing and production companies. They provided musical backing and arrangements for many recordings, including major hits by Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and the Staple Singers; a wide range of artists in popular music also recorded hit songs and complete albums at the studio. They had first came together in 1967 and initially played sessions in New York and Nashville before doing so at FAME. Their initial successes in soul and R&B led to more mainstream rock and pop performers who began coming to record at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, including the Rolling Stones, Traffic, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Dr. Hook, Elkie Brooks, Millie Jackson, Julian Lennon, Cher and Glenn Frey.

The two buildings[edit]

The new facilities, now the home of Cypress Moon Studios

The studio at 3614 Jackson Highway closed in April 1979, becoming an audio visual retailer and then an appliance store. A subsequent owner, Noel Webster, did some renovations and retained the old recording equipment, allowing for tours of the property.[22][23]

The recording facility was relocated to updated and larger premises at 1000 Alabama Avenue in Sheffield in 1979. This location operated until it was closed and sold in 1985 to Tommy Couch's soul and blues label Malaco Records, based in Jackson, Mississippi, which also bought the publishing rights held by the Muscle Shoals Sound. Malaco used the Sheffield studios for its own artists, including Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Bland and Little Milton, as while continuing to operate its own facility in Jackson. The Rhythm Section, minus Becket, worked with other studio musicians at Malaco Records and at other studios.[24] In 2005, Couch decided to close the Malaco studio on Alabama Avenue because he was having difficulty competing with more technologically advanced studios.[25]

Recent history[edit]

After the 1000 Alabama Avenue location closed in 2005, ending the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio era, the building was taken over by a movie production company.[26] In 2017, this location housed Cypress Moon Productions and the Cypress Moon Studio with functioning recording equipment, which was operating as a recording studio and was open for tours.[27]

Although it was no longer a working studio in 2009 and 2010, the Jackson Highway location was rented for recording some or all of two Grammy-nominated albums. Band of Horses's third CD, Infinite Arms, recorded in part at that studio, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category Best Alternative Album.[28]

All ten tracks of Black Keys's sixth album, Brothers, were also recorded at 3614 Jackson Highway.[29] The album was nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. Two songs from the album, "Tighten Up" and "Black Mud", were nominated for Grammys: "Tighten Up" for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song and "Black Mud" for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Rolling Stone magazine placed the album at number 2 on its list of the Best Albums of 2010 and "Everlasting Light" at number 11 on the its list of the Best Singles of 2010. The album was also featured on Spin magazine's Top 40 Albums of 2010.[citation needed]

The four members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section who had founded the Sound Studio were 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. They had appeared on "more than 500 recordings, including 75 gold and platinum hits".[30][31]

Original studio fate[edit]

The original studio building on Jackson Highway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 2006; at the time, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was a Registered Trademark of Noel Webster who was then the owner.[32] In June 2013, Noel Webster, who had owned and maintained the building since 1999, sold it to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation[33] whose goal was to establish a music museum in the historic building .[34][35][36] The foundation extensively restored the building and the studio. It was reopened as a tourist attracting, with plans for music recording as well, on January 9, 2017.[37][38]

According to a journalist who was a recent visitor, the restored studio is impressive: "Muscle Shoals Sound's interior appears much as it did in its prime. ... Some guitars and amps. A Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano and black baby grand. The control room with recording console and analog tape machine ... There are isolation booths, for vocals, percussion and such..."[39]

Documentary[edit]

Filmmaker Greg Camalier premiered his documentary film Muscle Shoals at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013.[40] It is about Muscle Shoals sound, and features Rick Hall, FAME, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (Swampers) who had founded the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. The film includes interviews with Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Steve Winwood, Bono, Alicia Keys and many others.

Selected recordings[edit]

Album or song Artist Date US Pop chart[41] Notes
Hey Jude" Wilson Pickett November 27, 1968 #23 features Duane Allman on guitar[42]
3614 Jackson Highway Cher 1969
Boz Scaggs Boz Scaggs 1969 features Duane Allman on guitar (Loan Me a Dime)
"Take a Letter, Maria" R. B. Greaves August 19, 1969 #2
Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty Herbie Mann (Released 1970)
"Wild Horses" Rolling Stones December 2–4, 1969 (Released 1971) #28
"I'll Take You There" Staple Singers 1972 #1
"Kodachrome" Paul Simon 1973 #2
"Loves Me Like a Rock" Paul Simon 1973 #2
One More River to Cross Canned Heat 1973
Atlantic Crossing Rod Stewart 1974–1975 (released 1975)
Breakaway Art Garfunkel 1975
"Katmandu" Bob Seger 1975 #43
No Reservations Blackfoot 1975
Flyin' High Blackfoot 1976
"Night Moves" Bob Seger 1976 #8
"Mainstreet" Bob Seger 1976 #24 (in 1977)
Izitso Cat Stevens 1976 #7 (in 1977)
"Torn Between Two Lovers" Mary MacGregor 1976 #1 (in 1977)
Street Survivors Lynyrd Skynyrd 1977
"Old Time Rock and Roll" Bob Seger 1978 #28 (in 1979) ranked number two on the Amusement & Music Operators Association's survey of the Top 40 Jukebox Singles of All Time in 1996
Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album Lynyrd Skynyrd 1971–1972 (Released 1978)
"Gotta Serve Somebody" Bob Dylan 1979 #24 1980 Grammy winner
Pleasure and Pain Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show 1978
Sometimes You Win Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show 1979
Take What You Find Helen Reddy 1979 (released 1980)
Valotte Julian Lennon 1984 #9
Brothers Black Keys 2009 (Released 2010) 2011 Grammy winner

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". www.alamhof.org. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  3. ^ James Baughn; et al. (2017). "Muscle Shoals Sound Studio - Also known as: 3614 Jackson Highway". Landmark Hunter. Landmark Hunter. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Reference number06000437 
  4. ^ Jay Reeves, The Associated Press (January 3, 2017). "Fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio named top Alabama tourist attraction of 2017". National Post. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Cypress Moon Studio Historic Site". Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama Travel. 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Muscle Shoals Sounds moved from its original location in 1978, converting this former Naval Reserve building on the Tennessee River to a multi-studio complex. Many internationally known artists recorded gold and platinum records here. The 1000 Alabama Avenue building now houses a film production company with the historic recording studio still in use. 
  6. ^ Carl Wiser (June 6, 2012). "ARETHA TO THE BLACK KEYS: THE MUSCLE SHOALS STORY". Song Facts. Songfacts, LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. they called Noel Webster and blocked off two weeks at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, arriving with a truckload of Neill's gear in August. 
  7. ^ The Associated Press (December 31, 2016). "Alabama's top tourist attraction 2017: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  8. ^ Corey, Russ (June 21, 2013). "Beats to renovate iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios". Times Daily. Florence, Alabama. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Muscle Shoals". Muscle Shoals the Movie. Ear Goggles Productions Ltd. 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  10. ^ Palmer, Robert (August 6, 2015). "Beats to renovate iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios". Times Daily. Florence, Alabama. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  11. ^ The Associated Press (December 31, 2016). "Alabama's top tourist attraction 2017: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2016. has been revamped with a 1970s feel that includes bright colors, retro chairs and a metal ashtray; the sign over the front door is once again bright blue. Vintage recording equipment fills the production booth. 
  12. ^ Scharf, Lauren (January 9, 2017). "Recording, tours resume at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". Fox 10 TV. WALA, Mobile. Retrieved January 16, 2017. When we were closed down during renovations, people would just show up from all over the world. 
  13. ^ Jay Reeves, The Associated Press (January 3, 2017). "Fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio named top Alabama tourist attraction of 2017". National Post. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  14. ^ Westergaard, Sean (2017). "Artist Biography". AllMusic. AllMusic, RhythmOne group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. often affectionately called "the Swampers") are widely regarded as one of the most important American recording studio "house bands" emerging in the golden age of rock and soul. 
  15. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame :: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". www.alamhof.org. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  16. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". www.alamhof.org. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  17. ^ Westergaard, Sean (2017). "Artist Biography". AllMusic. AllMusic, RhythmOne group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  18. ^ "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'. 
  19. ^ Simons, Dave (January 30, 2009). "Tales From the Top: The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers". BMI. Broadcast Music, Inc. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  20. ^ "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.. 
  21. ^ Simons, Dave (January 30, 2009). "Tales From the Top: The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers". BMI. Broadcast Music, Inc. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Rolling Stones arrived for an impromptu three-day session in December and proceeded to put the renegade studio on the map. 
  22. ^ Berry, Luch (June 20, 2013). "Foundation purchases original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, which recorded Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and more". AL Business. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Noel Webster, who has owned the property the last 10 to 15 years 
  23. ^ Corey, Russ (June 21, 2013). "Beats to renovate iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios". Times Daily. Florence, Alabama. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - 1995 Induction (Lifework Award) 2008". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Historic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios Closes". Billboard. Billboard. February 23, 2005. Retrieved January 17, 2017. the last four years saw a sharp decline in outside projects. When computer and hard-disk recording really got cheap and better at the same time, it just knocked the socks off a lot of studios, [Muscle Shoals] included," he says. It was just a very difficult thing to compete with. 
  26. ^ Carl Wiser (June 6, 2012). Black Keys "ARETHA TO THE BLACK KEYS: THE MUSCLE SHOALS STORY" Check |url= value (help). Song Facts. Songfacts, LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. they called Noel Webster and blocked off two weeks at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, arriving with a truckload of Neill's gear in August. 
  27. ^ "Cypress Moon Studio Historic Site". Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama Travel. 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Muscle Shoals Sounds moved from it's original location in 1978, converting this former Naval Reserve building on the Tennessee River to a multi-studio complex. Many internationally known artists recorded gold and platinum records here. The building now houses a film production company with the historic recording studio still in use. 
  28. ^ Carl Wiser (June 6, 2012). "ARETHA TO THE BLACK KEYS: THE MUSCLE SHOALS STORY". Song Facts. Songfacts, LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. they called Noel Webster and blocked off two weeks at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, arriving with a truckload of Neill's gear in August. 
  29. ^ Simons, Dave (October 10, 2011). "Mark Neill on the Making of the Black Keys' 'Brothers'". BMI. BMI. Retrieved January 17, 2017. truckload of period gear culled from Neill’s personnel collection 
  30. ^ "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - 1995 Induction (Lifework Award) 2008". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2017. appeared on classic recordings by top-name artists in virtually every musical genre. 
  31. ^ Kreps, Daniel (October 29, 2008). "Kid Rock, Keith Richards Help Induct Crickets, Muscle Shoals into Musicians Hall of Fame". Rolling Stone. 
  32. ^ James Baughn; et al. (2017). "Muscle Shoals Sound Studio - Also known as: 3614 Jackson Highway". Landmark Hunter. Landmark Hunter. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Reference number06000437 
  33. ^ McMillen, Lynn (June 20, 2013). "3614 Jackson Highway, the Deal Is Done". Quad-Cities Daily. 
  34. ^ Berry, Lucy (June 20, 2013). "Foundation Purchases Original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Which Recorded Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and More". Birmingham News. Advance Publications. 
  35. ^ http://www.timesdaily.com/multimedia/historic-recording-console-arrives-at-muscle-shoals-sound-studio/video_b17a1df5-9c0f-5639-b69c-00e9029d1247.html
  36. ^ http://www.waaytv.com/appnews/muscle-shoals-sound-studio-restoration-on-track/article_d8f4ddf6-63cc-11e5-8854-ebd897b72ea8.html
  37. ^ Jay Reeves, The Associated Press (January 3, 2017). "Fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio named top Alabama tourist attraction of 2017". National Post. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  38. ^ "Muscle Shoals Sound Studios will OFFICIALLY OPEN Monday, January 9, 2017". MSM Music Foundation. MSM Music Foundations. January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Hours: 10am – 4pm Monday-Saturday 
  39. ^ Wake, Matt (December 19, 2016). "Muscle Shoals has (still) got The Swampers: What music legends' lives are like now". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Recording at the studio will be offered on a limited basis 
  40. ^ "Muscle Shoals". Muscle Shoals the Movie. Ear Goggles Productions Ltd. 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  41. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1992). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books. ISBN 978-0823082803. 
  42. ^ The Muscle Shoals Sound: 3614 Jackson Highway. CD liner notes. Rhino Records. 1993.

External links[edit]