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History of the Muscle Shoals Music Scene
by Alex Cosper (3/27/15)

A cluster of towns such as Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Florence form the Muscle Shoals music scene in Northwest Alabama. Two prominent recording studios - Muscle Shoals Sound Studios (MSSS) and FAME Studios - have been historic places where many big name recordings have been made. There's also a scene of quality musicians whn play on major label recordings. This scene was mentioned in the 1974 hit "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

FAME Studios, named after Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, was started by Rick Hall in 1959. A few years later he moved the company to Muscle Shoals. After the studio's rhythm section left for Nashville in 1964, the studio created a group known as the Swampers, which consisted of in-house session musicians. Here are musicians who have played for the Swampers:

Jimmy Johnson (guitar)
Junior Lowe (guitar)
David Hood (bass)
Roger Hawkins (drums)
Spooner Oldham (keyboards) Barry Beckett (keybaords)

The Swampers played on many hit songs in the mid to late sixties at FAME Studios from 1964 to 1969. Then the members pooled their resources to launch their own studio in 1969 called the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. They had the backing of Atlantic Records President Jerry Wexler. They have since been known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and are considered the architects of the region's distinct sound. The Muscle Shoals sound in general is characterized by tight rhythm sections and prominent bass lines. Ultimately, the players work well together, integrating their various musical influences.

Here are examples of popular songs that have been recorded in Muscle Shoals since the sixties:

Bob Seger - Old Time Rock and Roll
Wilson Pickett - Mustang Sally
Paul Simon - Kodachrome
Staple Singers - I'll Take You There
Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You
Etta James - Tell Mama
R.B. Greaves - Take a Letter, Maria
Millie Jackson - Hurts So Good
Rod Stewart - The First Cut Is The Deepest
Arthur Alexander - You Better Move On
Osmonds - One Bad Apple
Laura Lee - Up Tight, Good Man
Joe Cocker - A Whiter Shade of Pale
James & Bobby Purify - I'm Your Puppet
Arthur Conley - Shake, Rattle and Roll
Clarence Carter - Patches
Lou Rawls - Bring It On Home To Me
Percy Sledge - When a Man Loves a Woman
Candi Staton - I'm Just a Prisoner (of Your Good Lovin')
Bob Dylan - Gotta Serve Somebody
Dire Straits - Lady Writer
Jimmy Buffett - Stars Fell on Alabama

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