Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • MALE SPEAKER: One, two, three.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • TRAVIS WAMMACK: It's the South.

  • It's growing up poor, teaching yourself,

  • playing from the heart.

  • I don't think the sound that was

  • created in here was planned.

  • DONNIE FRITZ: The key word to me about Muscle

  • Shoals, it's a groove.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • IAN SVENONIUS: Here we are.

  • We're in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

  • Muscle Shoals is known for a lot of things.

  • It's known for Reynolds Wrap.

  • And it's known for being a swamp.

  • But it's mostly known for American music.

  • The studios Muscle Shoals Sound and Fame have produced,

  • you know, Wilson Pickett records, Percy Sledge records,

  • Rolling Stones, and everything up to Lynard Skynard, the

  • Osmond's, and the group Alabama.

  • We wanted to explore what made this region such a fertile

  • musical region.

  • We're talking to the people who have worked here, who've

  • established Muscle Shoals, put it on the map.

  • And we're going to talk to the young people who are trying to

  • make their own way.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • IAN SVENONIUS: So much music now is based on the music that

  • was made here.

  • What are the central ingredients of that sound?

  • DOC DAILEY: When I think of the Muscle Shoals sound, like,

  • from the old recording era, I think more of an R&B feel.

  • But that's kind of what I think about.

  • I think it's probably more of a recording legacy.

  • You know, we had all the great session players here and

  • studios back in the day--

  • white guys playing soul music.

  • RICK HALL: We all started out as pickers.

  • We all had our own bands and we all played gigs.

  • And the odds were against us.

  • We're recording in a town of 5,000 people where you only

  • have four good guitar players.

  • You only have three good song writers.

  • It's a dry county.

  • You can't buy booze or even beer here.

  • And the thing we have going for us in spite of all of

  • that, we were cutting hit records because we worked

  • harder, longer, and were more driven, and felt the pressure

  • to be competitive with the world.

  • DONNIE FRITZ: We were just kids and learning.

  • But it was a young business.

  • It'd only been like three or four years since Elvis and all

  • these guys from Memphis started.

  • SCOTT BOYER: Yeah.

  • IAN SVENONIUS: First of all, I want to asked how you got

  • started, how you got the job?

  • DAVID HOOD: Well, I started hanging around Fame which was

  • just down the street from the store.

  • I was working at my father's tire store.

  • And my first union scale recording session was a hit, a

  • gold record.

  • And I had to start learning how to play

  • the base after that.

  • RICK HALL: We started out with a little funky

  • demonstration studio.

  • We stapled egg cartons on the walls.

  • And that was in Florence, Alabama, that's where Fame got

  • its name, of course, Florence, Alabama Music Enterprises.

  • DAVID HOOD: This is the legendary Rick Hall who

  • produced Arthur Alexander and the first hits that were from

  • around here.

  • He would find a song or an artist and go in and record

  • that artist with that song.

  • And then he'd go shop it and try to get it

  • played on the radio.

  • RICK HALL: I went on a tour.

  • We called it the Great Vodka Tour.

  • And any black station that had a tower, I'd take them a

  • bottle of vodka, or a bottle of gin, or whatever.

  • Then we left town and we're driving down the highway.

  • And we took a swig a vodka.

  • And said, hey.

  • They're playing our record.

  • IAN SVENONIUS: Yeah.

  • RICK HALL: It also started out with black music.

  • IAN SVENONIUS: Yeah.

  • RICK HALL: And I want to make that clear.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • IAN SVENONIUS: Wilson Pickett came in.

  • This was after he was in the Falcons and was--

  • DAVID HOOD: Yes.

  • They recorded "Midnight Hour" at Stax in Memphis.

  • And it was their first big hit.

  • And Jim Stewart, who owned Stax, said, well, look, we're

  • not going to let you guys come back in here and record

  • anymore stuff.

  • I want everything to be for Stax that's recorded here.

  • And so Jerry Wexler started looking for

  • another place to record.

  • And that's when he brought Pickett.

  • What really got Muscle Shoals music happening was Jerry

  • Wexler bringing Wilson Pickett and then

  • later on, Aretha Franklin.

  • RICK HALL: It's a little strange when you are a white

  • cracker from the State of Alabama and you become known

  • as a producer who produced only blacks acts.

  • So when you get to the Rolling Stones, and Otis Redding, and

  • on and on, you start to make your mark and

  • the word gets out.

  • Wait a minute?

  • What's going on down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama?

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • IAN SVENONIUS: What makes this area so musical or whatever?

  • Or do you think it's anymore musical than any other places?

  • DOC DAILEY: Oh, it's definitely more musical than

  • other places.

  • IAN SVENONIUS: Is it the water?

  • DOC DAILEY: That's what they talk about, the singing river.

  • IAN SVENONIUS: Really?

  • The river?

  • That's interesting.

  • DOC DAILEY: Yes.

  • That's what they say.

  • There's supposedly an Indian legend that there's a lady in

  • the river that sings.

  • And you can actually hear her.

  • IAN SVENONIUS: Does she sing well?

  • DOC DAILEY: I've never heard her.

  • [LAUGHTER]

  • RICK HALL: People started migrating here from other

  • areas of the country, from California, from Los Angeles,

  • from New Orleans, and everywhere.

  • DAVID HOOD: I think that they came here because they had

  • heard a record or something, a hit that was recorded.

  • And they came because they wanted a hit too.

  • RICK HALL: So it's not where you're at, it's the

  • determination you have.

  • New York didn't want me and Los Angeles didn't want me.

  • So it was either Muscle Shoals, or nothing.

  • I just decided to plant myself here and said, look,

  • I'm going to do it.

  • I don't care if it was Wilson Pickett, or Clarence Carter,

  • or Aretha Franklin, or Mack Davis, or Elvis Presley,

  • whoever it was, if I was producing the record, the

  • record became my record.

  • And what you heard on the record was

  • what I wanted to hear.

  • TRAVIS WAMMACK: Back then, we were an exclusive for Fame.

  • And we were punching the clock from 9:00 to

  • I think 5:00 everyday.

  • And you had to be busy.

  • You had to be writing or doing something, you know.

  • IAN SVENONIUS: The Fame Rhythm Section moved over to Muscle

  • Shoals, started their own thing.

  • Did you see that as like a threat to what you were doing

  • or were you excited that this was becoming, like, growth of

  • a new music center?

  • RICK HALL: Well, I was certainly proud of the fact

  • that I felt like a teacher of a bunch of guys

  • that were making it.

  • And I was dumb enough not to know that they were to almost

  • put me out of business.

  • DAVID HOOD: The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were the rhythm

  • section at Fame before we left and started Muscle Shoals

  • Sound Studios.

  • And so when we left, Rick was a little pissed off at us for

  • leaving him.

  • But he went right ahead and cut hit records without us.

  • RICK HALL: They was so good at what they had done, and they

  • had learned so well that they were kicking my ass.

  • DAVID HOOD: When Rick started having his success as a

  • result, me, guys I work with, all of the sudden people

  • thought that we were experts almost.

  • And so you think, well, maybe I am.