Muscle Shoals Sound
Join WPKN on December 16 and 17 for a special fundraiser celebrating the Muscle Shoals Sound.
In 1969, The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, widely referred to as “The Swampers” started a recording studio. The founders, Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson, were originally session musicians at Rick Hall’s FAME Studios and, together with Hall, they created the “Muscle Shoals Sound.”
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section provided musical backing and arrangements for major hits by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and the Staple Singers. Success in soul and R&B prompted rock and pop performers to record at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Recordings included Elkie Brooks, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Glenn Frey, Levon Helm, Dr. Hook, Millie Jackson, Etta James, Elton John, Tamiko Jones, Julian Lennon, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones, and Traffic. The Muscle Shoals style fused hillbilly, blues, rock’n’roll, soul, country, and gospel, to create a sound that cherry-picked the best features of each to forge something new.
3614 Jackson Highway
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section partnered with Jerry Wexler to found Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, AL. Cher’s sixth album was titled 3614 Jackson Highway (1969). The first hit to the studio’s credit was R.B. Greaves’ “Take a Letter Maria.”
In 2006, 3614 Jackson Highway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Filmmaker Greg Camalier premiered his documentary Muscle Shoals at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. The film includes interviews with Bono, Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, and Steve Winwood. The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation has established a music museum in the historic building. The studio is still a working recording studio at night, and the building itself is the physical representation of the words, “Muscle Shoals Sound.”