Documentary about Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music, with Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger and many more.
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This programme contains some strong language.
Magic is the word that comes to mind for me
when I think of Muscle Shoals.
It's about alchemy, it's about turning metal,
the iron in the ground, the rust into gold.
You just have to listen and you WILL be transported, you WILL be changed,
you're going to hear some of the greatest voices that ever were.
# One, two, three
# One, two, three
# All right
# Gotta know how to pony
# My bony moronie
# Mash potato
# Do the alligator
# Put your hand on your hips, yeah
# Let your backbone slip
# Do the Watusi
# Like my little Lucy
# You know I feel all right
# Huh! Feel pretty good, y'all
# Na na-na-na-na na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na
# Na na-na
# C'mon, y'all Let's say it one more time
# Na na-na-na-na na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na
# Na na-na-na
# Playing, it is a habit
# With Long Tall Sally
# Twistin' with Lucy
# Doin' the Watusi
# Roll over on your back
# I like it like that... #
We started to hear this sound coming out.
There was an amazing feel, kind of, uh, magnetic, I suppose,
in a way, sound-wise.
And then, after a while,
this word Muscle Shoals comes into the picture and you put
two and two together and that was when I said,
"If we get the chance, we've got to go down there," you know.
People now still ask me, "What is it about Muscle Shoals?"
It's just a little village on the Alabama border.
Why does that music come out of there? It's an enigma.
How did so much music take place
in such an undescript little town?
There was just something about that place,
something that, still to this day, nobody can explain.
At different points in time on this planet,
there are certain places
where there is a field of energy.
At this certain point in time for this number of years,
there was Muscle Shoals.
It's a unique thing.
Rooms and record making like that doesn't happen very often.
There's usually somebody like Rick Hall, who's like a total maniac,
you know, with the drive and the foresight to do it, you know.
He's a tough guy, you know.
This area here is where my roots are and it's helped me
develop into whatever I am today.
My father was a saw miller and we lived a way out in the Freedom Hills.
No houses, no neighbours. No kids to play with.
The floor in our house was dirt.
The heater was made out of an oil drum.
We slept on straw beds made out of straw
that we pulled up in the fields.
We had no bathing facilities, no toilets, nothing.
And we just kind of grew up like animals.
That made me a little bitter, somewhat driven.
I wanted to be special and I wanted to be somebody.
# Can you slip away
# Slip away
# Slip away, yeah
# Oh, I need you so... #
The first record I cut in this studio was a record called
Steal Away by Jimmy Hughes.
Brand-new building and I was hoping it had the magic.
I didn't know.
'So I brought my band in and I went up in the control room and sat down.'
OK? All set?
'I turned on the microphones
'and nervously hit the talkback button to the musicians
'and said with a slight crackle in my voice, "Rollin'".'
One, two - one, two, three, four.
When they kicked off Steal Away, I sat behind the console and wept.
I just had huge chill bumps come up on my arms
and the hair on the back of my neck actually stood up.
And of course, this was the birth of the Muscle Shoals sound.
# I've got to see you
# Not tomorrow
# Right now
# I know it's late
# I can't wait
# So come on and steal away... #
I have heard entertainers and producers say to me that
we've got some kind of sound here that they can't get anywhere else.
They have to come here.
It's that old, deep-down into your stomach,
coming up out of your gut, coming up out of your heart.
That's that Muscle Shoals sound.
# I won't tell
# Anybody else
# I'll keep it
# To myself
# I know it's late
# Oh, I can't wait
# Come on, and steal away. #
That sound made it through to even Ireland and Britain
and we felt the blood in that.
We felt the sort of pulse of it, and we wanted some, you know.
You've got to understand that Muscle Shoals had its own
kind of R&B, different from Memphis, different from Detroit,
different from New York, different from LA.
How did it happen in this little town of 8,000 people?
This starts this whole style of music.
It always seems to come out of the river.
You know, even in Liverpool, you know, the Mersey Sound.
And then of course, Mississippi and here you have the Tennessee river.
It's like the sound's come out of the mud.
We're at a place called Ishatae.
It means it's a special place, a holy place.
It's a place of music.
And it's a place of people. I've been working on it for 32 years.
There's over eight million pounds of stones here.
It's a memorial to my great-great-grandmother.
She was an American Indian and her people were Yuchi.
My grandmother's people call this river
we call the Tennessee today,
they called it Nu Na Se, the river that sings.
They believe a young woman lived in the river sang songs to them
and protected them.
In the year 1839, my great-great-grandmother
was removed from right here in Muscle Shoals.
She was taken to the Indian nations,
what is now present-day Muskogee, Oklahoma.
When grandmother got out there to Oklahoma,
she said there were no songs.
She went and listened to all the streams she could find
and there were no songs.
They couldn't sing, they couldn't dance,
they couldn't hold their ceremonies.
And they got to be very sad people.
So she started to come back home.
She walked all the way back.
It took her roughly five years.
She had to come back to this river, the river that sings.
The great dams have softened the woman in the river's songs.
But if you go to very quiet places and listen,
you can still hear her songs.
I know, I hear her songs nearly every day.
When I was a young man starting out in the music business,
Billy Sherrill and I, who were writing partners, got a phone call
from a guy that wanted to start a publishing company with us
and had the sum of 500 to spend on us, which we thought was a gold mine.
So Tom Stafford was a dream come true.
We went in business
and we had a little bitty studio over Tom's father's drugstore.
We got a few cuts, made a few bucks,
and one day I was called into a meeting with Billy and Tom
and they advised me that they were not happy
with the way things were going
and thought that I was a little too much of a workaholic.
And said that they wanted to have fun
while they were having hit records
and that I was just too adamant, and too strong-willed,
and too pushy,
so they decided to let me go.
So I obviously went home, began to lick my wounds and was very bitter.
During this time, I worked at a place called Reynolds Metals Company
in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and I met my first wife, Faye Marie, there.
She and I had been married about 18 months
and we went to Hamilton to see Benny Martin in concert.
It was about sundown and I met a car who was travelling very fast.
I swerved to go around that car and hit some loose gravels
on the side of the road and went into a spin, a tailspin.
The car turned round over end, a couple or three times
and landed on its top and didn't know if she was out or in,
but couldn't find her in the car. It was total darkness.
I began to yell for her and couldn't hear any noise except I could
hear gasoline running out of the gas tank into the car somewhere.
And I thought, of course, it's going to be my death,
because the car's going to catch fire and I can't get out.
I got out of the car and searched around and kudzu vines up to here.
Finally, some people stopped with a flashlight and we found her.
I nursed her on the way to Hamilton hospital.
About two o'clock in the morning, the doctor came to me
and said to me, "Your wife has passed on."
And, of course, I freaked out.
I became a drunk, a vagabond, a tramp.
That changed my whole life.
It was hard times and all I had to cling to was my music.
I slept in my car, I ate in my car
and I wrote songs in my car.
But I continued playing music and it was the only love I had
that time and so,
I joined a little local band in Hamilton.
From that time on, for five years, I wrote songs,
uh, played music,
and...and chased the women.
# Somebody loan me a dime
# I need to call my old time used to be... #
All this gravitated towards, "What am I going to do the rest of my life?"
And I decided to come back to Muscle Shoals,
but this time I came back with a vengeance.
I came back with a determination that I was going to kick some ass
and take some names.
And I was going to make it in the music business.
And so, I set up shop in a little candy and tobacco warehouse.
I closed the doors, I hid my car.
I didn't talk to girls, I didn't make dates,
I didn't do anything except write songs.
I was totally obsessed with the business and so, shortly after that,
I ran into Arthur Alexander, who was a local bellhop at
the Sheffield hotel and he played me a song and said, "What do you think?"
And I said, "I think it's a hit."
So he said, "What are we going to do about it?"
And I said, "We're going to cut it,"
and he said, "When?" and I said, "Tomorrow."
I brought my band in, Norbert Putnam, David Briggs, Jerry Carrigan,
Peanut Montgomery, and Terry Thompson were the first rhythm section
to be in the studio and to cut a hit record.
You've got to realise, Rick Hall is this older man.
-We're all 18, 19 years old and Rick's, what, 28, 29?
He had the vision for the recording.
Rick made records with a group of teenage kids -
OK, that became hit records, world-class records.
# You asked me to give up the hand of the girl I loved
# You tell me I'm not the man she's worthy of... #
The very first record, You Better Move on by Arthur Alexander,
that I produced, or had anything to do with, was a hit.
Not the second or third,
but the first session we cut was a hit record.
I know Rick was determined to cut that hit and he did it.
But if he hadn't, I'm of the opinion that none of this Muscle Shoals
movement would have ever happened.
# That's up to her
# Yes, and the Lord above
# You better move on. #
The rest of the world started looking at Muscle Shoals.
Thank you very much. We're going to do our slow one now.
It's called You Better Move On.
It was the only thing we did like that
and the girls really adored this song.
It was a big hit for us in England. It was like a number one record.
# You asked me to give up the hand of the girl I love... #
I think the Beatles beat us
to Arthur Alexander by a couple of weeks, you know.
They cut Anna and I think we cut Better Move On maybe a month later.
It was...our love of Arthur Alexander.
# You asked me to give up the only local I've ever had... #
At that time, we had no idea where this was recorded.
It's interesting to know that one of the first things that we cut
was a Muscle Shoals production, you know.
# You better move on. #
This original Muscle Shoals rhythm section
opened for the Beatles in 1964, their first American concert.
And of course, a year later in '65, we're all going to Nashville.
These guys went on to become great pickers and producers
and learned from experience here at Fame.
Man, we can do it.
When they left, there was nobody else.
We were the only game in town for him to get.
They took the ball that we started rolling,
and they rolled it and made it bigger.
Individually, I never really thought we were great players,
but together we were great players.
We have the magic together.
We liked playing funky.
All funky was is that we didn't know how to make it smooth.
We're a rock 'n' roll players, OK?
We just didn't expect them to be as funky or as greasy as they were.
# I know a place
# Ain't nobody cryin'... #
The groove that we set up came from rhythm and blues music.
I remember when Paul Simon called Stax records
to talk to Al Bell, and said,
"Hey, man, I want those same black players
"that played on I'll Take You There."
He says, "That can happen, but these guys are mighty pale."
# Let me take you there
# I'll take you there... #
# You got to, got to got to let me... #
A lot of people could not believe
that my whole band was white guys behind me.
People have arrived at Muscle Shoals expecting to meet these black dudes.
And they're a bunch of white guys that look like
they worked in the supermarket round the corner.
The Muscle Shoals rhythm section, David Hood bass player.
Jimmy Johnson, guitar.
Roger Hawkins, drums.
Barry Beckett, keyboard player.
# Play your... Play your piano now... #
Later on they became known as The Swampers.
# Oh, oh, oh, all right... #
A strong rhythm section made the difference
when you went to a studio every day with the same pickers and players,
and they became a team, and it was hard to beat that.
We begin to bring in song writers and musicians,
anybody that wanted to be in the music business.
SLOW BLUES WITH REVERB
I guess during high school I started going over to FAME Studio.
That was like a melting pot for songwriters, musicians...
Plus, as a teenager, I was really impressed with all that.
I came up here, and I'm just a kid really.
And all these people here were kids too.
Nobody knew anything.
We're just doing our best to learn how to make records,
and learn how to write songs,
and learn how to play music.
Most of these guys around here, including myself,
are country people.
We come from the country.
Arthur Alexander, Jimmy Hughes -
they were the pioneers, as far as the artists go down here.
These are just local people.
I'm from a small town called Leighton
right outside Muscle Shoals.
I was a little guy working in the field chopping cotton
singing to the older people in the field that always said that,
one day, my voice would be held all over the world,
but I never thought that would happen!
Percy worked at the local hospital.
I was an orderly working with the sick people.
I'd sing a song for 'em and they'd go to sleep.
I got such a big kick out of that, you know.
When I could see my patient lying there smiling and feeling better.
So, one day, I was invited to sing at the Elks Club here in Sheffield.
And it just so happened Quin Ivy was a disc jockey at the WLAY
and he heard me sing this song
and he loved the melody and the feel.
He said, "Percy Sledge, have you ever been interested
"in cutting a record?"
I remember the day I got the call,
"Will you come do keyboards on this recording session?"
It'll be the first recording this artist has ever done.
When I came into the studio, I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared.
# When a man loves a woman
# Can't keep his mind on nothing else
# He'd change the world for the good thing he's found... #
Every time he sang the song,
he had different levels for different parts of the song.
Everything had to be in your wrist,
bringing the level up and down.
All I hear was a voice.
I didn't know anything about no singing, you know.
Somehow, I got one down,
and Percy was on time with me
with a great vocal.
# He'd give up all his comforts
# And sleep out in the rain
# If she said that was the way it ought to be... #
All this was just so new to me, and these guys made me feel like,
"Hey, man, you can do it. "You got it, you know ?"
I used to call them my family. Donna Thatcher - all them, you know.
My first wonderful experience was singing on
When A Man Loves A Woman with Percy Sledge.
You never know when you're making history.
# Baby, please don't treat me bad... #
Quin called me one Sunday afternoon and said,
"Do you know of a place where we can get a deal?" I said, "I think so."
I picked up the phone and called Jerry Wexler in New York.
Jerry Wexler was probably the biggest record company guru
in the world.
It was a man named Rick Hall had a studio in Muscle Shoals.
I said he'd told me that if I heard something
I thought was a big hit, to call you, and I'm calling you.
# If she is bad... #
I heard some music coming from there, and it was fabulous.
-# She can do no wrong #
-What do you think?
We pressed and distributed the record and it was a big hit.
# When a man loves a woman... #
That began a great relationship
between Jerry Wexler, Atlantic Records and Rick Hall.
And, of course, the record is still
one of the most classic records in the business.
# If she is playing him for a fool He's the last one to know... #
It's the same melody I'd sing when I'd be in the field!
It just wails out and in the woods and let the echo come back to me.
# When a man loves a woman
# He can do her no wrong... #
I, George C Wallace, as Governor...
During that era of recording... Basically, all black acts.
You gotta remember George Wallace was standing in the schoolhouse door
at the University of Alabama making sure no black people
came to school there.
And I say segregation now,
and segregation for ever!
This was a politics that could not see past the colour of your skin.
It's the kind of thing that,
I know people of this era...
They wouldn't want to believe what it used to be.
I think of all the times
when we take a break from the studio to go out and eat.
I was somewhat frightened from time to time,
when we'd go and buy dinner for half a dozen black people.
That's where you saw, like, "What're y'all doin' sitting here?"
Even though the civil rights movement was already in effect,
it still hadn't dawned on people that this is the new era.
I have a dream that one day
down in Alabama
with its vicious racists...
One day right there in Alabama
little black boys and black girls
will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls
as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!
When I was young boy, it was always,
if I met a white boy
I had to say, "This is Mr, er, Robert or Mr Jimmy."
But, in the studio, we got away from that.
It was Jimmy, Robert, Clarence..
You just worked together.
You never thought about who was white and who was black.
You thought about the common thing and that was the music.
HORN SECTION INTRO
We were colour blind.
There was never any situation came up in the studio here ever,
about "your black and I'm white."
And when you think about the South -
they didn't believe that black and white people could live together.
And here are vinyl records that prove
that not only can they live together,
you mightn't know who's black and who's white.
At the time, this was revolutionary stuff.
Music played a big part in changing the thoughts of people,
especially in the South, about race.
By us being in Muscle Shoals and puttin' music together,
I think it went a long ways to help people understand that we all
were just humans.
My stock went sky-high with Wexler after the Percy Sledge single
went number one worldwide, and he said,
"Rick, I've a little bit of a dispute with Jim Stewart at Stax,
"and he don't want me to cut any more records over at his studio."
The welcoming mat for me at Memphis was cold.
So I got the idea of calling Rick Hall and saying,
"Hey, can I bring Wilson Pickett down here
"and, uh, make some records with you guys?" Which we did.
I gets off the plane, Southern Airlines,
and here's this long, tall... white man - we call 'em peckerwoods.
I met Wilson Pickett. Picked him up at the airport.
He looked like, to me, a dangerous man.
He walked up like he'd known me for 500 years.
"Hey, Wilson, come on, come on. We gon' cut some fuckin' records."
Boy, we really gon' cut some records. Come on, Wilson!
I said, "Wait, wait..." I'm nervous, you know what I mean?
What this white man know about producin' a Wilson Pickett?
And on the way to the studio, I'd a look at him
and he'd a look at me - and I could see in his eyes, he was thinkin',
"What am I doin' with this cracker down here in Alabama?"
We went through the cotton patch -
people still pickin' cotton.
I said, "Is that what I think it is?"
"Yeah, Wilson, they're still picking cotton down here."
You can see his studio from the cotton patch.
Pickett had a very quick temper.
I was there to make it work, period. You know what I mean?
On a session, if he didn't like what was goin' on
and didn't like the attitude, he's just liable to whup the drummer.
Say, "Come outside, I'm gonna beat your ass."
I was nervous, I was sittin' behind the drums and I was gettin'
things together, like drummers do, checkin' things.
Our band was super nervous the first time we worked for Jerry Wexler.
We had this feeling that, if we couldn't play
what he asked us to play, we'd probably be fired on the spot.
I was apprehensive, very leery, because it was entirely different
from what we had been doing in New York,
which was recording with written arrangements, arrangers,
and studio players who read the charts.
We would get in the studio and we'd add a little bit of this,
a little bit of that, and then we'd go to lunch, come back,
and if we didn't like that, take it away... All that kind of stuff!
We would sit there and we'd make that record together.
Those guys are sittin' there in the studio,
and just find the groove, you know?
And I'd be right there with 'em, singing along
and we'd all work it out together.
Rick Hall, stuck there every minute.
Rick Hall was his own engineer. He built the studio.
He knew all the electrical wiring in there.
And that drummer they had was fantastic.
He was a funky drummer,
but he wasn't wearing himself out all over the place.
He was... He was just there.
We was cookin' away on the thing and Wexler was in the control room.
He said, "Baby, it's working."
"Hey, baby, it's funky."
Rick Hall had a rhythm section of exceptional players.
# You know I feel all right! #
This was very inspirational to me.
Jerry came out at the end of the first day.
We'd just cut Land of 1,000 Dances
and he walks out in front of Roger,
and Roger's ears had never heard anything like this.
He said, "Roger."
I said, "Yes, sir?"
He said, "Roger, you're a great drummer."
And all of a sudden, it just...
I just kinda... relaxed
and became the great drummer, just like he said I was!
After my first night in that studio with them,
I was convinced that that could be a recording home for me.
# Mustang Sally... #
We cut Mustang Sally all that Funky Broadway,
The Land of 1,000 Whole Dances!
Boy, he's there stood up chewin' the...
-"How you like that, Wil?"
Pickett and I were soul brothers, we were.
We was nitty gritty. Right down in the cold nitty gritty.
# Oh, guess I have to put your flat feet on the ground now... #
Everything was just roses with me, with Jerry Wexler.
Jerry took a liking to us from the very beginning.
# All you wanna do is ride around, Sally... #
There's something that leaps out of a record,
I call it the sonority of the record.
It's the way the sound of the record impacts on the ear, instantly.
And to me, that's the magic ingredient in a phonograph record.
# Got to put your flat feet on the ground... #
The Rolling Stones had it, The Beatles had it,
and they had it, and so, from then on,
Muscle Shoals became the place that I preferred to go, and loved to go.
I grew up north of Florence.
It really wasn't a town, just a dirt road.
The only way to get to Florence - at that time, we had no car -
my mom and I would walk from the dirt road down to the highway
to catch a bus to go into Florence, which was just five miles away.
I was born in Sheffield, Alabama,
and graduated from Sheffield High School.
While in high school, I would see Hollis Dixon and the Keynotes.
It was the first rock 'n' roll band around here,
and I just fell in love with that.
I thought, "I've gotta learn how to do that."
You got Roger Hawkins in a group called The Del Rays.
Jimmy Johnson was playing guitar.
I remember hearing The Del Rays
when I was going to University of Alabama.
And I remember, I could not get into the fraternity house.
So I had to stay outside and listen to it.
I mean, the ground was rumbling, OK? It was such a great band.
We met each other when we started
playing at the Tuscumbia National Guard Armory at the square dance.
Half the night was rock 'n' roll,
and then, after that, it was all square dance.
We made 10 each for that.
After Wilson Pickett, I became Jerry's right hand man.
And so he said, "I'm thinkin' about signing a new act",
her name is Aretha Franklin.
She's on CBS Records and it's not happening,
they can't sell records on her.
# I'm only one step ahead of...
# heartbreak... #
I had heard her real smooth records on Columbia.
You couldn't really get your teeth into 'em.
# One step is all I have to take... #
These lush arrangements that she was doing at CBS,
which weren't successful either.
No-one knew what to do with her, she had this great voice,
but lots of people have got a great voice.
I've still got to find out who and what I really am.
I don't know yet.
I'm trying to find the answer.
I wasn't exactly hoping she wouldn't have any hits on Columbia Records,
but the way it went, they dropped her after five years.
A week later, we were in my office in New York - we signed her up.
He said, "You know, I've got this great little studio
"down in Muscle Shoals, and these cats...
"These cats are really greasy. You gonna love it!"
She walks in.
Right over there.
And she's got this aura around her pretty thick.
I mean, the girl was special.
I remember watchin' the guys...
Bein' good Southern boys, they'd carry on with anything
except looking or dealing with her.
So she went over to the piano. She sat there a moment.
And then, she just hit this unknown chord, I would say.
Didn't anybody have to say, "We're about to cut."
We did what we called head sessions at that time,
and there was no real music written for it.
The musicians would just listen to what it was I was doing,
and then they would decide what they were going to do around that.
I think we heard a little demo of this song,
Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You.
To me it sounded pretty much like junk.
I'm thinking, "That's the song they're going to cut?!"
There was discussions, Jerry Wexler and Rick.
There was a little confusion and there was a little turmoil.
Everybody was a little uptight.
We can't find a groove, a beat, a place to start.
They just had all these gears working,
but finally it just came to a...
And suddenly it was really quiet.
They had a song, they had an artist, but nobody knew what to do.
Not even all these geniuses.
But out of that quietness came Spooner with...
SOULFUL ORGAN MUSIC
And I said, "Hey, Spooner's got it! That's it."
Aretha jumped right on it.
# You're a no good
# You're a liar and you're a cheat... #
It was cut within 15-20 minutes.
You didn't have to ask, "What do you think?"
Everybody knew it was a hit.
I think everything came together for Aretha in Muscle Shoals.
They got Aretha to record a much more funky kind of style
in Muscle Shoals.
It was really the essence of her.
# Cos I ain't never
# I ain't never
# I ain't never, no, no
# Loved a man the way that I
# I love you... #
Coming to Muscle Shoals was the turning point.
That's where I recorded I Never Loved A Man,
which became my first million-selling record.
So, absolutely, it was a milestone and THE turning point in my career.
# Oh, oh, oh
# I ain't never loved a man... #
We cut I Never Loved A Man, which people to this day still regard
as being maybe her most soulful and, really, funkiest record.
# Well, this is what I'm gonna do about it... #
That's one of those songs,
the ones that give you the chills,
the ones that give you the goose bumps,
the ones that you're like, "I wish I sang a record like that."
We had a whole week planned to cut tracks, a whole week,
but at the end of the session, we found out that there was a problem.
There was a ruckus.
One of the horn players, and Aretha's then husband, Ted White,
got into it.
This new horn player started saying things like, "Aretha, baby,"
and it was just enough
that Ted White got offended.
They'd been drinking from the same jug and now this camaraderie
and great palship turned into some kind of alcoholic hostility.
Ted comes into the control room with Wexler and I and says,
"I want the trumpet player fired."
I looked at Wexler and I said, "What do you think?"
He said, "Go fire him."
So I went and fired him.
That later caused a big argument and caused the session to end.
I got a hold of the bottle of vodka and I took a couple...
three drinks of it.
And I said, "Wexler, I'm going to go over to the hotel"
"and get with Ted and them...
"..and we'll work this thing out."
He said, "No, I don't want you to go."
And I said, "Yeah, well, I'm not going to start any trouble,"
I said, "I'll go over and work it out.
"We'll become buddies and I'll work everything out."
He said, "No, Rick, don't go, please, don't go."
I had had a couple more drinks and I went over to them.
Banged on Ted and Aretha's door and Ted came to the door.
He started pointing his finger in my face and so forth.
We fought and fought and fought.
He was trying to throw me over the balcony
and I was trying to throw him.
It was downtown and we was up on about the fourth floor.
My former husband never came back that night
and I decided that I was leaving.
I had never been to Muscle Shoals before,
or away from home, really, by myself,
so I just said, "I'm going to the airport."
And when I got to the airport, I saw him with the bell captain.
I said, "Whoa, this son of a gun was going to leave me down here.
They left town the next day, early.
So Wexler came and said to me,
"I will never set foot in this studio as long as I live again.
"I will bury you."
And I said, "You can't bury me."
He said, "Why can't I?" I said, "Because you're too old.
"I'll be around after you're gone."
So the next day I showed up and on the board it says,
And I thought, "Oh, man, it's over, we've had it."
But a few days later, Jerry Wexler calls and asks
if we can go to New York and finish the album there.
He didn't have to ask us twice.
MUSIC: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
On that album was R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Respect.
# What you want
# Baby, I got... #
To be a part of something like that is unbelievable.
It was milestone stuff.
# Is for a little respect
# Just a little bit
-# Hey, baby
-Just a little bit
-# Just a little bit
# Just a little bit... #
The Swampers went on and recorded with Aretha on many hit records.
Sweet, Sweet Baby, Natural Woman, Think,
The House that Jack Built, Call Me,
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,
Chain of Fools, and so many, many others.
Of course. it worked out incredibly.
And it's been one of the anomalies, I think, of the era
that Aretha's greatest work came with a studio full of Caucasian musicians.
How do you figure it? This is the Queen of Soul acknowledged.
Here we have Roger Hawkins,
and David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, Spooner Oldham
coming out with probably the deepest and most intense R&B of the era.
# Find out what it means to me
# Take care, T-C-B
# Sock it to me, sock it to me sock it to me
# A little respect
-# Whoa, babe
-Just a little bit
-# A little respect
-Just a little bit
-# I get tired
-Just a little bit
-# Keep on trying
-Just a little bit
# You're running out of fools... #
So after my dispute with Wexler, he took Aretha away.
And on my part, I felt like I had really screwed up,
so I went to Chicago and I spoke to Leonard Chess,
cos he said, "I wonder what I got to do
"to get you to do some sides for Chess Records."
I said, "Who do you want me to do?"
He said, "I'd like you to do Etta James."
MUSIC: "Tell Mama" by Etta James
When I looked at him, I says, "God, Rick Hall."
"So this is fame, recording studios, and I'm in Alabama
"and now this is going to be, you know, the real thing here.
"I'm going to get some of the Alabama mud," you know,
all of that kind of stuff.
Etta James is probably one of my favourite chicks of all time.
Leonard said, "You know, Rick, I built my company on her back.
"When you think she's singing as good as she can sing,
"if you'll kick her ass and wind her up..."
..he said, "She can rattle the shingles on this studio."
# You thought you hadn't found a good girl
# One to love you and give you the world... #
Rick Hall was actually the first white man that I had seen
that had that kind of soul, that was an engineer
and was soulful, you know?
We recorded a Clarence Carter song.
With Clarence it was, Tell Daddy,
but with Etta it was, Tell Mama.
She didn't want to do the song, because I think she had a problem
with somebody suggesting to her
that she was going to take care of some man.
I would be so hard-headed and, you know, just,
"Don't tell me nothin'," you know?
She had a temper like a lion.
I said, "If you'll do it for an hour, and it's not happening,
"we'll garbage it, we'll throw it in the garbage."
I finally realised everything that he used to badger me about,
he was always right.
# Tell mama
# All about it
# Tell mama
# What you need
# Tell mama... #
And, of course, the record was to become a big, big hit on her.
Everybody said that that song raised her from the grave, you know,
and brought her back to prominence.
Each time a person went to Muscle Shoals,
they came out of there with a hit record.
You had to know that there was something magic in Muscle Shoals.
The spirit of Muscle Shoals permeates
not only the city itself, physically...
..but, I think, the people who came through there.
The place has a soul.
WC Handy was from the Muscle Shoals area
and everyone that knows about the blues
is familiar with WC Handy.
Well, he's one of the great popularisers of the blues.
Before it was a kind of gutbucket music
that didn't have a lot of respect.
He kind of legitimised the music.
All the bands were playing the same thing,
but no-one had written it down.
Well, he was the first one to write it down.
That made him Father of the Blues and made this area famous.
Sam Phillips was also from the Muscle Shoals area
and Sam was kind of my tutor and I kind of looked upon him
as being the guy I wanted to be.
Sam Phillips came out of there.
I mean, didn't he invent rock'n'roll or something?
My dad, Sam Phillips,
was the first to record Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis,
Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison,
but a lot of people don't realise
that he only worked specifically with black artists in the very beginning.
Well, the basic feeling I had for black artists, of course,
originated when I was very young on a farm in Alabama.
I felt a certain spirituality about the black man's music.
And hearing it in the cotton fields,
that made one hell of an impression on me.
Mr Phillips heard people singing in the fields
and heard trains rumbling through
and the river roaring around the bend down here in the shoals.
It's a subconscious rhythm that gets in your head.
There's like a groove, there's a pocket that sticks in your gut.
It's connected all of us.
Helen Keller was from Muscle Shoals,
and it was just always amazing to me
the things she was able to accomplish
being blind and deaf.
Helen Keller was deaf, completely mute, completely blind.
And her only way of communicating with the world is with gestures.
You can still go to her house
and see the well where she learned her first word,
which was "water."
There's obviously an incredible connection to water here.
So you can see why that would be the first word
that Helen Keller learned, "water."
There's such a power...
..in this place,
and you feel it whether you can hear it and see it or not.
MUSIC: "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Etta James
I'm a great believer that landscape is always very important in music,
and, somehow, music can reflect landscapes.
# Something told me it was over
# When I saw you and her talking... #
People ask me always, "What is the Muscle Shoals sound?"
You had a lot of black musicians
playing with a lot of white musicians,
and we all got a different way of playing,
but it blends so well together.
There was this coming together of styles.
And there was some hillbilly background there,
there's some black music.
We were open-minded to be any genre.
# I would rather
# I would rather go blind, boy
# Than to see you walk away from me, child
# Hoo... #
The Muscle Shoals sound, I think, has a very heavy bass and drum
featured in the sound.
That was what sounded right to us.
"Turn up the bass, turn up the drums."
This was, at the time, cutting edge technology.
The fact that a drum kit could be close-mic'd
meant that they could turn up the bass drum.
That's what created that blacker sound, that African sound,
that allowed you to be sweet on the topsoil
but knowing that, deep down in the ground, there was some fierceness.
# Ooh, I was just
# I was just
# I was just sitting here thinking
# Of your kiss and your warm embrace, yeah... #
Woo, come on, there.
CAR HORN HONKS
When I was a young boy,
my mother was washing clothes out in the yard with a wash pot.
And the pot had boiling hot water in it.
My brother, who was three years old, was playing in the back yard
with my first cousin,
and they were pulling on a stick.
My brother ran backwards and fell into the pot of scalding water.
So my mother took him in her arms
and went screaming across the field, hunting my father.
He came running and they took him to the doctor in Red Bay, Alabama.
And they took his clothes off
and all of his skin came off inside of his clothes.
He died three days later.
That was the start of the decline
between my father's and my mother's relationship.
He kind of blamed her for the accident,
and she probably blamed him for not being at home.
She left us and said, "I'll never live with you again,"
and, "Forget about me."
She moved in with Aunt Ess who ran a red-light district.
So my father asked people what she was doing up here.
they said, "Well, Herman",
"do you know what the other girls are doing?"
And he said, "Yes, I do."
And they said,
"Dolly is doing the same thing."
It was earth-shattering for me.
Even after all these years and being away from her
and not spending much time with her in my life,
not a day goes by that I don't really miss my mother.
More acoustic guitar.
# I ain't easy to love
# Scars have made me black and blue
# But I feel a lot less broken... #
OK, all right, hold on.
There's too much happening.
I just need the intro and everybody needs to cool it a little bit
and back off.
If everybody comes in from the top,
where are you going to go from there?
If you get a chance or two to cut a record, produce a record
and get a budget to do it with and you don't have a hit,
you will never get another call.
So I was always aware of that.
I always felt that every record...
..my life depended on it.
-Time is like...
It's like you're whispering that part.
All right, you know, I can always do mine over.
I know we can, honey, but I'd like to do it this way.
Rick is so meticulous.
Oh, it's just a joy and pain to work with Rick.
Cos he won't stop until he gets what he wants.
If it takes three days on one song,
Rick's going to get what he wants.
We're doing just what we just got through doing.
We're doing the same thing over again,
and I just want to perfect it a little better.
We've changed a couple of things, so you got to listen.
Rick was a very demanding boss.
He would take a thousand takes
of something till he was satisfied.
And sometimes he would not know what he was looking for,
but he would keep working until he got it.
I'm talking about... It's too bright.
Oh, OK, I thought you wanted it to be bright.
Well, I did want it bright until I heard it.
When you hear it with the track, it's a whole different thing.
You got to listen to it in perspective.
That was very frustrating and hard on the musicians,
because you think, "Well, I already did that!"
Nobody ever worked in the music business
without getting their ass kicked.
If they did, they're out on the street somewhere
pushing a wheelbarrow of concrete.
He was kind of like a task master,
and I don't fault him for that,
because he is an imperfect perfectionist.
That's what made him great, though.
# Oh, please forgive me, darling
# I ain't easy to love. #
Duane Allman, of course, came into Muscle Shoals and wanted a gig.
So he put up his pup tent on my parking lot at the studio
and found me. I gave him his shot.
When Duane showed up, he was probably one of the first guys
with long hair and kind of the hippie look,
but what really made him stand out
was that he was a wonderful guitar player.
I had never heard a slide guitar
played like Duane Allman could play it.
Duane had been in Los Angeles, had a group called The Hourglass
with his brother, Gregg.
They signed us on this big contract
and they wouldn't let us play anywhere.
The first year we were there, we played, like, three concerts.
So he finally said, "Hey, I've had it with this place. I'm leaving,"
and he wound up in Muscle Shoals.
But right before he left, I talked him
into going horseback riding with me, cos we weren't doing anything.
Finally went out there and I said,
"Listen, we go from the barn out to the field, we got to cross
"a paved road." I said, "The horse is shod." "It's what?"
"It's got shoes on, you know?
"And if he slips, he'll bust both of you's butts,
"so don't give him any reins." And guess what happened.
And he hit right here. He couldn't play.
And he wouldn't let me in his house for about six weeks,
and, I mean, that was terrible, cos, you know,
growing up without a father, he was somewhat of a father figure
to me, even though he was only a year and 18 days older.
So it came his birthday, November 20th, and I went out and bought
the first Taj Mahal record and a bottle of Coricidin pills.
He had his cold, he had his arm in a sling,
he was pissed off at the world, and I did what I could do.
I put it down in front of his door, I had it wrapped up
and everything, and I knocked on the door and ran.
I guess about two and a half hours later, my phone rings and it's him.
He says, "Get over here, baybra, quick!"
Baybra, he called me, baby brother,
an endearing handle he had for me.
He said, "Man, check this out." He'd been listening to
Jesse Ed Davis playing with Taj Mahal and he was playing the slide.
He said, "Man, I dumped out all them pills
"and I washed the label off the bottle."
He said, "Check this out."
He's got his hand still in a sling and he's going, "Do-un-do-un-doon",
you know, and he's just already killing it, you know?
I've still got that bottle, by the way.
When Duane came here, he was on the Wilson Pickett session that we did.
There was always a slight problem when we would go out, all of us
white boys with a black artist, that we'd get looks, OK?
But there was nothing as bad as going out with a long-haired hippie
with us white boys.
They couldn't stand that, right?
And so both of them stayed back.
So, they went on lunch break and my brother went up to Wilson
and he said, "Man, why don't you cut Hey Jude,
"the Beatles song?"
And at that point, I was mostly trying to create an original career
Wilson Pickett, right? My songs.
Pickett and I, in unison, both said, "Look, are you crazy?
"We're going to cover the Beatles?!"
And, of course, Duane said, "Exactly."
While we were gone, Duane changed our whole session.
# Just remember
# To let her under your skin... #
When you get to the vamp,
it goes into just an unbelievable groove.
# Oh, oh, ooh!
# Hey Jude!
# Ahh! #
Duane Allman was playing such
great guitar fields that something happened in that vamp.
# Ahh, hey! #
And, all of a sudden, there was southern rock.
# Going to be all right... #
That was the beginnings of The Allman Brothers Band.
Jaimoe met my brother first. The two of them got together.
When I met Duane,
he had a cabin, he lived in down on the river in Muscle Shoals.
And it was like... It was a nice place down there.
In his spare time, he would do a lot of fishing.
Muscle Shoals seemed to be the place for him to be at that time.
He would do sessions. I would sit over with them at practice,
and when he would get through the session,
he'd roll his amplifier over there and the two of us would play.
And then when Berry Oakley came down...
Boy, the three of us had never played music like that.
But that was pretty much the base of what turned out to be
The Allman Brothers Band.
Duane said, "Well, Rick, this is the kind of music
"that's coming in, going to be big again.
"The kids are liking this." And I said, "Yeah, yeah.
"Don't breathe on me, Duane, back off."
I never believed him and I told Phil Walden,
"I don't understand this. They're sleeping in the studio all day
"under quilts and things," and I wake up Duane and he says,
"Man, you know, the stars and the moon are not quite lined up right."
I'm not into all that.
He said, "Well, hang in there, man. Turn on the machines and let
"them run, and eventually you're going to make a billion dollars."
I said, "Ah, I can't do that, it's not me."
So I missed the boat on that one.
# Oh! #
Time, old time.
Things change it, you know.
I never will forget
when Jimi Hendrix played behind me on Broadway.
He was playing the band with King Curtis.
I told King, "I think I'm going to steal that guitar player you got."
He said, "Percy Sledge, that guy there is going to be
"so big in the next year or two," he said, "I can't keep him
"and you won't be able to keep him either."
When Jimi came out
with his style of music, well, our style of music kind of slacked back.
Time always changes organisations
and things that you're doing in life.
Things happened in our world that changed everything.
We decided to become entrepreneurs and become studio owners.
So we had to tell Rick, who was our mentor and friend
and who had gave us our chance.
We elected Roger to go break the news to him.
I had gone to LA to try to make a new deal with Capitol Records.
We made a great deal and things were really exciting,
and I came back and had a meeting with the Swampers.
We were supposed to come up and sign the contract
and be exclusive to Rick.
Rick's office is upstairs
and we're just kind of looking at each other, like,
-"Oh, my God, we got to go up those stairs."
-That'll do it.
Up the stairs we go, knock on the door.
I began to tell them of this great new deal we've made with Capitol.
I'm looking at them like, "Come on, guys, help me."
And they're just like...
One of the guys stopped me and said, "We've already made a deal
"with Jerry Wexler and he is going to build us a studio across town.
"We'll be leaving here, going with him."
And when Roger dropped that bomb in that office,
we were expecting a huge explosion.
I felt like the whole bottom of my life had fell out.
It's like we have thrown shit on his dreams.
Do you remember what he said?
He said, "You're never going to make it."
It was war.
# Oh, ooh, oh, baby
# There's going to be judgment in the morning... #
When we bought the studio,
we were very nervous about whether or not we would have any hits,
and you have to have to hits to keep recording.
Jerry came to record at our place, and he brought Cher in,
and that was our first client.
Nothing happened, it wasn't any good.
Six months went by, seven months, almost eight months.
I think we would have killed for the hit record.
We always wanted to own a studio and it was like,
"What the hell have we done?!"
And then all of a sudden, the English rock'n'roll guys started wanting
to come to Muscle Shoals.
When we went to record in Muscle Shoals,
it was a really lightning visit.
We just went in there, set up, and...
you know, played our stuff for a couple of days.
The sound was in my head before I even got there.
And then, of course, when that actually lives up to it
and beyond, you know, then you're in rock'n'roll heaven, man.
# You got to move
# You got to move
# You got to move, child
# You got to move
# Oh, when the Lord
# Gets ready
# You got to move... #
The first tune we did was a blues tune, You Got to Move.
We're down in Alabama, you know, in Muscle Shoals,
and we've got to cut some Fred McDowell stuff.
If ever I'm going to do it, it's got to be here, you know,
and we're probably soaking up a little Indian maiden too, you know?
# Get ready
# You got to move, ah... #
We don't come from here, but we know quite a bit about the Deep South.
Their producer did not show.
And it wound up I became the engineer. And I was thinking,
"Oh, man, can you believe this?" You know?
Because, like, when they come in, you're "shtuh-boom".
-But that's there, it doesn't come in till the solo.
-I know, I know.
But I must point something out here, that nobody was drinking
and nobody was drugging.
# You got to move... #
I think we were drinking quite a lot.
I'm sure there were lots of drinking and smoking marijuana and so on.
Well, you know, I mean, you put it on a scale of what, you know?
That was recording in those days, that was part of it.
But otherwise, it was a lot of serious work as well.
And once we knew the room was tuned to us
and we were tuned to the room, then it became, you know,
"Right, let's get as much done here as we possibly can," you know?
Keith had this tune Wild Horses,
but I don't think that was really finished.
He had the chorus, but that was about it.
So that was all written on the spot.
It was just an idea, and it had to go to the bathroom
for a little while just to sort of figure it out.
And then say, "OK, I'm ready," back in, and then take, you know?
# Childhood living
# Is easy to do
# The things you wanted... #
Muscle Shoals Studio is in this rather interesting place.
Being there does inspire you to do it slightly differently.
Wild Horses is a sort of country song,
and I remember we used Jim Dickinson, he played tack piano.
# A sin and a lie
# I have my freedom
# But I don't have much time
# Wild horses
# Couldn't drag me away
# Wild, wild horses
# We'll ride them someday... #
I thought it was one of the easiest and rockingest sessions
that we'd ever done.
I don't think we'd been quite so prolific ever.
I mean, we cut three or four tracks in two days,
and that, for the Stones, is going some...
MUSIC: "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones
We left on a high with Brown Sugar.
We knew we had one of the best things we'd ever done.
The thing about Brown Sugar,
it had this sound, it was quite distorted.
It was pretty funky, you know. That was the whole idea of it.
I always wanted to go back there and cut more, then shit happened,
so we ended up in France in a basement doing Exile on Main St
there, but otherwise, Exile would probably have been
cut in Muscle Shoals, but politically, it wasn't possible.
I wasn't allowed in the country at the time.
So, there's that, you know.
# Brown sugar
# How come you taste so good?
# Brown sugar
# Just like a young girl should... #
Those sessions were as vital to me as any I ever done.
I mean, all this other stuff, Beggars Banquet and the other
stuff we did, Gimme Shelter, Street Fighting Man,
Jumping Jack Flash, you know, but I've always wondered that if we'd
have cut them in Muscle Shoals,
if they might not have been a little bit funkier.
# Drums beating Cold English blood runs hot
# Lady of the house wondering where it's going to stop
# House boy knows that he's doing all right
# You should have heard him just around midnight... #
So, I got this great new deal with Capitol Records,
but I've had this feud with Wexler, and he's taking my musicians
and going across town and going to put me out of business, so he says.
I imagine Rick was pissed.
"Hey, I got this deal, and I don't have a rhythm section."
But if Jerry thinks these are the only guys left in the world
that you can cut hit records on then he's mistaken, because
I believed that I could cut hit records with any group of musicians.
We began to call every musician we knew and put 'em under contract.
So that's why he calls me, get me up there real quick, and he said,
"You know a bass player?" I said, "I know a great bass player."
So I started playing, he said,
"Do you know any other rhythm guys?"
I said, "Yeah, Freeman Brown..."
..who became one of the best fat-back drummers for Muscle Shoals.
He said, "And I also need a horn section,"
and I said, "Yeah, there's some guys that I met out of Nashville."
Rick Hall wanted to put a band together
and call it the Fame Gang, and I ended up being part of that.
For me to surround myself with the strongest people I could
made me a better producer.
Here's what we're going to do, we're going to, er, let him
play back the tape four or five times in succession.
I want to work with the horns.
This is a sad song.
You know, so don't jive it up too much,
ba-da-be-be-bu-be-dep, and take away from the lyrics,
so it sounds like a dance record...
The truth is, after Barry Beckett, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins
and David Hood left and bought their own studio,
we come in here with this new rhythm section, who was not really
a studio band yet, but in 1971, Rick Hall's Producer of the Year.
He didn't have that with the other guys.
I started over again, and I believed I was as good as anybody.
Here's Candi Staton to sing her big, big hit on Fame.
At Fame, we experienced a lot of great artists,
starting with Candi Staton.
-We started to explode.
The world was coming to Muscle Shoals.
# You may think I'm silly
# To love a man twice my age
# But I know from experience, girls
# Sometime it pays... #
I did Bobbie Gentry for Capitol Records.
I did King Curtis, I did Lou Rawls.
Little Richard, Willie Hightower, Mac Davis, Joe Tex.
# I'd rather be an old man's sweetheart
# Than to be a young man's fool... #
Then we cut all those records on Donnie Osmond,
the Osmond Brothers, in 1971.
I think they sold something in the neighbourhood of
23 million records that one year.
Joe Simon, the group Alabama, Paul Anka and Tom Jones.
Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack.
I had one of the biggest record companies in the world behind me.
I was getting twice the royalty rate
that I was getting from Atlantic and Chess.
So I was shitting in high cotton!
# I'd rather be an old man's sweetheart
# Than to be a young man's fool... #
We were forming a production company in about '69 or '70,
and our friend
Alan Walden found this band in Jacksonville called Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I was a sucker to want to cut that band immediately.
So we signed them.
When I first joined Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Ronnie had always talked about the guys in Muscle Shoals.
Apparently they had gone up there
and recorded an entire album with Jimmy Johnson producing.
They had no money, and I remember they would come up here, and they'd
check in a truck stop where they'd get in fights with the truckers
cos of their long hair.
And, basically, all they had to eat was peanut butter sandwiches.
The whole time.
But I loved this band.
I didn't know if it'd be a hit,
but I'll tell you one thing, if you listen to those songs,
some of the best rock'n'roll songs I've ever heard.
At the time we were cutting Freebird,
we took a little lunch break.
We walk in, the engineer had started playing the tape.
Billy Powell, who was the roadie, he was sitting in there playing
this concert piano that was so unbelievable
that we walked in just in, like, awe,
with our mouth open.
And I look at Ronnie and he looks at me,
and I said, "I gotta go and record with that, I don't know about you."
And he said, "You got it."
We put him on the record,
and then he became a band member within a few months.
He was a concert pianist.
And nobody knew it, not anybody.
I think he thought they wouldn't like that, you know,
that he had studied, you know.
But what a great thing he added to that record.
But there was something different about this band.
I mean, on this album, I had a nine-minute single,
and I'm going to go and try to sell it to a record company that's
never had a single over three and a half minutes.
I mean, I got a problem.
# If I leave here tomorrow
# Would you still remember me? #
But there started to be a lot of interest.
They said, "We want you to cut it down to 3.45 on this one."
I said, "No, can't do it."
And I knew that if I did that, I'd destroy the integrity of the band.
I said, "Go listen to 'em live and then you'll know what to do."
# But if I stayed here with you, girl
# Things just wouldn't be the same... #
Not one A&R department would go listen to 'em.
So, it wound up, I lost the band.
And here I had all these great cuts.
I cut the first Freebird, Simple Man, I mean, all this stuff, you know?
And I wasted almost two years of my life.
And it was very depressing for me, and I'm sure it was for them.
# And this bird you cannot change
# Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa... #
But the Skynyrd boys had one thing in their favour going for 'em.
That guy, Alan Walden, that I talked to you about,
he got 'em on The Who tour.
World tour with The Who.
When they came off of that Who tour, they were a hit band.
# No, I can't change
# Won't you fly high
# Little freebird, yeah! #
And then the crash happened.
And Gary and Alan got well enough from the crash, they come to me
and said, "We want 11 songs of your 17 to be the next album."
And it was called the First and the Last.
TRACTOR ENGINE STARTS AND GROWLS
My father raised me, he cooked the meals, he got us off to school.
I spent hours and hours in the woods with him cutting timber.
He preached to me constantly,
"You've got to be the best at whatever you do,
"and good is not good enough, you've got to be the best in the world,
"not just the best in this county."
He had worked hard and I'd worked hard with him all of our lives,
and so I wanted to do something to make life easier for him,
so I bought him a new John Deere tractor.
He'd always wanted a tractor. We never could afford a tractor.
During this time, my dad was plying on the little tractor
about a quarter of a mile from our house.
My stepmother went out to look for my father
and she saw the tractor wheels turned up in the air.
And she knew something bad had happened.
He was pinned under the tractor.
He had tried to get away
and had pawed in the ground trying to free himself.
Of course, after his death, I went into a deep stupor.
I mean, it's just overwhelming.
I was playing in, uh, Texas.
And Rick Hall called me
and told me he had a song he wanted me to come up there and do.
# I was born and raised down in Alabama
# On a farm way back up in the woods
# I was so ragged Folks used to call me Patches
# Papa used to tease me about it
# Of course, deep down inside he was hurt, cos he'd done all he could... #
When Rick played the song to me, I said,
"We going in the wrong direction."
He didn't like the song,
because he thought it was a downer for his people, the black people.
# My papa was a great old man... #
My papa was a great old man, I can see him with a shovel in his hand.
Education he never had, but he did wonders when times got bad.
It was my story about me and my father.
# Oh, life had kicked him down to the ground
# When he tried to get up Life would kick him back down
# One day Papa called me to his dying bed
# Put his hands on my shoulders Then in tears he said
# He said, Patches I'm depending on you, son
# To pull the family through
# My son It's all left up to you... #
All the things went through my mind of,
he killed himself, you know, working for his son,
and had lived vicariously through me
thinking, "I couldn't make it, but maybe my son Rick can make it."
# Sometimes I felt that I couldn't go on
# I wanted to leave Just run away from home
# But I would remember what my daddy said
# With tears in his eyes on his dying bed
# He said, Patches... #
See, I was so taken by the story
that I wanted to do a special production on it with strings
and I wanted to go to LA and do it, and I did.
I was a believer in Rick Hall knowing what to do,
and if he said that was a good song, OK.
Let's sing the song.
# Patches, I'm depending on you, son
# To pull the family through... #
When it came out, it was going up the charts in a hurry.
That was a number one record.
# Patches, I'm depending on you, son
# I've tried to do my best
# It's up to you to do the rest... #
The artists who come here, they come to get away from it all.
Er, they can rest, stay away from the telephone,
the hustle and bustle
and people buggin' 'em regarding autographs or what have you.
Nobody knows 'em here, in other words.
People like to go to places
that had a kind of magical kind of vibe about them,
but they also like to get out of New York, out of LA or out of London
sometimes to do these sessions.
I mean, that was really the first of its kind,
that attracted music people from all over the world.
Sure, people go to New York to record.
Big deal. Go to Muscle Shoals, where you can actually get lunch
at a Meat and Three and really experience the Southern way of life.
I mean, there's nothing like it.
When I went to Muscle Shoals to record, for me it was more like
going to my village in Summerton... in Jamaica.
I did actually feel at home.
# Sitting here in limbo
# But I know it won't be long... #
Jimmy had a very definite Jamaican songwriting style, and this was
pre-Bob Marley, so nobody was really hip to the Jamaican sound that much.
Here I am, going there with a different brand of feeling.
They were readily adaptable to it.
When an artist would come in, what our job was, to us,
is to become their band.
They were able to change who they were
depending on the artist that walked in the door.
That was the true genius of it.
# I can't say what life will show me
# But I know what I've seen
# I can't say where life will leave me
# But I know where I've been
# Tried my hand at love and friendship
# But all that is past and gone
# This little boy is moving on... #
The song Sitting In Limbo was such a fresh piece of music that you
couldn't help but notice it.
# Sitting in limbo... #
And so definitely the Swampers, all white guys,
played their role in bringing reggae to the forefront of the public.
# Sitting in limbo, limbo, limbo... #
It was after those sessions that Chris Blackwell had the idea
to link them up with Steve Winwood.
When we were going through our formative years,
I started hearing this Southern soul music.
And, of course, I didn't really have any concept of Muscle Shoals
or the musicians or their background when I was first hearing this music.
I just knew that the music had something very special for me,
so when we actually got to work with them,
it was an amazing experience for us.
# Sometimes I feel so uninspired... #
Recording with Traffic was a very strange thing.
It was, erm... To me, it was strange.
Of course, Traffic weren't a mainstream band at all.
We would try and take elements of
rock, jazz, folk music,
all sorts of different ethnic folk music.
Our own particular name for it was "headless horsemen music".
# But don't let it get you down... #
They didn't go about recording the way that we were used to.
At that time, I was trying to be real precise.
Traffic was the exact opposite.
"It sounds terrible, let's play it anyway.
"It might not ever sound good, but let's play it."
It wasn't an immediate easy marriage.
But as time went on, I started, I guess you might say,
opening up a little bit.
I was forced to learn how to jam again.
The song that stands out for me off that album is
Sometimes I Feel So Uninspired.
What Muscle Shoals did to that song was truly spectacular.
They brought these rhythmic elements
and harmonic elements that we could never have reached.
And then Chris Blackwell says,
"Well, we'd like for you guys to go on the road with us."
And so we go out and play with Traffic at these big venues
-and 20,000 people.
-We were just thrilled that they agreed.
But, of course, they'd actually never been on the road with anyone.
There were times when Jim and I and Chris would get together
and sort of worry, say,
"Are we corrupting these guys' minds in that their music
"possibly came out of some sort of innocence?"
We suffered a certain amount of guilt for that.
Musicians are pretty noted for the gypsy life, moving around and playing
a different venue every night, but we really liked our family life.
When I first started in music,
I had visions of New York and Los Angeles and travel different places.
And the more I've done that,
the more I've realised that this is the best place.
It is my home and I love it here.
We had many opportunities to move our operation,
but we thought people would come to us.
Why would we have to go to them when they would come to us?
# Sometimes even now When I'm feeling lonely and beat
# I drift back in time and I find my feet
# Down on Main Street... #
I'm going to tell you, working with Bob Seger
was just magnificent, really was.
He was the kind of guy that he had no ego.
# Down on Main Street... #
And Main Street's one of my really favourite cuts.
Seger really put his heart in that one.
Most of the people in Detroit and the Muscle Shoals people
thought they were talking about the Main Street of their town.
We had a ten-year run with it,
that we were at least doing half the album each time we put out an album.
The studio just started taking a life of its own.
Stars fell on Alabama,
and everybody who was anybody came to record at that studio.
# When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
# It's a wonder I can think at all... #
When we really got moving in the '70s, we were doing,
like, 50 albums a year.
It was one of the best rooms I've ever worked in.
The sound was like the perfect sound, it was the sound that
you'd been going for everywhere else but couldn't get.
That's why it became the place where everybody wanted to record.
# I got a Nikon camera
# I love to take a photograph
# So, Mama Don't take my Kodachrome away... #
We were very fortunate to get to work with a lot of the big stars.
Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Boz Scaggs, Staple Singers.
Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, I mean, I can just name you a list.
-Carlos Santana, John Prine.
RB Greaves, JJ Cale.
Dire Straits, Simon & Garfunkel.
# Mama, don't take my Kodachrome
# Mama, don't take my Kodachrome
# Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away... #
Still amazes me today that all that music was played by us guys,
a lot of that music was hits.
You look back and you see the discography,
we're as amazed as anybody.
My whole life has been based on, er, a lot of it rejection.
And, to be honest with you, I think
rejection played a big role in my life, because...
..I thrived on it.
I wanted to prove the world was wrong and I was right.
I was rejected by my mother.
I was rejected by schoolmates because I was poverty-stricken.
As I grew older, I was rejected by Atlantic Records with Jerry Wexler.
I don't think I've ever been more angry than I was at Jerry Wexler
and the Swampers who left me at that time.
It was bitter.
But that all passes with time. Those things change.
Our respect for Rick Hall is never-ending.
He was our mentor.
He gave all of us an opportunity
that we would never have gotten without him.
We all got our start working with Rick Hall.
Rick is really the founder of the music business in Muscle Shoals.
These are guys that I love with all my heart, and we've worked together
for years, who wanted, like I did, to become special in the music business.
Because they've played on so many of these wonderful hit records,
they will take their place in the history of American music.
That's the great thing about recording.
From thereon you're immortal because it's in the grooves, right.
Everything that everybody done here, it came from their heart,
and that's what made Muscle Shoals so powerful.
What music built there
is not something that you can see with your eye.
In fact, if you look at the recording studios,
they were humble shells.
But what they contained was an empire
that crossed race and creed, ethnicity.
It was revolutionary.
I'm honoured to step in the place of people who I wish I could have met.
There's still a piece of Etta here, a piece of Aretha here,
there's a piece of everybody who walked through these doors.
There's a perfect storm here.
Everybody needs to know all the different nuances that
went into making this thing happen and all the stars aligning
and it exploding the way it did.
I'm just so proud to be from this area and to see everything
that is to come out of this incredible singing river.
I am honoured.
# Well, I'm pressing on
# And I'm pressing on
# And I'm pressing on
# To the higher calling of my Lord
# Can't you see that I'm pressing on?
# I'm pressing on
-# Pressing on
-I'm pressing on
# To the higher calling of my Lord
# Shake the dust off your feet
# Hey, don't look back
# Nothing gonna hold you down
# There's nothing you lack
# Temptation's not an easy thing
# Adam gave the Devil reins
# And because he sinned I've got no choice
# It runs in my veins
# But I gotta keep pressing on
# On and on and on and on
# I gotta keep pressing on
# I'm gonna keep pressing Pressing on
# To the higher
# Higher calling of my Lord
# I gotta go higher
# I gotta go higher
# I'm gonna go higher
# To the higher calling of my Lord
# I know somebody Somebody feels what I'm saying
# Somebody knows what I'm going through
# Oh, don't you wanna go higher?
# I know you wanna keep pressing on Yeah
# To the highest calling of the Lord... #
MUSIC: "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Ronnie had always talked about the guys at Muscle Shoals,
then when we wrote Sweet Home Alabama,
the last verse says, "Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers."
I went, "Ronnie, what is that, Swampers?"
He goes, "Oh, that's Jimmy and Roger and the guys in Muscle Shoals."
# Now, Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
# And they've been known to pick a song or two
# Yes, they do! #
We were given that name by Denny Cordell,
who was the producer with Leon Russell.
I think he just thought it sounded good, you know,
cos Muscle Shoals, there's a lot of water here.
You gotta have a name, and Swampers is a good nickname.
# Sweet home Alabama
# Lord, I'm coming home to you... #
There's two guitar solos in that song, one short one,
one very long one, and they both came to me in a dream,
absolutely note for note.
All the transition points, the fingering, the chord voicings.
I woke up out of the dream, picked up the guitar and it was done.
# Now, Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
# And they've been known to pick a song or two
# Yes, they do
# Lord, they get me off so much
# They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
# Now, how 'bout you?
# Sweet home Alabama Oh, sweet home, baby
# Where the skies are so blue And the guv'nor's true... #
When you hear musicians, five or six of 'em in a room,
and you hear the imperfections, that's the human element.
If a guy falls off of the stool who's playing the drums,
I really don't give a shit, as long as he don't miss a beat.
He can get back up and climb back up, and most people,
including myself, think that's great.
That's the human element, there's faults.
So, the imperfections gives it the human element,
which I believe is what we need today more.
And that's how you make magic and great records. Amen.
That's my sermon for the day, by the way.
Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals in Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the 'Singing River', as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time.
At its heart is Rick Hall, who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming poverty and tragedy, Hall brought black and white together in Alabama's cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations. Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals's magnetism, mystery and why it remains influential today.