The 1966 Percy Sledge tune When a Man Loves a Woman was recorded in FAME Studios in the tiny North Alabama town of Muscle Shoals.
FAME Studios was established in 1959 and over the next two decades it and its successor/competitor Muscle Shoals Sound Studios (MSS) created much of the sound track of our (mainly Rick’s) youth. That Muscle Shoals Sound is recognized in the above lyric from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song Sweet Home Alabama.
Yesterday we borrowed the Florence Marina courtesy car, crossed the Tennessee River to nearby Muscle Shoals, and were treated to an excellent docent-guided tour of MSS where hundreds of top-selling albums and hit singles were recorded.
After the “Muscle Shoals Sound” became known through recordings of artists like Percy Sledge, Etta James, and others, world-renowned musicians made the pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals for southern country/soul/funk and the unique sound of MSS and the Swampers. Here are a few examples of the top artists and songs recorded with the Swampers at FAME or MSS:
- Duane Allman, who with brother Gregg later formed the Allman Brothers Band (guitar player for many artists below)
- Clarence Carter (“Slip Away”)
- Joe Cocker
- Arthur Conley (“Sweet Soul Music”)
- Bob Dylan
- Aretha Franklin (“I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”)
- R.B. Greaves (“Take a letter, Maria”)
- Allison Krauss (“Come and Go Blues”)
- Lulu (“Oh Me oh My, I’m a Fool for you Baby”)
- Linda Ronstadt
- Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Free Bird”)
- Paul Simon (“Love me Like a Rock”, “Kodachrome”)
- Art Garfunkel (“My Little Town”)
- Willie Nelson
- Wilson Pickett (“In the Midnight Hour”, “Mustang Sally”)
- James and Bobby Purify (“I’m Your Puppet”)
- Leon Russell
- Boz Scaggs (“Loan me a Dime”)
- Bob Seeger (“Old Time Rock and Roll”)
- Percy Sledge (“When a Man Loves a Woman”)
- Rolling Stones (“Brown Sugar”, “Wild Horses”)
- Staple Sisters (“I’ll Take You There”)
- Rod Stewart
- Cat Stevens
This was an unexpected surprise, a trip down memory lane, and inspired me to get a Muscle Shoals Sound playlist going!
Friday afternoon we left the dock at Florence Marina for a 25 mile cruise up the Tennessee River, through the Wilson Lock (with a 100 foot lift, the highest lock east of the Rockies) and the Wheeler Lock, to Joe Wheeler State Park for the Fall 2019 America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association Rendezvous.