Well, I’m back from vacation. I’ve got plenty to tell, so I’ll start at the beginning.
We went up to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to play a little golf at The Shoals, voted one of the top 10 public golf courses in the U.S. Located on the Tennessee River near Wilson Dam, the lush landscape provides a wonderful and tranquil backdrop for two wonderful 18-hole courses.
We had a wonderful time at Marriott’s Shoals Resort in Florence, Alabama. Florence is the birthplace of Sam Phillips, rock pioneer and owner of Sun Studios in Memphis.
Sam discovered Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison, among others and is considered one of the Godfathers of Rock & Roll. This historical plaque was erected in his honor at the entrance to The Shoals resort. While we did explore the musicality of the area, first we played golf. The Shoals overlooks the Tennessee River and we had wonderful weather on Monday to play. Here’s a picture of Mr. D. and me on the 18th tee.
We had plans to play again on Tuesday, but the area received a few inches of much needed rain, as they haven’t had ANY since April. Therefore, we decided to explore Muscle Shoals a little and see if we could find some of the recording studios that helped to define “the Muscle Shoals sound”. For those of you who are unaware, Muscle Shoals served as a respite for many artists in the ’60s and ’70s to get away from the over-production of New York and L.A. and get back to the music and “real” recording. NPR did this excellent piece on Muscle Shoals and it’s contribution to some of the most ground-breaking music in Rock.
FAME Studios , started by Rick Hall over the City Drug Store, is one of the studios that artists chose to create music the old-fashioned way. These artists came to Muscle Shoals because there was a plethora of background musicians, beautiful scenery and literally, nothing else to do but create innovative music in this dry county. Click here for a complete list of artists who recorded at FAME. Some of these artists are also exhibited in photos at the Marriott Resort’s Grill.
Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley
Patches – Clarence Carter
Chain of Fools
When a Man Loves a Woman
FAME is still a working sound studio. When we stopped by, we met Ben Tanner who graciously showed us around the building whose walls contain some of the best music ever recorded. I got the same feeling in the studio as I do when I go through Graceland. There’s just an aura there…you can just feel the talent.
Inside the FAME Studios
Framed Etta James album jacket on the studio wall.
Ben Tanner shows us the control booth.
The Muscle Shoals Sound is attributed to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section who played out of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and were known as “The Swampers”. Forever immortalized in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama…”In Muscle Shoals, they got the Swampers…..” The Swampers were comprised of Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Jimmy Johnson and provided back-up music for artists like The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Cher, Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Paul Simon, The Staple Singers, Bob Seger, Wilson Pickett, and Traffic. David Hood’s site gives a good run down on the kinds of artists that they provided back-up to and here are some of the most famous. David’s son, Patterson, is part of the group Drive-by Truckers.
We stopped by the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio but it was closed, however here is a picture of another bastion of music glory.
More Muscle Shoals recordings:
I’ll Take You There - The Staple Singers
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon
Interestingly, both Angela and Zac Hacker (Winners in the Nashville Star contest) are now recording out of FAME Studios along with Gary Nichols and James LeBlanc, an up and coming Country artists.
Unbroken Ground – Gary Nichol with James LeBlanc
So, after our little music research tour, we headed back to the resort and to enjoy some libations and the view at the 360 Restaurant, that resembles a miniature Seattle Space Needle. The weather was starting to clear and we thought we’d enjoy the sunset from this elevated perch.
Here are a some views from the top:
It was absolutely gorgeous. We got into a lovely discussion with an older couple from Birmingham who were also visiting the resort. He was one week shy of his 90th birthday, as his wife very proudly let me know (more than once). We also had a great conversation with the bartender, Will.
Mr. D and Bartender Will.
We were having a very nice discussion and a nice glass of Frei Brothers Chardonnay, when I looked across and “saw” this picture. I had to capture it for my good friend, Shrew.
Now, what happened next was unfortunate and cut our trip short by two days. I had my feet on the bottom rung of the tall bar stool. I put the palm of my hand on the corner of my seat to “scoot back” in my seat. When I did the back legs of the stool slipped on the hard wood floor and down I went. Normally, this would have been only a humiliating faux pas that we could all laugh about. However, this time, my right leg ended up behind me and my ankle turned completely underneath itself and my full weight fell right on top of it. I literally saw stars but thought it was only a bad sprain, yet when I tried to walk on it, I couldn’t put any pressure or weight on it without some pretty significant pain.
We went back to our room (via wheelchair) and ordered room service. We woke up early the next morning (Wed.) and drove the 6 hours back to Mobile, complete with ice packs and Ibuprofen. Went straight to the Emergency Room where an X-Ray showed a fracture of my right fibula just above the ankle. They splinted it and referred me to an orthopedist on Thursday. That appointment showed that the fracture was actually pushing part of the fibula into one of my ankle joints and will require out-patient surgery on Monday to correct. Here is my current view.
Worse thing is that I will not be able to put ANY weight on this leg for six weeks. That means that I’ll have to give up my trip to see Taylor Hicks in Louisiana in July and no July 4th trip to the beach. Also, for the next week or so, my posts may be sporadic — this one took all I have for a while. I really am doing okay other than the nagging ache and soreness from the crutches. And, all in all, I really enjoyed the Muscle Shoals trip.
I couldn’t help but wonder why some of today’s artists, particularly those who are allegedly “all about the music” aren’t knocking down the doors at FAME or Muscle Shoals Sound to record there. I think there’s at least one new “Soul” artist that could really make a splash by recording in his home state where his “idols” once recorded. And, if Marc Broussard is the self-proclaimed epitome of Soul, why ain’t he in Muscle Shoals? And Joss Stone? Amy Winehouse? Amos Lee?
Wouldn’t the best “retro” come from flexing some muscle with The Swampers in the Shoals?