The Flexing of Muscle Shoals

22 Jun

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.


Little Richard



Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley

Patches – Clarence Carter




Aretha Franklin

Chain of Fools



Percy Sledge

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?


Posted by on June 22, 2007 in Travels


18 responses to “The Flexing of Muscle Shoals

  1. brc

    June 22, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Music Maven WE MISSED YOU! So sorry about your mishap. Bummer that it will keep you from some of your summer plans. At least you had a nice pedicure 🙂

    I still have to go back and review the musical portion of your post but wanted to send my wishes for a speedy recovery.

  2. mouser

    June 22, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Hey honey…. get someone to carry you to the Taylor Hicks concert . YOU CAN’T MISS THAT ONE .

  3. AgingHippie

    June 22, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Hey Maven,
    [find myself wanting to use your name from other lands] so very sorry about your accident – hate those tall bar stools, they always feel like a precarious perch – and missing Taylor’s concert just adds insult to injury – would be delighted to have you come play with us in the northeast in August – fly into Portland and go with us to the RI show then back to Portland show the next night – fly out Monday – the “bus” still has room for one more passenger !

    Am still absorbing all the info you shared – the concert the Mavis Staples & Joss Stone video is from was on Dish’s high def concert channel Rave a while back – it was very good – much prefer that Joss to the reinvented one.

    Seems I still agree with about everything you say – it is too bad that the young artists aren’t supporting those studios – and I will state it flat out – Taylor should give a massive amount of thought to recording at least part of his next album in those historical venues along with the Ray Charles studio. Wonder if he gets to make that kind of decision on his own yet ?

    Will be thinking of you on Monday. Take good care of yourself.

  4. Laurita

    June 23, 2007 at 4:36 am

    omg, dd, what an amazing post- you’re too much!
    hopefully over the weekend i’ll have time to get back to these videos you posted.. but just wanted to also send you a hug and empathy right away (yeah, been there, done that!)

    meanwhile, though, you gotta get to that concert and somehow have a sympathetic Taylor autograph your cast, and then mount it on red velvet and frame it!

    P.S. now that our dear Monkbot has moved (at least temporarily) to Fiji, i hope to hang out here with you more often (that is, til i start law school in August – yikes! but i’ve decided to allow myself an hour every weekend for the BB, your site and whatever else I can fit in…) 😉
    thanks for being here!

  5. Laurita

    June 23, 2007 at 4:39 am

    P.P.S. I just noticed that Ben (at FAME) and I share the same last name.. maybe I’ll look him up someday and see if we’re related!

  6. jenfera

    June 23, 2007 at 6:46 am

    Oh dear! Poor Maven. Well, I am glad you had a good time on at least part of your trip. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping for a speedy recovery.

    Now I have Sweet Home Alabama firmly stuck in my head. I always wondered about that line! I figured it was just some nice beach in Alabama. Thank you once again Maven for enlightening us.

  7. music maven

    June 23, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for all of your thoughts and good wishes. I’m sure things will get much better after next week and may provide me some more time for a few posts I’ve been thinking about.

    AH…you are so right on the young artists. I think that there are a few, like the Hackers, but utilizing this format down “at the roots” would be very kewl and appropos….besides there’s great golf there and it’s short 2 hour drive to B’ham.

    While Taylor is an obvious choice, Joss, Toby Lightman, Marc Broussard and others could also utilize the Muscle Shoals facilities to kun-NECK ™ back to “soul” from the past. REAL music recording.

    As for missing my summer activities, it’s just one of those things. I’ll just have to make up for it later. I was going to try to convince Mr. D. to take me to the Taylor concert Labor Day Weekend at The Wharf, so maybe he’ll now take pity since I can’t go in July. 🙂

  8. Historia

    June 23, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Music maven,

    I just now found your web site through a google alert. I will try to visit here more often as from our short comments on other boards have proven we are very similar in our musical preferences. Of course I am making the assumption you remember me from other boards. I have always found your posts very interesting, and am quite happy to have found this blog. Thanks for the info about the Swampers, always wondered about that line from Lynard Skynard.

    Sorry to hear about your mishap, and might I add that is a “view” I have also seen twice in the last 5 years. I think clumsy is a sign of intelligence. What a price we pay. =) LOL Get well soon, and good luck with the surgery. Play lots of music, it is a great painkiller.

  9. music maven

    June 23, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Historia — Welcome. Yes, I remember you from Gray’s and BB. Glad to have you here.

    Great suggestion on the music. I’ll have to make sure that my iPod is fully charged.

  10. shrewspeaks

    June 23, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Take two ain pills and watch This

    and if that doesn’t work…this must

  11. music maven

    June 23, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Gah….that guy looks so familiar, ‘cept forget the sock…can’t do that yet.

  12. CHERYL

    June 25, 2007 at 6:39 am

    Hey girl:

    Don’t let a little leg mishap keep you from seeing Taylor! Oh yeah, get a little sympathy and get that baby signed by Mr. Soul himself!

    You gotta go!

  13. morewines

    June 26, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Ouch! Take care of yourself.

  14. pjbottoms

    December 21, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks for a nice virtual tour of Florence and Muscle Shoals, Alabama! Hope your back on both feet soon! (Ouch!)


  15. Sarah Graham

    December 3, 2010 at 2:42 am

    when summer comes, our summer activity ranges from kayaking to mountain climbing and also hiking too :~,

  16. Clayton Clay

    September 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    At the moment I came across the web for exactly these types of details. Thank to your publish that seek has to finish right this moment. You wrote the posting within a easy to understand way. With that, I included your websites among my personal favorites! Regards!


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