Hub and I traveled to the Northwest area of Alabama last week. Neither of us had spent much time in that part of the state, so we were ready to take it all in. First of all, thank you to my fellow weirdos for all of your support and recommendations whilst in the area. We loved exploring the "Shoals", and one particular attraction was top on our list. We had to see the Sound Studios.
This tiny little building holds a musical history so rich, it made our music-loving geek hearts skip a beat just pulling into the parking lot. It was formed in 1969 by four session musicians who later were called The Swampers. They left the nearby FAME studio to start their own recording business. Their funky, Southern bluesy-rock style attracted acts from all over the world. It is now a museum decked out in 70s style with pictures and memorabilia from days gone by. Who recorded there, you ask? The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Paul Simon, Glenn Frey, and Lynyrd Skynyrd just to name a few. If only the walls could talk.
The tour guide was impressively knowledgable and shared stories that left us in awe. "WOW" was uttered more than once. The piano in the center of the room was the exact one that the familiar notes in "Old Time Rock & Roll" were played. Did I touch the keys that so many artists have tickled? You know I did. The vocal booth recorded Mary MacGregor singing "Torn Between Two Lovers". I stood in the same spot and imagined what it might have been like to record a Billboard hit in such a legendary space. The Stones were there three days, recorded three hits including "Brown Sugar", and left without anyone knowing they were even in town. Mick Jagger wrote "Wild Horses" on the toilet. This made for an interesting photo, but hub could not miss out on that piece of history. Lynyrd Skynyrd scripted an entire verse about the musical geniuses from the Shoals. The Swampers have been associated with more than 500 recordings, and were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. We were in music lovers paradise.
After purchasing a t-shirt, we drove up the road and stopped by FAME studios. Although we couldn't get in because someone was recording, I had to snap a picture of the building where "Steal Away" was produced. Aretha, Etta, the Allman brothers, Mac Davis, The Dixie Chicks, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Third Day and many others have walked through its doors and created many songs we know and love. There is nothing fancy about this building, but the sounds produced there are nothing short of amazing.
The Shoals area did not disappoint. The people are friendly. The landscape is beautiful. The towns are squished together and we often did not know which one we were in at the moment. The music history will leave you with goosebumps if you stop for a moment and take it all in. We will be back. After all, we haven't gotten to tour FAME yet. Who knows whom we might see there? The swampy sounds of the Shoals have attracted artists from all genres to its humble studios. It's a far cry from the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, and they like it that way. So do I.
Here's my gallery from the Shoals studios. The weird and wonderful vibe was strong here. I liked it. I liked it a lot.