On October 28, FAME Records - the original home of The Muscle Shoals Sound -will relaunch with the release of the eighteen track collection 'The Best of Jimmy Hughes.' It's an appropriate partnership, as Hughes' epic soul classic "Steal Away" was the first recording made at FAME Studios and the inaugural release on the original FAME label in 1964.
'The Best of Jimmy Hughes' makes most of these songs available for the first time in the digital age. It also shines a light of one of soul music's great untold stories.
Hughes grew up near Muscle Shoals, in the town of Leighton, AL, where he learned to sing in church, and joined a gospel group called the Singing Clouds before deciding to give soul music a shot. Like many soul legends, Hughes mixed the sacred and the secular in his own work, and it's been noted that "Steal Away" - the story of a late-night rendezvous between two young lovers - bears a striking resemblence to the gospel anthem "Steal Away to Jesus."
When Hughes recorded "Steal Away" - in one take - at FAME Studios in 1964, owner Rick Hall instantly knew he had a hit on his hands. He had only to convince the rest of the country. Hall remembers that with an idea from then 15-year-old friend and legendary songwriter Dan Penn, "we pressed up some 45 RPM records, borrowed a Ford Fairlane station wagon, bought two cases of vodka, and hit the road on a holy mission to transform 'Steal Away' into a hit record." Hall and Penn traveled to radio stations across the southeast, including Memphis, Tupelo, Little Rock, New Orleans, and Mobile, leaving a copy of 'Steal Away" and a bottle of vodka at every stop. "Miraculously, that's all it took," says Hall. "Each and every one of them played the new Jimmy Hughes record."
Jimmy Hughes himself picks up the story. "I resigned from my job [at a rubber factory] in April, 1964, and started touring. I went out with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Bobby Womack, when he was with his brothers, and so many other people. I played the Apollo and many other theaters. I was working with people that I'd [previously] paid to see!"
But Hughes eventually grew weary of life on the road, and retired from the music business by the early 1970s. He worked for the government for twenty five years, making parts for nuclear power plants in the Tennessee River Valley. Today, Jimmy Hughes still lives in Leighton, AL, and still sings in church most Sundays. But his recordings live on, and the sound he helped create - The Muscle Shoals Sound - has had an influence beyond anything he or Rick Hall could have imagined.
ABOUT FAME: Located at the crossroads of country, rock and soul, FAME was founded in 1959, in Florence, AL (FAME is an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) as a publishing company. In 1960, Rick Hall moved the facility across the Tennessee River, to Muscle Shoals, AL. Since then, FAME has earned worldwide renown as the birthplace of The Muscle Shoals Sound hosting such music titans as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Duane Allman, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard and many others. The studio remains a destination facility to this day, and last year Bettye Lavette and Heartland released Grammy-nominated albums recorded at FAME. Hall founded FAME Records in 1964 as an outgrowth of the studio and released music by soul legends Candi Staton, Dan Penn, Clarence Carter, Arthur Conley, The FAME Gang and many others before mothballing the label in 1976. FAME Publishing has earned multiple Song of Year awards from The Grammys, ASCAP and others, and published songs recorded by country superstars such as Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride and Alabama. Songs recorded or published by FAME have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. FAME Recording Studios, FAME Records, FAME Publishing, House of Fame and Muscle Shoals Records are members of the Muscle Shoals Music Group.