R.I.P. the "King of Muscle Shoals" Rick Hall

(January 2, 2018) He was one of the great “behind the scenes” heroes in the emergence of both southern soul and country music over several decades. Today we mourn the death of record producer, songwriter, music publisher Rick Hall at age 85. The “Father of Muscle Shoals” was a fixture in the music scene through his FAME Records and FAME Studios, where he worked with classic soul artists such as Joe Tex, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and many, many more.

(January 2, 2018) He was one of the great “behind the scenes” heroes in the emergence of both southern soul and country music over several decades. Today we mourn the death of record producer, songwriter, music publisher Rick Hall at age 85. The “Father of Muscle Shoals” was a fixture in the music scene through his FAME Records and FAME Studios, where he worked with classic soul artists such as Joe Tex, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and many, many more.

Hall had his first songwriting successes in the late 1950s, when George Jones recorded his song "Achin', Breakin' Heart", Brenda Lee recorded "She'll Never Know", and Roy Orbison recorded "Sweet and Innocent". In 1959, Hall helped set up a new music publishing company in the town of Florence, Alabama, to be known as Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, or FAME. Hall then set up FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where one of his first recordings was Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On". The commercial success of the record gave Hall the financial resources to establish a new, larger FAME recording studio.

In 1966, he helped license Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman", produced by Quin Ivy, to Atlantic Records, which then led to a regular arrangement under which Atlantic would send musicians to Hall's Muscle Shoals studio to record. The studio produced further hit records for Wilson Pickett, James and Bobby Purify, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding, and Arthur Conley, enhancing Hall's reputation as a white Southern producer who could produce and engineer hits for black Southern soul singers.. He produced many sessions using guitarist Duane Allman. He also produced recordings for other artists, including Etta James. 

In 1969, FAME Records, with artists including Candi Staton, Clarence Carter and Arthur Conley, established a distribution deal with Capitol Records. Hall then turned his attention away from soul music towards mainstream pop, producing hits for the Osmonds, Paul Anka, Tom Jones, and Donny Osmond. Also in 1969, another FAME Studio house band, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, affectionately called The Swampers, left the FAME studio to found the competing Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, with start-up funding from Jerry Wexler. Subsequently, Hall hired the Fame Gang as the new studio band.

Hall's FAME studio prospered through the 1970s. In 1971, Hall was named Producer of the Year by Billboard magazine, a year after having been nominated for a Grammy in the same category. His focus for most of the 70s and 80s was country music, and he recorded many of the genre’s biggest stars.

In 2014, Hall was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award. Hall published his memoirs in a book titled The Man from Muscle Shoals: My Journey from Shame to Fame, in 2015.

 

Portions of this article are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Rick Hall.

 
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