After I completed my tour of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, my next stop would be at the FAME Studios. FAME is the place that started it all for the music scene in Muscle Shoals. It was started by a man named Rick Hill. He is still active in the day to day operations of FAME. Any of the other studios that had success in Muscle Shoals were, in one way or another, spin-offs from his studio. Aretha Franklin recorded her first successful album there. Wilson Pickett also had several hits that were recorded in this studio. The Osmonds, Mac Davis and Jerry Reed are among the names of famous people that recorded at this studio.
This is still a working recording studio and they have 2 rooms where they record. There is an area between the rooms where the tour started. The walls are filled with pictures of the more famous artists that have recorded there. I noticed a couple of things about the artists that they mentioned. In general, the musicians that recorded at FAME don’t have a lasting “cool” factor like the ones that had recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The other thing I noticed is that the hits recorded at FAME were a lot bigger at the time than the recordings done at Muscle Shoals. Love him or hate him, Mac Davis had really big hits that were probably bigger at the time than what the Rolling Stones were doing. This is probably one of the reasons that FAME has lasted longer as a stable business. That said, it was interesting that the people giving the tours at FAME talked more about the more hip artists that have recorded there. A lot of time was spent talking about Duane Allman and Wilson Pickett recording together there.
Studio B has been there for many years but is the more recent addition to the building. Before it was a studio, it was an area of the building where artists hung out and wrote music. Studio A is the older area and they tell you it’s where all of the hits were recorded. The ceiling of the room had a square pattern that looked like it stopped but was really open above. We were told that this gives the room its distinctive sound. They said this was especially good for drums. There was a drum kit set up in the center of the room and a grand piano, Wurlitzer electric piano and a Hammond B-3 organ against the wall. They took us into the sound booth where there was a Neve mixing board. We were told that this was not the original board that was used. That one is in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. The tour guide told us that his favorite thing in the building was a tape of Duane Allman out-takes that was on the shelf in this room. I also noticed a little Stonehenge model sitting on one of the monitors in this room. It was probably the smaller than the one that Spinal Tap had for their stage show but just the right size for this studio.
There is a documentary called “Muscle Shoals” that was released last year that covers the history of music in that area. I wanted to get a copy but they only had at DVDs at either place I had visited and I preferred Blu-Ray. When I left FAME, I went to their local Walmart and found a copy. As of this writing, I have still not seen the movie. I still recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the music of this area. Hopefully it will correct any mistakes I have made about these facilities.
My trip wasn’t over. After I ate lunch, I would go to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller