I am a real aficionado of rock docs, and director Greg "Freddy" Camalier's Muscle Shoals covers the story of FAME Studios in--you guessed it--Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The studio is right along the banks of the Tennessee River, which is also known as the "Singing River." Native American folklore claims that musical spirits live in the river and that their talents spread to all who believe!
|Muscle Shoals Movie Poster|
The movie was the result of a spur of the moment road trip by Camalier. He tells me, “I was driving with my friend and I said, ‘Either we go one direction and go to Graceland or we go the other and go to FAME Studios in Muscles Shoals’!” Camalier spent four years tracking down studio owner Rick Hall, now 81, and many of the great musicians who recorded there including Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono and more (their commentary, and in some cases, footage of them recording at FAME, are included in the film).
|Rick Hall, Owner of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Taken on Press Day NYC|
|Muscle Shoals City Limits Sign|
These days, Hall's three sons are actually running FAME. New talent is still discovered by the Hall brothers all the time, just like Duane Allman was discovered in the late 60s and went on to play on sessions by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and others. "Duane camped outside for weeks," Hall says. "And I finally said, 'Show me what you got.' And you know that he was an incredible player. Later, the Allman Brothers recorded some of their best material at the studio and I will tell you that to this day they are my favorite group I have worked with."
Muscle Shoals is a film you will want to see a second and third time not only to take in the stories behind the bands, but to hear Hall’s tales of building the studio and putting together mighty session players. This is footage you will never see anywhere else (unless someday Hall makes it into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and it’s used during the induction ceremony). Particularly fascinating and amusing are Keith Richards' tales of recording such Stones classics as "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses" in the studio. He claims in the film that it was the only time he has been in a studio "with perfect sound." Hall does not discuss what mischief and mayhem the band got into while in Muscle Shoals but admits that he stayed out of their hair and let them do things their way. "The studio was indeed still in one piece when they left," he chuckles.
|FAME Studios Musicians and Staff|
Photo of Rick Hall with Muscle Shoals movie poster by Anne Raso; stills courtesy Magnolia Pictures