Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is an American recording studio in Sheffield, Alabama, formed in 1969 by four session musicians known as The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.[2] They had left nearby FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals to create their own recording facility.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Original studio at 3614 Jackson Highway, Sheffield
Location3614 Jackson Hwy., Sheffield, Alabama
Coordinates34°46′4″N 87°40′26″W / 34.76778°N 87.67389°W / 34.76778; -87.67389
Architectural styleEarly commercial
NRHP reference No.06000437[1]
Added to NRHPJune 2, 2006
1979-2005 location, 1000 Alabama Avenue in Sheffield, Alabama (34°46′12″N 87°42′24″W / 34.7700°N 87.7067°W / 34.7700; -87.7067)

They attracted noted artists from across the United States and Great Britain. Over the years, artists who recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio included The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman, George Michael, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Tamiko Jones, Cher and Cat Stevens.





The four founders of the studio, Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson and David Hood, were session musicians at Rick Hall's FAME Studios; they were officially known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section but widely referred to as "The Swampers,"[3] who were recognized as having crafted the "Muscle Shoals sound" in conjunction with Hall.[4]

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was the first group of musicians to own a studio and to eventually run their own publishing and production companies. They provided musical backing and arrangements for many recordings, including major hits by Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and the Staple Singers; a wide range of artists in popular music also recorded hit songs and complete albums at the studio. They had first worked together in 1967 and initially played sessions in New York and Nashville before doing so at FAME. Their initial successes in soul and R&B led to more mainstream rock and pop performers who began coming to record at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, including the Rolling Stones, Duane Allman, Traffic, Bob Seger, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Dr. Hook, Elkie Brooks, Millie Jackson, Julian Lennon, and Glenn Frey.

3614 Jackson Highway


The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section partnered with Jerry Wexler, who provided start-up funding[5] to found Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield.[6] The concrete block building, originally built around 1946, was previously a coffin showroom.[7]

Cher's sixth album was titled 3614 Jackson Highway (1969) and this became the informal name for the studio in 1969.

The first hit to the studio's credit was R. B. Greaves' "Take a Letter Maria". By December 1969, the Rolling Stones were recording at this new location for three days.[8]

1000 Alabama Avenue

The 1979-2005 location, now the home of Cypress Moon Studios

The studio at 3614 Jackson Highway closed in April 1979, relocating to a larger updated facility in Sheffield located at 1000 Alabama Avenue. This location operated until it was closed and sold in 1985 to Malaco Records, Tommy Couch's Jackson, Mississippi-based soul and blues label, which also bought the publishing rights held by the Muscle Shoals Sound. Malaco used the Sheffield studios for its own artists, including Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Bland and Little Milton, as while continuing to operate its own facility in Jackson. The Rhythm Section, minus Beckett, worked with other studio musicians at Malaco Records and at other studios.[9] In 2005, Couch decided to close the Malaco studio on Alabama Avenue because he was having difficulty competing with more technologically advanced studios.[10]

After the closure of the 1000 Alabama Avenue location, the building was taken over by a movie production company.[11] In 2007, this location housed Cypress Moon Productions and the Cypress Moon Studio with functioning recording equipment, which was operating as a recording studio and was open for tours.[12]

Recent history


Although it was no longer a working studio in 2009 and 2010, the Jackson Highway location was rented for recording some or all of two Grammy-nominated albums. Band of Horses's third CD, Infinite Arms, recorded in part at that studio, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category Best Alternative Album.[7]

Ten tracks of Black Keys's sixth album, Brothers, were also recorded at 3614 Jackson Highway.[13] The album was nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. Two songs from the album, "Tighten Up" and "Black Mud", were nominated for Grammys: "Tighten Up" for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song and "Black Mud" for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Rolling Stone magazine placed the album at number-2 on its list of the Best Albums of 2010 and "Everlasting Light" at number 11 on its list of the Best Singles of 2010. The album was also featured on Spin magazine's Top 40 Albums of 2010.[citation needed]

Chris Stapleton recorded his Grammy winning single, "Cold" at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in December 2018 and received the Grammy in 2022 thus making the studio one that produces Grammy winning hit records once again.

Restoration and reopening


The original studio building on Jackson Highway, which had become an audio visual retailer and then an appliance store until 1999, changed ownership, the subsequent owner completing some renovations and retaining the old recording equipment, allowing for tours of the property.[14][15] The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 2006.[16]

In 2013, the documentary Muscle Shoals raised public interest in a major restoration of the studio,[17] and in June that year, the owner sold the property (without the historic recording equipment) to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, an organization that had been formed earlier that year with the goal of establishing a music museum in the historic building.[15][18][19][20][21] A large grant from Beats Electronics provided an essential $1 million. The state tourism director said that the 2013 Muscle Shoals film[22] had significant influence. "The financial support from Beats is a direct result of their film." Additional donations were made by other groups and individuals.[23]

The building closed when major restoration work began in September 2015, and reopened as a finished tourist attraction operated by the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation on January 9, 2017.[24] The interior is reminiscent of the 1970s, with relevant recording equipment and paraphernalia.[25][26] According to a journalist who was a recent visitor, the restored studio is impressive: "Muscle Shoals Sound's interior appears much as it did in its prime. ... Some guitars and amps. A Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano and black baby grand. The control room with recording console and analog tape machine ... There are isolation booths, for vocals, percussion and such..."[27]

The Alabama Tourism Department named Muscle Shoals Sound Studio as the state's top attraction in 2017, even before the Jackson Highway studio reopened.[24] Over 62,000 people from 50 countries and every state in the U.S. have visited since it opened for tours again in 2013.

The studio is a working recording studio at night. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys recorded a solo project in March 2017. Grammy winning producer Dave Cobb of Nashville recorded rockers Rival Sons in April 2017. Actor Kiefer Sutherland recorded with Swamper David Hood in May 2017. In 2018, Bishop Gunn released the first recording from the studio after the restoration, "Shine" from their album, Natchez. Donnie Fritts released tunes recorded at the studio on his June album, in conjunction with John Paul White and Single Lock Records.



Filmmaker Greg Camalier premiered his documentary film Muscle Shoals at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013.[22] It is about Muscle Shoals sound, and features Rick Hall, FAME Studios, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (Swampers) who had founded the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. The film includes interviews with Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Steve Winwood, Bono, Alicia Keys and many others.

Selected recordings

Album or song Artist Date US Pop chart[28] US R&B chart[29] Notes
3614 Jackson Highway Cher 1969
Boz Scaggs Boz Scaggs 1969 features Duane Allman playing guitar on several cuts
Take a Letter, Maria R. B. Greaves 1969, August 19, No. 2 No. 10
Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty Herbie Mann (Released 1970)
Brown Sugar The Rolling Stones December 2–4, 1969 (Released 1971) No. 1
Wild Horses The Rolling Stones December 2–4, 1969 (Released 1971) No. 28
Starting All Over Again Mel & Tim 1972, May No. 19 No. 4
I'll Take You There Staple Singers 1972 No. 1 No. 1
Kodachrome Paul Simon 1973 No. 2
Loves Me Like a Rock Paul Simon 1973 No. 2
One More River to Cross Canned Heat 1973
Don't Your Plums Look Mellow Hanging on Your Tree Big Joe Williams 1974 Willlams' last recordings
Atlantic Crossing Rod Stewart 1974–1975 (released 1975) "Sailing" was a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart
Breakaway Art Garfunkel 1975
"Katmandu" Bob Seger 1975 No. 43
No Reservations Blackfoot 1975
Flyin' High Blackfoot 1976
"Night Moves" Bob Seger 1976 No. 8
"Mainstreet" Bob Seger 1976 No. 24 (in 1977)
Izitso Cat Stevens 1976 No. 7 (in 1977)
"Torn Between Two Lovers" Mary MacGregor 1976 No. 1 (in 1977)
Street Survivors Lynyrd Skynyrd 1977
"Old Time Rock and Roll" Bob Seger 1978 No. 28 (in 1979) ranked number two on the Amusement & Music Operators Association's survey of the Top 40 Jukebox Singles of All Time in 1996
Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album Lynyrd Skynyrd 1971–1972 (Released 1978)
"Gotta Serve Somebody" Bob Dylan 1979 No. 24 1980 Grammy winner
Pleasure and Pain Dr. Hook 1978 No. 66
Sharing The Night Together Dr. Hook 1978 No. 6
When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman Dr. Hook 1979 No. 6
Sometimes You Win Dr. Hook 1979 No. 71
Better Love Next Time Dr. Hook 1979 No. 12
Sexy Eyes Dr. Hook 1980 No. 5
Take What You Find Helen Reddy 1979 (released 1980)
Valotte Julian Lennon 1984 No. 9
"Careless Whisper" George Michael 1983 Not the hit version, this was released as a b-side on a UK special 12" and on the Japanese 12"[30]
Brother Cry of Love 1993 Three of the album's songs reached the top twenty of the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart[31]
Brothers Black Keys 2009 (Released 2010) 2011 Grammy Award winner

See also



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ "Alabama Music Hall of Fame: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section". Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  3. ^ Westergaard, Sean (2017). "Artist Biography". AllMusic. AllMusic, RhythmOne group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. often affectionately called "the Swampers" are widely regarded as one of the most important American recording studio "house bands" emerging in the golden age of rock and soul.
  4. ^ "Muscle Shoals". Muscle Shoals the Movie. Ear Goggles Productions Ltd. 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2017. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white musicians together to create music that would last for generations while also giving birth to the unique 'Muscle Shoals sound' and the rhythm section 'The Swampers'.
  5. ^ Simons, Dave (January 30, 2009). "Tales From the Top: The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers". BMI. Broadcast Music, Inc. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  6. ^ "HISTORY - It's In The Water". MS Musicfoundation. MS Musicfoundation. 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. In 1969 Rick Hall's house band, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, left FAME and partnered with Jerry Wexler to found Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield..
  7. ^ a b Carl Wiser (June 6, 2012). "ARETHA TO THE BLACK KEYS: THE MUSCLE SHOALS STORY". Song Facts. Songfacts, LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. they called Noel Webster and blocked off two weeks at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, arriving with a truckload of Neill's gear in August.
  8. ^ Simons, Dave (January 30, 2009). "Tales From the Top: The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers". BMI. Broadcast Music, Inc. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Rolling Stones arrived for an impromptu three-day session in December and proceeded to put the renegade studio on the map.
  9. ^ "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - 1995 Induction (Lifework Award) 2008". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 2008. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  10. ^ "Historic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios Closes". Billboard. Billboard. February 23, 2005. Retrieved January 17, 2017. the last four years saw a sharp decline in outside projects. When computer and hard-disk recording really got cheap and better at the same time, it just knocked the socks off a lot of studios, [Muscle Shoals] included," he says. It was just a very difficult thing to compete with.
  11. ^ Carl Wiser (June 6, 2012). "ARETHA TO THE BLACK KEYS: THE MUSCLE SHOALS STORY". Song Facts. Songfacts, LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017. they called Noel Webster and blocked off two weeks at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, arriving with a truckload of Neill's gear in August.
  12. ^ "Cypress Moon Studio Historic Site". Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama Travel. 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Muscle Shoals Sounds moved from it's [sic] original location in 1978, converting this former Naval Reserve building on the Tennessee River to a multi-studio complex. Many internationally known artists recorded gold and platinum records here. The building now houses a film production company with the historic recording studio still in use.
  13. ^ Simons, Dave (October 10, 2011). "Mark Neill on the Making of the Black Keys' 'Brothers'". BMI. BMI. Retrieved January 17, 2017. truckload of period gear culled from Neill's personnel collection
  14. ^ Berry, Luch (June 20, 2013). "Foundation purchases original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, which recorded Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and more". AL Business. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Noel Webster, who has owned the property the last 10 to 15 years
  15. ^ a b Corey, Russ (June 21, 2013). "Foundation purchases 3614 Jackson Highway". Times Daily. Florence, Alabama. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  16. ^ James Baughn; et al. (2017). "Muscle Shoals Sound Studio - Also known as: 3614 Jackson Highway". Landmark Hunter. Landmark Hunter. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Reference number06000437
  17. ^ The Associated Press (December 31, 2016). "Alabama's top tourist attraction 2017: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  18. ^ McMillen, Lynn (June 20, 2013). "3614 Jackson Highway, the Deal Is Done". Quad-Cities Daily.
  19. ^ Berry, Lucy (June 20, 2013). "Foundation Purchases Original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Which Recorded Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and More". Birmingham News. Advance Publications.
  20. ^ Editor, Matt McKean Photo. "Historic recording console arrives at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". Retrieved March 11, 2017. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  21. ^ Terry, Breken. "Muscle Shoals Sound Studio restoration on track". Retrieved March 11, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ a b "Muscle Shoals". Muscle Shoals the Movie. Ear Goggles Productions Ltd. 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  23. ^ Palmer, Robert (August 6, 2015). "Beats to renovate iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios". Times Daily. Florence, Alabama. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  24. ^ a b Jay Reeves, The Associated Press (January 3, 2017). "Fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio named top Alabama tourist attraction of 2017". National Post. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  25. ^ The Associated Press (December 31, 2016). "Alabama's top tourist attraction 2017: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2016. has been revamped with a 1970s feel that includes bright colors, retro chairs and a metal ashtray; the sign over the front door is once again bright blue. Vintage recording equipment fills the production booth.
  26. ^ Scharf, Lauren (January 9, 2017). "Recording, tours resume at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". Fox 10 TV. WALA, Mobile. Retrieved January 16, 2017. When we were closed down during renovations, people would just show up from all over the world.
  27. ^ Wake, Matt (December 19, 2016). "Muscle Shoals has (still) got The Swampers: What music legends' lives are like now". Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Recording at the studio will be offered on a limited basis
  28. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1992). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books. ISBN 978-0823082803.
  29. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of TOP 40 R&B and Hip Hop Hits. Billboard Books.
  30. ^ Russ Corey. "Solo version of 'Careless Whisper' recorded in the Shoals". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  31. ^ Whitburn, Joel (January 15, 2008). Joel Whitburn Presents Rock Tracks 1981-2008. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9780898201741 – via Google Books.