I just finished watching the music documentary Muscle Schoals. It is an amazing movie which tells the story of a small rural town in Alabama with a magical connection to the best music ever recorded and the story of FAME studios and Rick Hall, the hard-working producer and owner. This man is the American dream. Coming from abandonment, crushing poverty, and tragedy, he built the studio and the reputation of Muscle Schoals to a world-class studio churning out hits for Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Etta James, Jimmy Cliff, Lynryd Skynyrd, Traffic, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Candi Stanton, Allman Brothers, and many more. Some of America’s best-loved songs came out of this tiny river town in Alabama like “When A Man Loves A Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” “Brown Sugar,” and too many others to list.
I didn’t know that one of my favorite Aretha Franklin songs, “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You,” was recorded there and this song and album was what catapulted her to global stardom. The intro lines were played by long time FAME Recording Studio keyboardist Spooner Oldham. Aretha launched into the song, they had the cut in about 10 minutes and from that point on she was the Queen of Soul.
If you love American soul music, classic rock music, or music history, put this documentary on your list and get on it. I actually started taking notes during my viewing. One of my favorite songs is “Sweet Home Alabama” which is where my title reference comes from. The Swampers were the nickname given by Leon Russell to the set of studio musicians who started out with Rick and recorded some of the most beloved songs of our time.