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Rick Hall, “Father of Muscle Shoals Music,” has died

Rick Hall with Clarence Carter (photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)
Rick Hall with Clarence Carter (photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Songwriter, musician, record producer, and founder of Muscle Shoals, Alabama’s FAME Studios, Rick Hall has died at age 85. From the Alabama Music Hall of Fame:

Born in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and raised in the Freedom Hills region of Franklin County, Hall began his professional career playing fiddle with the Country Pals. The popular group performed at square dances and hosted their own weekly regional radio show in Hamilton. Hall scored his first songwriting successes when George Jones recorded his song “Aching Breaking Heart” and Brenda Lee cut the Hall composition “She’ll Never Know.”

While they were both living in Phil Campbell, Hall and fellow musician Billy Sherrill became songwriting partners and later formed their own rock ’n’ roll and R&B band, the Fairlanes. After Roy Orbison cut the Hall/Sherrill composition “Sweet and Innocent” in 1959, the duo accepted an invitation from music enthusiast Tom Stafford to move to the Muscle Shoals area and launch a new publishing company – Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (FAME) – above the City Drug Store in downtown Florence. In 1960, the partnership dissolved and Hall took the publishing company to Muscle Shoals, where he established his own studio in a candy-and-tobacco warehouse on Wilson Dam Road.

A year later, Hall produced “You Better Move On,” written and recorded by Sheffield singer and hotel bellhop Arthur Alexander. The single climbed to No. 24 on the pop charts in 1962, giving Hall the proceeds to custom build his all-new FAME Recording Studios on Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals. From there, his national success continued with Tommy Rowe’s “Everybody,” the Tams’ “What Kind of a Fool Do You Think I Am?,” Jimmy Hughes’ “Steal Away,” Joe Simon’s “Let’s Do It Over” and Joe Tex’s “Hold What You’ve Got.”

Songs recorded at FAME include Wilson Pickett’s “Land of a Thousand Dances” and “Mustang Sally,” James and Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” and “Do Right Woman (Do Right Man),” Clarence Carter’s “Slip Away,” Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” and Otis Redding’s “You Left the Water Running.”

Rest in peace, Rick. The music you made and helped make lives on. FAME and Rick Hall were the focus of Greg Camalier’s 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals which you can rent from most streaming platforms. Watch the trailer for that, as well as an interview with Camalier, plus listen to some Muscle Shoals classics, below.

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