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The legendary Muscle Shoals studio defined the sound of Southern soul before becoming one of the go-to studios for the biggest names in music.

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The sleepy town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, would become the unlikely destination for America’s greatest recording artists, churning out classic hits like Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves a Woman”; “I Never Loved A Man” by Aretha Franklin; “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones ; and “I’ll Take You There” by The Staple Singers.

On the bank of the Tennessee River, about halfway between Memphis and Atlanta, lies the town of Muscle Shoals. To the casual observer, Muscle Shoals is just a quiet Alabama town, surrounded by verdant countryside and bordered by the vast Tennessee River. Men and birds alike fish in the river, as the sun beats down on the swampland where alligators wait. The Yuchi Indians called the Tennessee “the river that sings.” Legend told of a woman who lived in the river and sang songs that protected her people.

Home to some of the greatest records in history

In 1924, Wilson Dam was completed, destroying the hazardous shoals that gave the new town and its neighborhood its name. Life in Muscle Shoals is slow – it can feel as though time has stood still there. It’s not a big town – population some 13,000 – and yet it’s home to some of the greatest records in the history of popular music.

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Blues pioneer WC Handy and Sam Phillips , who would famously discover Elvis Presley , Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash , came from close by. Muscle Shoals was in many ways the home of the blues, the home of rock’n’roll, and the home of soul music, even if the Alabama pioneers had to journey to the relatively more pluralistic city of Memphis , Tennessee, in order to bring the music they loved to a wider audience.

Helen Keller was another local. As the blind singer Clarence Carter commented, “Helen Keller was from Muscle Shoals and it was always amazing to me the things she was able to accomplish being blind and deaf.” Famously, the first word that Keller learned was “water” – the well where she learned the word is a famous landmark. Everything from Muscle Shoals comes back to the water that sang.

Rick Hall and the beginning of FAME Music

Rick Hall grew up in a house with a dirt floor in the nearby Freedom Hills. “We just kind of grew up like animals,” he recalled. When he was still a boy, his three-year-old brother died in a tragic accident after falling into a tub of scalding water as their mother was doing the washing in the backyard. His parents’ marriage collapsed in the aftermath, each blaming the other. Before long, his mother left the family, taking up work in a house of ill repute. She never saw her son again. Unsurprisingly, this chain of events had a profound impact on Hall, who became determined to make something great of his life.

The death of his first wife in a car accident hit Hall hard, and he turned to the bottle. He lost himself in drink and in music, joining a local band and writing songs in the car he now called home.

Hall struck up a songwriting partnership with another local musician named Billy Sherrill when the pair played together in a band, and they began selling their songs to the likes of Brenda Lee and Roy Orbison . Together with a local hunchbacked young businessman, they formed a publishing company. The three young men set up an improvised recording facility above a drugstore in nearby Florence, Alabama, in order to demo their songs. This was the beginning of FAME Music (FAME standing for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises).

After less than a year, however, Hall had fallen out with his partners, and he was let go. According to Hall, the problem sprung from him being too much of a workaholic, when his partners wanted to have fun: “I was so very aggressive and fired up,” he told Peter Guralnick, author of the definitive account of soul music in the south: Sweet Soul Music .

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section

When Hall returned to Muscle Shoals, it was with a determination to immerse himself in the business of making records. Backed by his new father-in-law, Hall built a studio in an old warehouse. A chance encounter with a young singer-songwriter called Arthur Alexander led to Hall’s first hit, “You Better Move On,” which made it to No.24 on Billboard ’s Hot 100 in early 1962.

Soon FAME studios began to attract musicians and songwriters looking to make a name for themselves, Dan Penn, Donnie Fritts, and Percy Sledge among them. But as Hall began to establish a reputation and scored more hits, the regular musicians he had been using grew tired of their poor wages and left. Hall’s second house band would, however, prove to be worth their weight in gold. With Jimmy Johnson on guitar, David Hood playing bass, Roger Hawkins on the drums, and Spooner Oldham playing keyboards, the group came to be known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or The Swampers.

Percy Sledge: When A Man Loves A Woman

Percy Sledge recorded “When A Man Loves A Woman” in nearby Sheffield, Alabama, in a studio owned by Hall’s friend, local DJ Quin Ivy, backed by a number of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. When he heard it, Rick Hall recognized that it sounded like a No.1 hit. Hall called Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in New York and struck a deal (taking a share of the royalties as a finder’s fee).

Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman (Live)

Percy Sledge worked in the local hospital, singing to his patients to help them sleep. “When I came into the studio I was shaking like a leaf, I was scared,” he later said of recording “When A Man Loves A Woman.” He was unskilled in the art of making records, “All I had was a voice, I didn’t know about no singing.” But Hall had been right, and the song went to the top of Billboard ’s Hot 100 in 1966. It took Southern soul to the mainstream, and blew the game wide open, putting the Muscle Shoals sound very firmly on the map.

“When A Man Loves A Woman” forged a partnership between Hall and Wexler, with the might of the latter’s Atlantic Records label put behind Hall’s productions. Having fallen out with Jim Stewart at Wexler’s southern recording spot of choice, Stax Records, he turned to Hall to cut his records in the south.

The Muscle Shoals sound

The Muscle Shoals style fused hillbilly, blues, rock’n’roll, soul, country, and gospel, to create a sound that cherry-picked the best features of each to forge something new. They close-mic’d the kick drum, and the FAME recordings pumped with heavy bass and drums. But the playing was light and loose, the songs melodic and full of stories. And, through it all, was deep passion and grit.

One of the first acts Wexler sent to Muscle Shoals was Wilson Pickett. “I couldn’t believe it,” Pickett told journalist Mark Jacobson. “I looked out the plane window, and there’s these people picking cotton. I said to myself, ‘I ain’t getting off this plane, take me back north.’ This big southern guy was at the airport [Rick Hall]… I said, ‘I don’t want to get off here, they still got black people picking cotton.’ The man looked at me and said, ‘F__k that. Come on Pickett, let’s go make some f__king hit records.’ I didn’t know Rick Hall was white.”

When Wexler came to FAME, he was shocked by the laidback nature of the sessions. He was used to working with the country’s finest session players, who would sight-read from charts, knocking out hits in a highly professional manner. But things were different in Muscle Shoals. Here the musicians were local guys who looked like they worked in a warehouse or supermarket. And yet, as he quickly realized, these were smooth and funky players, musicians who cut a groove to rival any in the land. Pickett and Wexler were bowled over and sold on the sound they had going on.

It’s worth remembering that this all took place against a backdrop of the civil-rights struggle, and blatant racial aggression. In 1963, the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, had stood in front of the Foster Auditorium at the University Of Alabama in a vain attempt to block the enrollment of black students. In the recording studio, however, blacks and whites worked together blind to the color of each other’s skin. But when they took a break and stepped out of the studio, racism hung on every corner.

Sessions with Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin had failed to make an impact in five years recording for CBS, so after the label dropped her, Wexler snapped her up and took her to Muscle Shoals in 1967. She and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section struggled at first to find a mutual groove, but once they hit it, everything changed. The first song they recorded at FAME together was “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” and it would become Franklin’s first hit record.

Musician and songwriter Dan Penn recalled, “Less than two hours and it was in the can and it was a killer, no doubt about it. That morning, we knew that a star had been born.” Keyboardist Spooner Oldham, whose keyboard introduction set the scene for the song, backs this up: “Of the hundreds of sessions I have participated in, I can honestly say those first few sessions with Aretha Franklin were simply and magically unforgettable.”

But just as the magic was working, so did tempers flare. Ted White, Franklin’s husband and manager, got into a drunken exchange with a trumpet player, and then fought with Hall, before leaving town. Wexler blamed Hall for the session breaking up, and swore to never set foot in Muscle Shoals again.

However, Wexler had the Muscle Shoals musicians flown to New York, where the album I Never Loved A Man the Way I Love You was completed. It was a partnership that created a phenomenal run of hits. The album they created remains one of the greatest in soul music history.

Hall, in the meantime, hooked up with the Chess brothers in Chicago, with Leonard Chess arranging to bring Etta James to FAME. Hall produced her hit 1968 album Tell Mama at Fame. James was struck by Hall’s feel for the music: “Rick Hall was actually the first white man that I had seen that had that kind of soul, that was an engineer and was soulful, you know?”

Tell Mama

Enter the Allman Brothers

A combination of loyalty to Hall and superstitious belief in his studio brought Pickett back to Muscle Shoals in late 1968, despite Wexler’s refusal to work with Hall again. And the sessions would introduce the talents of a young guitar player called Duane Allman. After injuring his elbow in a horse-riding accident, Allman had turned to bottle-neck guitar playing in his reduced mobility. He took to the style instantly (Hall later remarked that he’d never heard anybody play slide guitar like Duane). But while the rest of the white musicians were clean-cut, Allman had hair past his shoulders, huge sideburns, and a Mexican-style moustache, and was dressed in tie-dye, flower patterns, and scruffy denims.

Jimmy Johnson recalled, “There was always a slight problem when we would go out, all of us white boys with a black artist, that we’d get looks . But there was nothing as bad as going out with a long-haired hippy with us white boys. They couldn’t stand that! And so both of them [Allman and Picket] stayed back.”

It was while the others were out to lunch that Allman suggested to Pickett that he cut a cover of “Hey Jude.” Both Pickett and Hall thought Allman was crazy to want to cover The Beatles , but the finished record would be one of the greatest covers of any Beatles song, as well as one of Wilson Picket’s most powerful recordings (not to mention a huge hit). On hearing Allman’s playing on the record, Eric Clapton was knocked out: “I remember hearing Wilson Pickett’s ‘Hey Jude’ and just being astounded by the lead break at the end. I had to know who that was immediately – right now.”

Hey Jude

Various musicians that hung around at FAME began to jam together with Allman, and that was the genesis of The Allman Brothers Band . But Hall couldn’t see a future in the sound they had developed, which would be the bedrock of all Southern rock, and decided against recording them. As he told writer Peter Guralnick: “I didn’t know what to do with him and finally Phil [Walden, booking agent] said, ‘Look, you’re not doing anything with him. Why don’t you sell him to Wexler, maybe get your bucks back?’ Wexler says, ‘What will you take for the masters and the contract? I’ll only give you $10,000.’ I said, ‘Write me the check.’ I still laugh about it with Phil. Of course, I lost five to ten million on that venture.”

Building Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

The times were very much a-changing by now, however, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section decided that this was the right moment to tell Hall that they were going into business in direct competition with FAME. Hall had called them into his office to sign them up to an exclusive contract on the terms of his new deal with Capitol Records. He remembered, “One of the guys stopped me and said, ‘We’ve already made a deal with Jerry Wexler and he is going to build us a studio across town. We’ll be leaving here, going with him.’ I felt like the whole bottom of my life had fell out… it was war. Total war.”

From their point of view, the musicians had reached the end of their patience with the way Hall operated. The new Capitol deal was worth a reported $1 million, but Johnson claimed that Hall was offering the musicians just $10,000 each per year – despite each having earned almost double that amount the year before. Hall himself admitted that he may have shot himself in the foot: “I should have gone partners with them or cut them in for a piece of the action, but I think I had really come to believe that I could take any group of musicians and cut hit records. I just wasn’t smart enough, or I was too engrossed in what I was doing, to realize differently.”

And so it was that the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was founded at 3614 Jackson Highway, Sheffield, Alabama, in 1969, by Barry Beckett (who had replaced Spooner Oldham on keyboards in 1967), Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson, and David Hood. The musicians had taken a gamble, as Hood recalled: “When we bought the studio we were very nervous about whether or not we’d have any hits. And you have to have hits to keep recording.” But Wexler saw to it that their new venture had a steady flow of talent through the door. As Johnson explained to Guralnick, “We just built the business from clients Rick threw out the door. Atlantic loaned us $19,000 to make the transition to eight-track, modify the console, and we owed $40,000 on the loans that Fred [Bevis, landlord] had gotten on the buildings and the improvements. That was $60,000, and we were scared to death, but for some reason we just went forward.”

Jerry Wexler’s Atlantic guaranteed them work for 18 months, but when he decided he wanted to move his soul music operation to Miami, and the Muscle Shoals players weren’t prepared to follow, that was the end of their relationship with Wexler. “That was a scary time,” Johnson recalled with not a little understatement. The studio remained afloat, thanks in part to session work for Stax Records.

The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers

It took the best part of year for things to take off, but in early December 1969, The Rolling Stones booked into the studio to kick off what would become their Sticky Fingers album. Keith Richards explained that it was match made in heaven: “The sound was in my head before I even got there. And then, of course, when it actually lives up to it and beyond, then you’re in rock’n’roll heaven, man.”

The band took advantage of being in blues territory to cut Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move,” before tackling their own “Wild Horses.” Richards testified to how effortlessly well the sessions went: “I thought it was one of the easiest and rockin’-est sessions that we’d ever done. I don’t think we’ve been quite so prolific ever. I mean, we cut three or four tracks in two days, and that for the Stones is going some.” “Brown Sugar” rounded off their stay at Jackson Highway, and Richards says that had it not been for legal issues preventing him from re-entering the country, they would have recorded Exile On Main St there as well.

Brown Sugar (Remastered 2009)

The boon the studio got from the Stones’ sessions can’t be underestimated. Muscle Shoals became the 70’ Funk Factory, while at the same time attracting the biggest names in pop and rock, from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel to Rod Stewart to Elton John .

Feuds, Freebird, and The Fame Gang

The feud between Hall and Wexler meant that both studios had to up their game. Over at FAME, Hall put together a new band, dubbed The Fame Gang, and recorded hit records with Joe Tex, Tom Jones , The Osmonds, Candi Staton, Bobbie Gentry , King Curtis, Little Richard, Paul Anka, Bobby Womack, and Clarence Carter. In 1973, Rick Hall was named producer of the year after records he’d made topped the Billboard pop charts for an extraordinary 17 weeks.

At the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, they picked up Lynyrd Skynyrd , whose epic “Freebird” would become known as a modern-day Southern Rock anthem. But they were unable to secure a label for the record, and it would be the source of great regret for the studio that they had to let the band go, shortly before they become huge. However, following the tragic plane crash that killed three of the band, the survivors had the Muscle Shoals sessions put out as an album titled Skynyrd’s First And… Last . The Muscle Shoals guys were immortalized in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legendary single “Sweet Home Alabama”:

Now Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers And they’ve been known to pick a song or two (yes they do) Lord they get me off so much They pick me up when I’m feeling blue, now how ’bout you?

Sweet Home Alabama

The go-to studio for the biggest names

The Muscle Shoals sound may have been born out of R&B, but by the 70s, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were showing their adaptability across a number of genres. Acting as the house band at their studio, they gave Jimmy Cliff ’s reggae a southern twist. They worked with Traffic on the album Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory before heading out on tour with them – the first time members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section had gone on the road. But it was in leaving Muscle Shoals for the bright lights of the live circuit that they discovered quite how much they valued their sweet life at home in Alabama.

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio became the go-to studio for the biggest names in music. Bob Dylan ’s Slow Train Coming , Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon , Boz Scaggs, Joe Cocker , Rod Stewart , The Staple Singers, Leon Russell, Millie Jackson, Dire Straits, Dr. Hook, Cat Stevens , Bob Seeger, Elton John , Willie Nelson , and Julian Lennon all recorded there over the next decade.

In 1979, the studio moved to larger premises at 1000 Alabama Avenue, where it remained until it was sold, along with the Muscle Shoals Sound publishing rights, to their friend, Tommy Crouch of Malaco Records in 1985. Beckett headed to Nashville to work as a producer, while the remaining three members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section continued to record at their old studio, as well as proving to be among the country’s most in-demand session players.

Today, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and the FAME Studio both continue to operate as working studios, as well as being popular tourist attractions, offering daily tours of the restored facilities. Among the more recent artists to record in Muscle Shoals are Drive-By Truckers, Band Of Horses, Bettye LaVette, Phish, Greg Allman, and Cyril Neville.

Though the split between Hall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section angered Hall like nothing else in his life, through the passing of time, they became close again. The musicians would credit Hall with having started the Muscle Shoals sound. For his part, Rick Hall later said of them simply that, “These are guys that I love with all my heart.”

Looking for more? Discover more about the most legendary recording studios of all time .

John norman

May 5, 2019 at 10:18 am

We had jackdon hy for two years and the magic was still there something Bout the place .. . It had an energy about it j think it was just in the walls… Or maybe the roof that leaked so bad.. lol yep its in the water….

May 5, 2019 at 2:20 pm

Thank you for this wonderful article – well written and, like the 2013 film, it’s packed full of interesting info. Such a rich musical history. When my brother was there gigging a couple of years ago he was inspired by ‘the river that sings’ and wrote this song called ‘Set Me Down by the Singing River’. https://soundcloud.com/tony-james-shevlin/set-me-down-by-the-singing-river I’ve only just discovered your work, Paul, and am reading all your other articles with relish. Great work!

John Edward Ambrose

February 2, 2020 at 6:32 am

Great–Great–article! Thank you for inspiring me to learn more of the Studios and Muscle Shoals, and the life that breathes throughout the South, and those walls and leaky roof! Haha I’m 60 years old and never knew how much of a strong impact I would learn today!–This day!Feb 1 2020 I have had a feeling of something inside of me for all these years, didn’t know what it was and now I get it,-it all makes sense and I feel it…Thanks to all of you for the Sound the Life and Groove, The Swampers Breathe!!…Thanks for Your Energy…

Joe DeFilippo

July 15, 2022 at 6:55 pm

Muscle Shoals-Musical tribute (NEW) Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/hillipsand/muscle-shoals

January 9, 2024 at 4:30 am

I couldn’t agree more! The history of Muscle Shoals Studio is truly fascinating and has played a significant role in shaping the sound of American music. As a musician myself, I’m always intrigued by the stories behind the creation of iconic songs and the studios that brought them to life. This blog post does an excellent job of highlighting the impact of Muscle Shoals Studio on the music industry and its influence on artists across multiple genres. Thank you for sharing!

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Billy Idol - Rebel Yell LP

I Discovered Alabama's Coolest Legacy On The Muscle Shoals Music Studio Tours

muscle shoals fame studio tours

Lisa Battles

Lisa has traveled the U.S. for over a decade, seeking out and sharing the stories of its most interesting places, people, and experiences. A journalism graduate of Auburn University, she has been a content strategist, editor, and writer for more than 25 years. Lisa has worked in community news, PR, and marketing with a focus on tourism, hospitality, and economic development. Besides following her curiosity around every corner, she's a devoted dog mom of two and advocate for animal welfare.

More by this Author

A funny thing happened on the way to a sandwich shop I hoped to try. While the sandwich didn’t happen, I instead got lost and made the most of it with my first of two Muscle Shoals music studio tours. When I realized I was on the wrong highway and headed toward Florence, I checked the time. “Why not catch the last scheduled tour of the day at 3614 Jackson Highway?” I thought. This was the first location of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and one of three studios there I had been meaning to visit.

muscle shoals fame studio tours

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muscle shoals fame studio tours

The Muscle Shoals music studio tours are definitely doable in a day if you choose. You can even add a couple more Muscle Shoals music attractions – the Alabama Music Hall of Fame  and the W.C. Handy Home & Museum. Another note: you can use Viator to book the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Tour ahead of time. Beyond these attractions, there are great restaurants, nature trails, and so many other things to do in Muscle Shoals. You’ll want to stay at least a night or two.

You can find detailed histories and other information about each of the studios and tours on the websites of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio , FAME Recording Studios , and Cypress Moon Studios . Have you done any or all of the Muscle Shoals Music studio tours? We’d love to hear about your experience and favorite stories from the tour.

OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

muscle shoals fame studio tours

Top ways to experience Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and nearby attractions

muscle shoals fame studio tours

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Muscle Shoals Sound Studio - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

  • (0.50 mi) Clarion Inn Sheffield
  • (1.98 mi) Hampton Inn & Suites Florence-Downtown
  • (3.74 mi) Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa
  • (0.92 mi) Muscle Shoals Music House
  • (0.32 mi) Coldwater Cafe
  • (0.61 mi) Champy's Famous Fried Chicken
  • (0.33 mi) Fiesta Mexicana
  • (0.43 mi) Singing River Bar and Grill
  • (0.35 mi) Chuck E. Cheese
  • (0.40 mi) Old Railroad Bridge
  • (0.33 mi) Oakwood Cemetery
  • (1.77 mi) Frank Lloyd Wright's Rosenbaum House
  • (2.46 mi) Ivy Green
  • (2.71 mi) Helen Keller Birthplace
  • Roadside Attractions
  • Small Towns
  • Hall Of Fames
  • National Parks
  • Theme Parks
  • Meet Bill On The Road


What You Need To Know About The Tours

Finding Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is easy! It’s located at 3614 North Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama. It doesn’t look like much from the road but it’s one of the most important buildings in music history! You can tour the studio throughout the year, Tuesday – Saturday. The guided tours begin on the half hour starting at 10:30AM with the last tour at 3:30PM.

Each tour of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio lasts about 30 minutes. You’ll learn a few fun facts about the studio and then you’ll have some free time to walk around and take photos.

muscle shoals fame studio tours

The History of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

The Muscle Shoals “Swampers” became famous as studio musicians down the road at FAME. FAME was the original Muscle Shoals recording studio and the first to bring in artists from all over the country that wanted the unique sound the legendary musicians were known for. Artists like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman and countless others recorded music in their studios.

Eventually, The Swampers (Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Jimmy Johnson) decided to open up their own studio and moved down the road a bit to Sheffield, Alabama. In 1969, they trademarked the phrase “The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section” and opened up their new studio in the tiny, unassuming building on Jackson Highway.

Over the years, The Swampers produced at least 50 hit singles in this new studio. The first hit was from artist R.B. Greeves called Take A Letter Maria . (The song hit #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was certified Gold.) Other hit songs record at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio included Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger; Kodachrome by Paul Simon; Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones; and I’ll Take You There by The Staple Singers.

muscle shoals fame studio tours

What You’ll See On A Tour of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

The studio itself is quite small and you’ll have access to see everything inside of it. The mixing board sits in a control room behind a large window that looks out into the main studio. Some of the original furniture (couches, chairs, etc) are still where they once sat during the studio’s heyday.

The instruments on display are mostly original as well. The piano, which is a focal point of the tour is probably the most significant item you’ll have the chance to see in person. This piano is where the song Free Bird, a huge hit for Lynyrd Skynyrd, was initially composed. It’s also the piano featured on Paul Simon’s Kodachrome. But its most famous notes are heard on Bob Seger’s hit song, Old Time Rock and Roll. The notable introduction of the song was not only played on that piano, it was also a mistake. It was never intended for the opening notes of that song to repeat a second time. Someone made an error in editing the tape after the session.

The bathroom at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is also a focal point. It was often used as an additional recording space for musicians. Keith Richards notably played guitar here while recording the hit song Brown Sugar. It’s also where he wrote the lyrics for their song Wild Horses.

The only notable difference in the studio is that the original shag carpet has been replaced.

muscle shoals fame studio tours

What Does A Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Tour Cost?

Currently, the cost to tour Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is $20. The tour lasts about 30 minutes.

Do They Still Record At Muscle Shoals Sound Studio?

Yes! Artists still use the famous studio to record, mostly for its incredible acoustics.

If you are a true music lover, you will absolutely appreciate and enjoy a tour of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. If you were a fan of 70s music, especially if you lived through that decade, you absolutely must visit the studio where some of its biggest hit songs were recorded. It’s an unforgettable experience and a bucket list moment for many who come from around the world to say they’ve stood in one of America’s most important recording studios.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama

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The Legendary Studios Behind the Music: FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound

by Alex Hopper August 20, 2022, 9:37 am

It happened a fair few times in the ’60s and ’70s that a top star would come down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama looking to tap into whatever mysterious forces were spawning classics like Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” and Jimmy Hughes’ “Steal Away.” For whatever reason, that little corner of the world was pumping out world-class hits—seemingly out of nowhere.

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The studio behind the magic was Rick Hall’s whole in the wall, FAME Studios. The unglamorous and unfettered establishment was home to a top-notch gang of session musicians, The Swampers (of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame), that put an unmistakable flare on everything they touched. The Swampers and Hall’s sharp production paired with the virtually distraction-free area went on to strike gold a number of times throughout the ’60s.

muscle shoals fame studio tours

After a disagreement spawned a Swampers-helmed offshoot, called Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the two studios shared in the great wealth of talent coming to the area, both becoming the backdrop for far too many great songs to focus on just one. Below, we’re going through 10 of the best songs recorded at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound.

1. “Mustang Sally”—Wilson Pickett

Though this R&B classic was originally recorded by Mack Rice in 1965, it saw greater popularity when Wilson Pickett covered it the following year.

Once FAME studios caught the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, he sent Pickett there to record “Mustang Sally” along with another one of his classic hits, “Land Of 1,000 Dances.” Pickett’s session of “Mustang Sally” nearly ended up on the cutting room floor —literally. After Pickett finished his final take, the tape flew off the reel and broke into pieces. The session engineer, Tom Dowd, then cleared the room and painstakingly pieced the tape back together, saving what would become one of the biggest soul hits of the ’60s.

2. “When a Man Loves a Woman” – Percy Sledge

Quite green to the recording process, Percy Sledge was a hospital orderly by trade when he stepped in front of the microphone to record “When a Man Loves a Woman” at Muscle Shoals Sound.

“At that time Percy had never sung on a record before,” says Jimmy Johnson, who recorded the session. “And the performance he gave was so pristine and so good that it was almost hard to believe that was his first time. I think he was pretty scared to death when he came there that day but it gets pretty lonely when you’re looking at some people in the control room as you’ve got a mic in front of you. But I tell you what, that vocal on there…”

3. “I’ll Take You There” – The Staple Singers

Producer Al Bell signed The Staple Singers to Stax Records in 1968. At that point, The Staples had moved away from protest songs and toward what they called “message music.” The first two albums under the Stax deal, Soul Folk in Action and We’ll Get Over , saw a lackluster response.

Bell decided to take The Staples to Alabama and let them record with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, aka The Swampers. It was during these sessions that the group found the sound that would make them stars and in August 1971, they recorded their hit “I’ll Take You There.”

4. “I’d Rather Go Blind” – Etta James

Etta James recorded both “Tell Mama” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” at FAME studios. Her sessions came at a time that the powerhouse vocalist was trying to curb heroin addiction. The move to the Muscle Shoals studio both kept her away from the temptations of life in the city and provided new musical inspiration.

muscle shoals fame studio tours

One of the Swampers, David Hood, recalls James nailing “I’d Rather Go Blind” in a single take saying, “It was a pretty simple song, but her performance was great and apparently our performances were good too.”

“I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Tell Mama” have gone on to be one of the most acclaimed double-sided single releases of the period and enduring hits.

5. “ Old Time Rock and Roll” – Bob Seger

Bob Seger recorded many of his iconic tracks with the Swampers backing him up. The session musicians sent Seger a demo of what would become “Old Time Rock and Roll” amid the recording sessions for his 1984 album Stranger in Town .

While the song was recorded, in part, back home in Detroit, it has that unmistakable Swampers rhythm section from the time spent at Muscle Shoals Sound, which ups the groove ante tenfold.

6. “ Preacher’s Daughter

As any Lynyrd Skynyrd fan knows, their first album, Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd , was released in 1973. However, die-hards will know that an entirely different album was set to be their debut—an album full of songs recorded in Muscle Shoals.

The early demos were recorded between 1971 and ’72 and were ultimately scrapped in favor of what would become Pronounced . For years, fans knew nothing of the recordings until a plane crash claimed the lives of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines. After the tragic accident, the surviving members released the Muscle Shoals recordings in their entirety on Skynyrd’s First and…Last.

One such song was the wailing “Preacher’s Daughter,” which highlights all the best of the original Skynyrd lineup. Not to mention they enjoyed their time in Muscle Shoals so much that they felt inclined to defend the state in what is arguably one of the biggest anthems of all time, “Sweet Home Alabama” – Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers / And they’ve been known to pick a song or two 

7. “The First Cut Is the Deepest” – Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart recorded his version of Cat Stevens’ classic “The First Cut Is the Deepest” at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Released as a double A-side single with “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” the cover became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. As with many other artists that visited the two Muscle Shoals studios, the sessions were transformative for Stewart’s sound in the mid-’60s

8. “Kodachrome” – Paul Simon

According to the Swampers , Paul Simon wanted to come to the Muscle Shoals Sound studio to record one song—”Take Me To The Mardi Gras”— after hearing “I’ll Take You There” by The Staple Singers. After nailing the song in one take, Simon and the Swampers were stuck figuring out what to do with the subsequent four days he had blocked out.

Simon eventually sat in the middle of the floor and began playing riffs on the guitar. “If you hear something you want to record, let me know, he said. Together they ended up picking out the honky-tonk-flavored “Kodachrome” along with over two-thirds of what would become his 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon .

9. “Wild Horses” – The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones took the trip down to Muscle Shoals for a three-day recording session that would result in three of Sticky Fingers’ most iconic tracks. Channeling the swampy music of the area, the Stones wrote and recorded “Brown Sugar,” “You Gotta Move” and the track we’ve chosen for this list, “Wild Horses.”

“Muscle Shoals Studio was in this rather interesting place. Being there does inspire you to do it slightly differently,” Jagger once said , crediting the studio for Sticky Fingers ‘ now-iconic sound. Departing from their usual blues-tinged material, on “Wild Horses” the Stones took a hard left into classic country music. With a simple acoustic riff in “Nashville tuning,” it seems the trip down south was worth it as it’s hard to imagine this song would have come from the Stones any other way.

10. “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” – Aretha Franklin

It’s hard to imagine a time when Aretha Franklin wasn’t clinching chart-topper after chart-topper. But that was indeed the reality before she visited FAME studios in 1967. Past producers had the Queen of Soul singing jazzy, pop hits that dulled her shine. Hall and the Swampers let her voice run free, resulting in Aretha finally finding the sound that would take her all the way to the top.

One song that resulted from the FAME sessions was “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You).” Despite a disagreement between Hall and Franklin’s then-husband, Ted White, ending the sessions early, the slow-burning number became the title track of her breakthrough album and gave the world its first taste of what was to come with Franklin – heart-pounding, core-shaking soul.

Photo: Atlantic Records

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Backstage Pass Studio Hours and Tour Times

For hours and tour times of the six featured venues please look below!

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio - 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM - Tuesday - Saturday with tours every hour on the half-hour 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30

Fame Recording Studios - Open for tours Monday-Friday at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM and Saturday from 10 AM - 2 PM, a tour every hour on the hour.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame - Open for tours Tuesday-Friday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM-4:00 PM

Cypress Moon Studios - Monday through Saturday, 11:00 AM-3:00 PM

W.C. Handy Birthplace + Museum - Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM

Swampers at the Marriott Shoals - 20% discount on food & beverage, excluding alcohol

Eric Sommer

Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios Sheffield, Alabama…

Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound: Three years ago I was playing a series of shows thru Alabama, Nashville, and Mississippi and I had an opportunity to swing through Muscle Shoals, Alabama , do some recording at Tommy York Studios and then head up to Berkeley Bob’s in Culman, AL with The Spook House Saints to get a bit of E Pluribus Spookum…

While working with Tommy York, I was able to meet and cut three sessions with probably the greatest of the Muscle Shoals Bass players, the fabulous Charles Robinson . David Hood was a Muscle Shoals institution, and one of the bass players who made Muscle Shoals what it became. Norbert Putnam was the original bass player at FAME with Jerry Carrigan , David Briggs , and etc who left to go to Nashville and become Chet Atkins and RCA’s 1st call rhythm section for many years.

I miss Tommy and Charles every day…

A Look Inside Music History

When I finished up, I swung back down to Muscle Shoals to take a look at Fame Studios , a legendary studio. It was the original home of the Allman Brothers Band, where they first came together as a band and had their first series of recordings. Duane Allman had been working there as a session guy and things sort of came into orbit around him.

When I was just starting out in Cambridge and Boston, I ran into some folks in Harvard Square who invited me to check out the back-up band for Bonnie Raitt , a local folk singer. I headed out to Central Square that evening and made friends with three guys rehearsing songs in a basement: Freebo, Will McFarland and I think it was Dick Waterman.

Studio Time is Cheap and Well Worth It!

Will ended up as a studio session guy in Muscle Shoals, and played for everyone doing everything everywhere! When I ran into Will ten years ago in Carrboro, NC at The Music Loft – now Twin House Music – he had moved to The Piedmont and become a Preacher or a Minister-type person… good for him! Then I heard he was back in Muscle Shoals but whatever, if you run into him, don’t forget to use your best no-four-letter-words English..!

Take the Tour… Amazing!

I had a wonderful afternoon getting the Fame Studios personal tour and I took these photos… the most striking thing was that the good folks at Fame had kept everything pretty much as it was – except for some technical upgrades.

We had met Greg Matthews from Legacy Music Marketing in Muscle Shoals, and he was the original owner of the Studio; he was a gracious, warm, and friendly human being, and died a short time after we met. He gave us a personal tour of 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield Alabam, even though he was very sick at the time.

Here’s the part of the story that is really exciting! Fame Studios was one of the big studios in town, but there was another one!

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a recording studio in Sheffield, Alabama formed in 1969 by four session musicians called The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (and affectionately called The Swampers) who had left Rick Hall ‘s nearby FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals to create their own recording facility. The group closed the Jackson Highway studio in 1979, moving the operation to 1000 Alabama Avenue. The old studio has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since June 2006. The studio, which is at 3614 Jackson Highway, was partly restored in the early 2000s and sold to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation in 2013. This group completed a major restoration and the location reopened on January 9, 2017. The Alabama Avenue location ceased operations in 2005 when it was sold to a record label.

The Concrete Bunker

The concrete block building at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield was built around 1946 and was previously a coffin showroom owned by Fred Bevis . It was converted to a recording studio in 1969 when a group of musicians called the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section decided to start their own operation in competition with the FAME Studios owned by Rick Hall . Over the years, artists who recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio included The Rolling Stones , Aretha Franklin , George Michael , Wilson Pickett , Willie Nelson , Lynyrd Skynyrd , Joe Cocker , Levon Helm , Paul Simon , Bob Seger , Rod Stewart , Tamiko Jones , and Cat Stevens . Cher’s sixth album was titled 3614 Jackson Highway (1969) and this became the informal name for the studio in 1969. The studio at this location closed in 1979, and the recording facility was moved to new premises at 1000 Alabama Avenue.

The Jackson Highway building had been partly restored and open for tours in 2013 when the documentary Muscle Shoals raised public interest in a major restoration of the studio. The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation was formed in 2013 to raise funds to purchase the building and to complete major renovations. In June 2013, the owner sold the property to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, without the historic recording equipment. A large grant from Beats Electronics provided an essential $1 million. The state tourism director said in August 2015 that the 2013 Muscle Shoals film had significant influence. “The financial support from Beats is a direct result of their film.” Additional donations were made by other groups and individuals.

As recently as August 2015, tours were visiting the partly restored studio on Jackson Highway. It was closed when major restoration work started in September 2015. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio reopened as a finished tourist attraction on January 9, 2017, owned and operated by the foundation. The interior is reminiscent of the 1970s, with relevant recording equipment and paraphernalia. There are plans to allow artists to record in the studio.

The Alabama Tourism Department named Muscle Shoals Sound Studio as the state’s top attraction in 2017, even before the Jackson Highway studio reopened.

Early history

The four founders of the studio, Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass), affectionately called The Swampers, but usually known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section , were one of the best-known “house bands” or session musicians . (The nickname “The Swampers” was given to the group by the music producer Denny Cordell during recording sessions for Leon Russell because of their “funky, soulful Southern “swamp” sound”.) They are referred to as “The Swampers” in the lyrics of “ Sweet Home Alabama ” (1974) by Lynyrd Skynyrd and appear on the cover of Cher’s 1969 album 3614 Jackson Highway .

Initially, they worked for Rick Hall , the founder of FAME Studios and they are recognized as having crafted the “Muscle Shoals sound” in conjunction with Hall.  After leaving Rick Hall’s FAME Studios, the four musicians partnered with Jerry Wexler who provided start-up funding to found Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield. 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.

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 , Traffic , Bob Seger , Elton John , Boz Scaggs , Willie Nelson , Paul Simon , Bob Dylan , Dr. Hook , Elkie Brooks , Millie Jackson , Julian Lennon , and Glenn Frey .

The studio at 3614 Jackson Highway closed in April 1979, becoming an audiovisual retailer and then an appliance store until 1999. The subsequent owner did some renovations and retained the old recording equipment, allowing for tours of the property.

The recording facility was relocated to updated and larger premises at 1000 Alabama Avenue in Sheffield in 1979. This location operated until it was closed and sold in 1985 to Tommy Couch’s soul and blues label Malaco Records , based in Jackson, Mississippi, 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.  In 2005, Couch decided to close the Malaco studio on Alabama Avenue because he was having difficulty competing with more technologically advanced studios.

Recent history

After the 1000 Alabama Avenue location closed in 2005, ending the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio era, the building was taken over by a movie production company. 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.

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

Ten tracks of Black Keys’ sixth album, Brothers , were also recorded at 3614 Jackson Highway. 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.

The four members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section who had founded the Sound Studio were inducted into the Nashville-based Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008 and into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995, “as four of the finest studio musicians in the world”, also receiving the Lifework Award in 2008. They had appeared on “more than 500 recordings, including 75 gold and platinum hits”.

The studio is open for tours Tuesday – Saturday. 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 did a solo project in March 2017. Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb of Nashville recorded rockers Rival Sons in April 2017. Actor Kiefer Sutherland recorded, along 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 Fritz recently released tunes recorded at MSS on his June album, in conjunction with John Paul White and Single Lock Records.

The fate of the Original Studio

The original studio building on Jackson Highway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 2006. In June 2013, the building was sold to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation whose goal was to establish a music museum in the historic building. The foundation extensively restored the building and the studio. It was reopened as a tourist attraction, with plans for recording as well, on January 9, 2017.

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…

Fade to Black…


Eric Sommer: About the Artist

“If there’s a place for musical perfection, it’s wherever you’ll find Eric Sommer – A blistering acoustic style plus a variety of slide and open tuning formats will knock you for a loop…” wrote Studdie Burns, New Melody Maker/UK in 2013. “How one guy can do this so well is remarkable, but if you look a little deeper there’s a batch of road miles around this lad… and it all makes sense.”

Eric started his musical career in the Boston area under the eye of legendary promoter Don Law and was onstage at The Paradise Theatre in Boston for a record 40 appearances. He has been a regular player on many national and international tours and showcases, and worked in Europe for two years with Nick Lowe and acts Bram Tchaikovsky and Wreckless Eric; during this period Eric worked on Danish, German and British rock stages, returned to Boston and formed The Atomics.

As a founding member of Boston’s legendary pop/new wave cult trio “The Atomics”, who toured non-stop with Mission of Burma, Gang of Four and The Dead Kennedy’s and were on the leading edge of several musical transformations, Eric never lost sight of his acoustic roots, returning to his heroes and mentors often: David Bromberg , Steve Howe(YES), Duane Allman (Allman Bros.), Bert Jansch , Davy Graham , Robert Johnson. Mr. Sommer’s current project with power trio “The Solar Flares” shake up Chet Atkins and David Bromberg’s influences with those of Randy Travis and British Rocker Elvis Costello – a remarkable mix.

And to keep track of it all, Eric started keeping notes, which evolved from napkin scribbles to paper and pen efforts, writing stories, making poetry and capturing the roads and bridges as they went by, plus people, places and… more people which become his notes, then become characters for songs, stories, and prose.

Eric currently has four volumes of verse, 5 studio albums, a LIVE in AUSTIN DVD as well as an electronica project titled “ The Smallest Particle ” and more on the way… this blog is an attempt to keep track of it all…


You can reach Eric directly at ericATericsommer.com and see more of his projects here on this website. Red Chairs, Black Pancake and Blue Turtle are all available here , as well as all current releases . Please share and comment below.

muscle shoals fame studio tours


muscle shoals fame studio tours

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Dickey Betts, hit-crafting mainstay of Allman Brothers Band, dies at 80

He was a founding member of the group and wrote and sang ‘ramblin’ man,’ which became the band’s only major top-10 success.

muscle shoals fame studio tours

Dickey Betts, the singer-guitarist who co-founded the genre-defining Southern rock group the Allman Brothers Band and wrote several of the group’s most enduring compositions, including “Ramblin’ Man,” died April 18 at his home in Osprey, Fla. He was 80.

His family announced the death on his website but did not cite a cause. His manager, David Spero, said Mr. Betts had cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He had been treated in 2018 for a brain injury following a fall in his backyard and canceled a tour following a stroke.

“Ramblin’ Man” (1973), which some bandmates initially deemed too country for their repertoire, became the group’s only top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The lyrics, set against a bouncy, upbeat melody, expressed the resigned and unrepentant wanderlust of a man “born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus rollin’ down Highway 41.” “When it’s time for leavin’,” the song went, “I hope you’ll understand that I was born a ramblin’ man.”

Mr. Betts wrote several of the group’s most enduring compositions, such as the jazz-inflected instrumental “ In Memory of Elizabeth Reed ” and the pastoral love song “ Blue Sky .”

The Allman Brothers Band built its style on guitar interplay between leader Duane Allman and the highly melodic fretwork of Mr. Betts, whose influences included Romani jazz musician Django Reinhardt and bluesman B.B. King.

Allman and Mr. Betts would play a theme in harmony before cutting loose with their own solos or answering each other’s licks in a call-and-response style. By the mid-1970s, a wave of Southern rock acts including Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Charlie Daniels Band and the Outlaws borrowed heavily from their twin-guitar format.

At their popular peak in the 1970s, the Allman Brothers Band played nearly 300 concerts a year, grossed between $50,000 and $100,000 a show, and crisscrossed the country on a private Boeing 720. When not touring, they shared quarters in a Tudor-style mansion in Macon, Ga.

The band survived the 1971 death of Duane Allman following a motorcycle accident, then broke up twice — largely because of increasing acrimony between singer and organist Gregg Allman (Duane’s brother) and Mr. Betts. Both men struggled with substance abuse.

Mr. Betts blossomed as a singer and songwriter on the Allman Brothers’ 1973 release “Brothers and Sisters.” During the recording sessions, founding bassist Berry Oakley died after a motorcycle crash. Pianist Chuck Leavell and a new bassist, Lamar Williams, joined the lineup to finish the recording.

In a retrospective review, Rolling Stone magazine praised Mr. Betts for “increasing the country light and buoyancy in the Allmans’ electric-blues stampede” with his songs such as “Ramblin’ Man,” “Pony Boy” and “Jessica.” “ Pony Boy ,” an acoustic showcase for Mr. Betts’s slide guitar, recounted family lore about a hard-drinking uncle who rode a horse home from a tavern to avoid a DUI.

Fatherhood inspired “ Jessica ,” an instrumental showcase for his nimble fretwork.

“With ‘Jessica,’ I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t quite find it,” Mr. Betts told Guitar World magazine. “Then my little daughter, Jessica, crawled into the room, and I just started playing to her, trying to capture the feeling of her crawling and smiling. That’s why I named it after her.”

The next year, he recorded an acclaimed solo album, “Highway Call,” credited to Richard Betts, with guest appearances by fiddler Vassar Clements and steel guitarist John Hughey. Several songs acknowledged a yearning for a simpler rural life that perhaps was a reflection of the strain of relentless touring.

Critics dismissed the band’s next album, “Win, Lose or Draw” (1975), on which many of its members recorded their parts separately, as below the band’s standards. That same year, Gregg Allman married pop singer Cher and moved to Beverly Hills. Then in 1976, Allman, caught up in a federal drug case against a supplier, testified against the band’s roadie in a plea bargain for immunity. The band broke up.

Mr. Betts stayed busy, doing recording sessions for outlaw country performers Hank Williams Jr., Billy Joe Shaver and Gary Stewart, collaborating on songs with future “Miami Vice” TV star Don Johnson, and touring with his own band, Great Southern.

“There is no way we can work with Gregg again. Ever,” Mr. Betts told Rolling Stone.

But he did, first reforming the band with Allman in 1978. In later decades, he performed in the Allman Brothers Band alongside younger guitarists Warren Haynes (the two had worked together previously in Great Southern) and Derek Trucks, the nephew of drummer Butch Trucks — though he was often in and out of the band.

Forrest Richard Betts was born in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Dec. 12, 1943, and grew up in Bradenton, Fla. At 5, he played ukulele in his father’s bluegrass group. He later switched to mandolin then banjo and finally — as he was trying to impress girls — an electric guitar.

At 16, he left home to join a teen band that worked with a traveling circus.

“Our band would do like splits and we had basketball knee pads and we’d go sliding on our knees playing and then I’d pick the other guitar player up on my shoulders,” Mr. Betts told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “So we did like 10, 12 shows a day. It was like Vaudeville or something except it was rock-and-roll. That was my first road trip.”

As his musical reputation increased, so did his wild streak.

The young guitarist sped around town on motorcycles wearing a jacket embroidered with an explicit phrase. When an Ohio-based band, the Jokers, came through town to hire him, Mr. Betts needed permission from a judge to leave the state. He had been placed on probation after he climbed a neighbor’s fence and shot a cow.

With bassist Oakley and keyboardist Reese Wynans, he joined a Jacksonville, Fla., band, the Second Coming. In 1969, Duane Allman, then a studio session musician for Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, approached Oakley and Mr. Betts about starting a group with Gregg Allman. The Allman Brothers Band emerged from their jam sessions.

When the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Gregg Allman was too inebriated to make the acceptance speech. The event proved to be a catalyst for Allman’s sobriety — but not for Mr. Betts.

The following year, there were rumors of a final band break after Mr. Betts allegedly put a gun to his wife’s head during an argument about his drug abuse. A stint in rehab followed.

In 2000, founding band members Allman, Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson fired Mr. Betts with a faxed letter that alluded to a decline in his playing.

Mr. Betts, who threatened a lawsuit and then settled out of court, maintained that the firing occurred after he asked for an accounting of band finances. Mr. Betts returned to leading his own band, often with his guitarist son Duane, who was named after Allman. Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks died in 2017.

Mr. Betts was married five times and had several children. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

In later years, Mr. Betts resided on the water in Osprey, Fla. He and his wife, the former Donna Stearns, frequently butted heads with their neighbors, the Bay Preserve, a nonprofit center that hosted weddings and sporting events on the water.

When a local rowing team would practice, Mr. Betts would fire up his power boat to send waves in their direction. At one point, Donna Betts was arrested after pointing a rifle at a crew team as it paddled by their house.

“They have 300 teenage kids come over there, and they’re arrogant as hell,” Mr. Betts told Rolling Stone in 2017. “They’re driving down the road and won’t get out of your way. You work your whole life to get a place like this, and they’re renting!”

muscle shoals fame studio tours

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  1. FAME Recording Studios TOUR

    muscle shoals fame studio tours

  2. A tour of FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama

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  3. Muscle Shoals Movie Sheds Light on World Famous Studio

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  4. Visit Muscle Shoals Alabama

    muscle shoals fame studio tours

  5. 10 Of The Most Popular Muscle Shoals Records From FAME Studios

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  6. FAME Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals, Alabama To see this and other

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  1. Tour

    Introducing the FAME Recording Studios Backstage Tour Experience*: Beginning on March 1st, 2022, FAME Recording Studios will be adding a special Backstage tour at 9:00am and 3:30pm every Monday through Friday and on Saturdays at 10:00am, 12:00pm and 2:00pm. ... FAME Recording Studios 603 East Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 256-381-0801 ...

  2. Fame Studios

    FAME Music was established in 1959 in Florence, Alabama and has gone on to be the heartbeat of the Muscle Shoals Sound with entities including FAME Publishing, FAME Recording Studios, FAME Records and Muscle Shoals Records. FAME moved to Muscle Shoals in 1961. FAME has worked in the studio with some of the Greatest artists in Rock music history ...

  3. Fame Recording Studios

    Fame Recording Studios. 123 reviews. #1 of 15 things to do in Muscle Shoals. Historic Sites. Closed now. 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM. Write a review. About. FAME Music was established in 1959 and has gone on to be the heartbeat of the Muscle Shoals Sound with entities including FAME Publishing, FAME Recording Studios, FAME Records and ...

  4. Music Tour of The Shoals

    Still a working studio, this is where the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section got its start. FAME was host to artists such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman, Otis Redding, the Osmonds, Paul Anka and many others. In the last 50 years, FAME Studios recorded or published music that sold over 350 million copies. Tours are Mon - Fri 9 am ...

  5. FAME Recording Studios & Publishing Co.

    FAME Recording Studios & Publishing Co., Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 51,427 likes · 1,102 talking about this · 13,352 were here. FAME Recording Studios is one of the most legendary Recording studios in...

  6. Muscle Shoals VIP Music Tours

    Muscle Shoals VIP Music Tours. 6 reviews. #1 of 2 Tours & Activities in Sheffield. Literary, Art & Music Tours. Write a review. About. Tours of recording studios and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame by veterans of the studios including FAME. Muscle Shoals Sound, Cypress Moon, Wishbone, Ivy Manor, Nutthouse. Sheffield, Alabama.

  7. Muscle Shoals Studio: A History Of The Soul Of America

    Today, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and the FAME Studio both continue to operate as working studios, as well as being popular tourist attractions, offering daily tours of the restored facilities ...

  8. FAME Studios

    FAME Studios. / 34.74506; -87.66667. FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios is a recording studio located at 603 East Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, an area of northern Alabama known as the Shoals. Though small and distant from the main recording locations of the American music industry, FAME has produced many hit records ...

  9. Muscle Shoals Music Studio Tours In Alabama: I'll Take You There

    The Muscle Shoals music studio tours are definitely doable in a day if you choose. You can even add a couple more Muscle Shoals music attractions - the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the W.C. Handy Home & Museum. Another note: you can use Viator to book the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Tour ahead of time. Beyond these attractions, there are ...

  10. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

    Muscle Shoals Sound Studio 3614 Jackson Highway Sheffield, AL 35660. Search. Home Visit. Expand submenu Visit Collapse submenu Visit. Buy Tour Tickets ... TOURS TIMES: TOURS BEGIN EVERY HOUR ON THE HALF HOUR STARTING AT 10:30 AM TO 3:30 PM. For more information call 256-978-5151.

  11. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

    286 reviews. #1 of 10 things to do in Sheffield. Speciality Museums. Open now. 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Write a review. About. Our iconic recording studio opened in 1969 when studio musicians now known as The Swampers - David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett and Roger Hawkins - left FAME Studio and started their own operation. Fully restored to it ...

  12. What You Need To Know About Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Tour

    Finding Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is easy! It's located at 3614 North Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama. It doesn't look like much from the road but it's one of the most important buildings in music history! You can tour the studio throughout the year, Tuesday - Saturday. The guided tours begin on the half hour starting at 10:30AM ...

  13. The Legendary Studios Behind the Music: FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals

    Below, we're going through 10 of the best songs recorded at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound. 1. "Mustang Sally"—Wilson Pickett. Though this R&B classic was originally recorded by Mack ...

  14. Backstage Pass Studio Hours and Tour Times

    Muscle Shoals Sound Studio - 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM - Tuesday - Saturday with tours every hour on the half-hour 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30. Fame Recording Studios - Open for tours Monday-Friday at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM and Saturday from 10 AM - 2 PM, a tour every hour on the hour.. Alabama Music Hall of Fame - Open for tours Tuesday-Friday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM-4:00 PM

  15. Tours

    Studio Tour —. Hours of Operation The studio is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. May 1 to Labor Day (September 3) the studio will be open 7 days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tours Tours take place every hour on the half hour starting at 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. Cost of admission is as follows: $15.00 Per Adult $13.00.

  16. Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios Sheffield, Alabama…

    Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a recording studio in Sheffield, Alabama formed in 1969 by four session musicians called The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (and affectionately called The Swampers) who had left Rick Hall 's nearby FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals to create their own recording facility. The group closed the Jackson Highway studio in ...

  17. Fame Recording Studios, home of the "Muscle Shoals Sound"

    For more than 60 years Fame Recording Studios, in Muscle Shoals, Ala., has hosted such artists as Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones and Dem...

  18. News :: FAME Adds New Backstage Tour Experience

    Introducing the FAME Recording Studios Backstage Tour Experience: Beginning on March 1st, 2022, FAME Recording Studios will be adding a special Backstage tour at 9:00am and 3:30pm every Monday through Friday and on Saturdays at 10:00am, 12:00pm and 2:00pm. ... FAME Recording Studios 603 East Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 256-381-0801 ...

  19. Dickey Betts, hit-crafting mainstay of Allman Brothers Band, dies at 80

    In 1969, Duane Allman, then a studio session musician for Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, approached Oakley and Mr. Betts about starting a group with Gregg Allman. The Allman Brothers Band ...

  20. Album

    Where to find us. FAME Recording Studios 603 East Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 256-381-0801 [email protected]