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March 5, 2023

Courtyard By Marriott


April 6, 2023

Fond memories of this day. It was a Sunday morning when I came across "Loafers" thanks to another wrong turn. The sunlight on the old gas station and "boneyard" was magical -- I recall how I felt I was in "the zone" as I walked around taking photos. I was "interrupted" by an older gentleman who pulled up in his vintage (1970s?) Toyota pickup truck. Turned out he owned the station and the house I photographed. He invited me "to come sit a spell" with him and his son in the building at the corner. I said I would, thinking that I wouldn't. When I finished my "photoshoot," I walked toward Hi Ho Silver and an inner voice said, "what better do you have to do than stop in and talk with the father and his son?"

When I walked it into the building, I was greeted by organized chaos. The two men sat in recliners by a jury-rigged furnace that was giving off just the right amount of warmth. The father had a small dog in his lap -- I recall that the dog's name was Mike. The son was retired military and I learned that he and his brother had houses close to their dad. I can't recall exactly what we talked about, but I know I was charmed by their accents. I also know that before I said too much, I had taken a gander around -- the Trump Make America Great Again banner on the wall and a copy of Desantes' book made me aware of topics that I should stay away from. Not that I would have gone there. When I am in the South, I am aware enough in my old age that while I might have been raised in South Carolina and lived most of my life in Virginia, I don't look, act or talk like I am from the South. And after all, folks in Mississippi I don't believe think of Virginia as being part of the South.

Before I left, the dad gave me directions to head north. He said I was going to miss the real poor part of the state where "they" live. He couldn't understand why they live like they do, the farming jobs have mostly gone away in the Delta. I felt uncomfortable as he talked, realizing after thirty seconds who "they" are. You can tell me that you don't think racism still exists in America, and I would kindly disagree with you.

As I approached the door to leave, I noticed a rifle with a scope attached to the inside of the door. I imagined twenty years in the military had made the son a pretty damn good shot.

What a gift. Between attending the border crisis meeting in Alpine, Texas and spending thirty minutes talking with these gentlemen, I thought about how lucky I have been to see the things I have seen, to talk with the people I have talked with. My wanderabout has provided me so many unexpectedly wonderful times and memories. When I set sail in October 2019, I thought I'd see 24 Paris' and be done. I was so wrong. I have made so many deposits into my soul. I'm not rich, but then again I am richer than I could ever have imagined.

And speaking of soul, my wandering today ended in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. If you have never seen the documentary about the music that came from Muscle Shoals, I highly recommend the following documentary. It's free on Youtube:

The soundtrack to my slideshow above are all songs by Arthur Alexander:

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.

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 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.

Muscle Shoals, Alabama

Muscle Shoals is the largest city in Colbert County, Alabama. It is located on the left bank of the Tennessee River in the northern part of the state and, as of the 2010 census, its population was 13,146.[4] The estimated population in 2019 was 14,575.

Both the city and the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Area (including four cities in Colbert and Lauderdale counties) are commonly called "the Shoals".[6] Northwest Alabama Regional Airport serves the Shoals region, located in the northwest section of the state. Due to its strategic location along the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals had long been territory of Native American tribes.[clarification needed] In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as Europeans entered the area in greater number, it became a center of historic land disputes. The new state of Georgia had ambitions to anchor its western claims (to the Mississippi River) by encouraging European-American development here, but that project did not succeed.

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration during the Great Depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority was established to create infrastructure and jobs, resulting in electrification of a large rural area along the river. The Ford Motor Company did build and operate a plant for many years in the Listerhill community, three miles east of Muscle Shoals; it closed in 1982 as part of industrial restructuring when jobs moved out of the country.[7][8] Since the 1960s, the city has been known for music. Local studios and artists developed the "Muscle Shoals Sound", including FAME Studios in the late 1950s and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969.


There are several explanations as to how the city got its name. One is that it was named for a former natural feature of the Tennessee River, a shallow zone where mussels were gathered, and settlers named as Muscle Shoals.[9] When the area was first settled, the distinct spelling of "mussel" to refer to the shellfish had not yet been locally adopted.[10] Cherokee people knew of this place as ᏓᎫᎾᏱ, "the place of clams or mussels".


Like other areas along waterways, this was important to indigenous peoples for thousands of years.[citation needed] The area of Muscle Shoals was a part of the historic Cherokee hunting grounds dating to at least the early eighteenth century, if not earlier. Many Cherokee fought against the rebels during the late American Revolutionary War, hoping to expel them from their territories.

After the Revolution, Cherokee attitudes toward the new U.S. republic were divided, as settlers increasingly encroached on their territory. An anti-American faction, dubbed the Chickamauga, separated from more conciliatory Cherokees, and moved into present-day south-central and southeastern Tennessee. Most of this band settled along the Chickamauga Creek, from which their name was derived. They claimed Muscle Shoals as part of their domain. When Anglo-Americans attempted to settle the region in the 1780s and 1790s, the Chickamaugas bitterly resisted them.[11][12]

The Upper Creek, residing in what is now north and central Alabama, also resented any European or Euro-American presence in the region. A major incident occurred in 1790, when U.S. President George Washington sent an expedition under Major John Doughty in an attempt to establish a fort and trading post at Muscle Shoals. This expedition was nearly annihilated by a Chickamauga and Creek party sent to destroy it, and the administration abandoned the project.[13] Meanwhile, Francisco Luis Hector de Carondelet, governor of the Spanish Louisiana, was in conversations with the Indian confederation to stablish a fort in 1792. [14]

Anglo-American settlers in Tennessee continued to agitate for control of this region. The site was particularly desirable, as it controlled access to fine cotton-producing land immediately to its south.[15] In 1797, John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, complained to Andrew Jackson that "The prevention of a settlement at or near the Muscle Shoals is a manifest injury done the whole western country." At Sevier's behest, Jackson attempted to persuade Congress and President John Adams to fund a new expedition to take control of the site, but to no avail.[16]

U.S. officials finally took control of the region in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Creek country during the War of 1812. Jackson and General John Coffee obtained cession of the land from both the Cherokee and Creek (who had continued to dispute possession) by treaty, without permission from the federal government. Secretary of War William H. Crawford refused to recognize the cession, and reconfirmed Cherokee ownership, leading to personal enmity between him and Jackson. The political struggle over the lands was eventually won by Jackson and his backers, who gained passage in Congress of the Indian Removal Act in 1830.[17] When Jackson, as president, implemented the policy of Indian Removal, Muscle Shoals was used as a site from which to exile the Upper Creek to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

During World War I President Wilson authorized a dam on the Tennessee River just downstream of Muscle Shoals to help power nitrate plants for munitions.[19] The first plant started producing nitrates two weeks after the armistice, but the dam was not completed until 1924.

Meanwhile, in 1922 Henry Ford tried to buy the nitrate works and the unfinished dam. The Michigan car manufacturer and industrialist proposed leasing the uncompleted hydro-electric dam at Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River in Alabama. The US War Department had begun the project during World War I, and engineers estimated a cost of $40 million to complete. At this time, public projects were financed either through raising taxes—which, Congress was unwilling to do at the time- or by issuing bonds. For the Muscle Shoals project, the proposal was for 30-year bonds at 4% interest.

Ford and his friend and fellow inventor Thomas Edison balked at the idea that the US government should have to pay $48 million in interest on top of the $40 million they would have to pay back—all for a project that would benefit the public (the argument being that the hydro-electric dam and accompanying fertilizer plants would create jobs and revitalize the area). Responding to the bond issue, Edison remarked: “Any time we wish to add to the national wealth, we are compelled to add to the national debt.”[20] Edison and Ford hoped that a new monetary system could be created where dollar bills were issued directly to workers and manufacturer, with the money being backed by the goods they produced rather than the gold and silver held in bank vaults.[21][22][23] Congress eventually rejected Ford's idea.

The project of area development based on hydroelectric power languished until the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration created the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 to construct needed infrastructure and install an electrical system in the rural area, using newly generated electricity from the dam complex.[19]

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