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Rick Hall - Muscle Shoals producer and songwriter
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Hall cited Sun Records' co-founder Sam Phillips — responsible for first recording Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Roy Orbison and many others — as an early mentor. "[Philips] was a terribly big influence on me," he told the Country Music Hall of Fame. "All the things that Sam did, I wanted to be like him." The pair, two white record producers from the south, would each have a deep impact on the history of African-American music of the twentieth century.

Roy Orbison's recording of "Sweet and Innocent," which Hall had written with Billy Sherrill, led to the pair forming the publishing company Florence Alabama Music Enterprises to administer and oversee song compositions. After that partnership was dissolved, Hall moved FAME to Muscle Shoals, establishing a studio there.

Through FAME, his publishing company and studio, Hall made Muscle Shoals synonymous with a sound of soul, R&B and country that often featured sparkling, ultra-live percussive sounds and vocal performances that seem simultaneously removed and intimate.

Quote:Hall began producing some of the most indelible soul and R&B recordings of the century: Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," Etta James' cover of "Tell Mama" (the original version of which was also recorded at FAME), Otis Redding's "You Left the Water Running" and Wilson Pickett's cover of "Mustang Sally" among them.

No one really knows why Muscle Shoals, a town of 8000 surrounded by even smaller towns, many accessible only by dirt roads, generated so much musical talent and inspiration. Camalier includes suggestions from various interview subjects about the spirts of the area's original Native American inhabitants, the nearby river's mystical power, "fields of energy" and even practical analysis of the cross-cultural ferment among musical styles (gospel, hillybilly, bluegrass). In the end, though, the mystery remains, along with the cosmic joke that some of the greatest classics of American R&B—including Aretha Franklin's "Respect", Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally", Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman"—had their distinctively funky instrumentation supplied by an anonymous band of studio players from Muscle Shoals, nearly all of whom were, as one record executive put it, "mighty pale".

Some of the best parts of Muscle Shoals are those that examine in detail what became defining moments in a recording artist's career. Atlantic Records singer Wilson Pickett reluctantly accompanied Jerry Wexler to FAME Studios, convinced that a group of white musicians couldn't possibly understand his style; he emerged with "Land of 1000 Dances" and "Mustang Sally", among other major hits. 

Aretha Franklin was dropped by CBS Records after five years of failed nightclub-style recordings (an example is included; it's painful to hear). Wexler brought her to Muscle Shoals, where she and Hall's musicians wrote "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You", the record that began her transformation into the Queen of Soul. (Wexler had to fly the Swampers to New York to finish the rest of the album's songs, including "Respect", after Aretha's husband got jealous of a horn player who was flirting with her.) 

Percy Sledge came into FAME Studios shaking like a leaf, because he'd never sung professionally before. Hall and the Swampers helped him create "When a Man Loves a Woman". 

The Rolling Stones flew in for two days and left with "Wild Horses", "Brown Sugar" and two more songs—the most prolific they'd ever been, according to Keith Richards.
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