Open Thread - 12-03-21 - The Swampers

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I remember saying many times back in the 60s "Man, that band sure can play!" after hearing some hot rhythm and blues or soul music on the radio.

Then many decades later I find out that not all things are what they appear to be.

This story may surprise you. It may shock you to find out who was really playing those instruments. You may even be a bit disappointed, but I think you'll find this very interesting to say the least.

Muscle Shoals
Featuring The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section aka The Swampers
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Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Rick Hall brought black and white together to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the “Muscle Shoals sound” and The Swampers, the house band at FAME Studios that eventually left to start its own successful studio known as Muscle Shoals Sound. Gregg Allman and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism, mystery and why it remains influential today.

Source

This post is part two of a series on 60s/70s session musicians and the studios they play out of as promised in this comment from this Open Thread. These guys played on so many great songs of my youth much like The Wrecking Crew over on the left coast, only these cats are from the swamps of the deep south. This is a great story and I hope you find it engaging.

The Musicians

Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - (The Swampers)
Barry Beckett (keyboards)
Roger Hawkins (drums)
David Hood (bass)
Jimmy Johnson (guitar)
Pete Carr (guitar)
Spooner Oldham (organ)

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Muscle Shoals, a small Alabama town with no more than 8,000 residents, would seem like an odd place for a gazillion classic hit records to be recorded, but with artists like Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Jimmy Cliff, Etta James, the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Traffic, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Tony Joe White, the Oak Ridge Boys, and countless others rolling in to do just that, all aided by a crackerjack group of white southern sessions players known officially as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (and unofficially and lovingly called “the Swampers”), Muscle Shoals became known internationally for its loose and undeniably funky R&B sound, a sound that generated some 75 gold and platinum hits in the late 1960s and through the ’70s. It’s a fascinating story, and the story starts with Rick Hall, an enterprising producer who grew up surrounded by relentless poverty and tragedy (Hall’s brother, father, and first wife all died hellish deaths, and his mother topped things off by leaving home and becoming a prostitute). Hall had a vision of better times, though, and opened a recording studio called FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, recruiting musicians from various local bands to form his session pool, a pool that included Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), Jimmy Johnson (guitar), Pete Carr (guitar), and Spooner Oldham (organ), among others. These were “the Swampers,” as Lynyrd Skynyrd immortalized them in the song “Sweet Home Alabama,” and they gelled into a top-notch R&B band whose recognizable sound put them on a par with Motown’s Funk Brothers, Stax’s MG’s, and California’s Wrecking Crew. Hit after hit poured out of FAME, and after the Swampers jumped ship in 1969 to open their own Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, more hits followed with them.
Source

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The Documentary

Folks, this is a really great documentary, I highly recommend that you watch it. You wont be disappointed. Beautifully filmed, a wonderful soundtrack, and loads and loads of interesting stories. My favorite is the Stones talking about their antics while they were recording. There's lots of Mick and Keith in this film. It's almost two hours long and there are commercials that are easily clicked through but it's worth every second of your time.


A Conversation with The Swampers

(This is for extra credit in case you flunk the upcoming quiz)


The Music featuring The Swampers

Arthur Alexander - You Better Move On

Steal Away - Jimmy Hughes

Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman

Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)

Etta James - Tell Mama

Clarence Carter - Patches

Wilson Pickett - Hey Jude (w/ Duane Allman)

Staple Singers - I'll Take You There

Traffic - [Sometimes I Feel So] Uninspired

Paul Simon - Kodachrome

This is an open thread so go ahead and jump off topic if you want. Please post all covid commentary in The Dose. Thank you for reading.

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Comments

I hope you find this as enjoyable as I have. I first viewed this documentary several years ago and it was a blast revisiting it.

Here's another Swamper's collaboration:

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Lookout's picture

...and lots of fun. I look forward to re-watching it.

Gotta run, hired help is on the way and a truck load of manure awaits.

Thanks for the OT and you all have a good one!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout
you've got a truckload of manure politicians and hired hands to help spread their manure? Are the hired hands lobbyists?

I re-watched it yesterday before I put this together, it is fantastic. Rick Hall is very candid about his life in this film. The stories told by the musicians are priceless.

Thanks for commenting, old buddy.

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Lookout's picture

@JtC

shit slung. Lobbying for more compost and less political BS, but ...
Looking forward to the Swampers tonight, thanks.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Lookout's picture

@Lookout

Thanks for the reminder!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout
or third look is just as good as the first, there's always something that was missed the first time around.

I just looked, you are a little over a hundred miles away from Muscle Shoals. The studios will definitely be on the itinerary when we make it up your way.

Thanks mi hermano.

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QMS's picture

Brings one back to simpler times.

Thanks for this groovy OT!

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@QMS
the whole story is great but the music is awesomely stupendous.

Glad you were grooved, my friend.

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I bet when you were putting this OT together, you were thinking, 'This will be epic!"
Well, it is! Wonderful story and the best sounds humans can make!

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@on the cusp
much of the credit goes to my wife who put up with my total focus on this project for a whole day. She is epic.

Thanks for stopping in, my dear.

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like my playlist for the day
has been set.

many thanks

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

Explain Bldg #7. . .

If you’ve ever wondered whether you would have complied in 1930’s Germany,
Now you know. . .
Sign at protest march

@Tall Bald and Ugly
these earworms burrow deep.

Have a good one TB&U.

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enhydra lutris's picture

music and no tru-tone,

be well and havd a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris
that was good stuff, no? Thought for sure I saw at least one tru-tone. But being a blues harp guy I wasn't really watching that closely.

Thanks mi amigo.

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Bisbonian's picture

But all these people are hereos in my book, doing their best to make the star sound their very best. My copy of the documentary has some sort of damage on the tape...I lose the middle third of it. Need to get a new one.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian

But all these people are hereos in my book, doing their best to make the star sound their very best.

That about sums it up. Very succinct.

Thanks my old-timey clawhammer banjo playing friend.

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janis b's picture

for your enthusiastic encouragement to listen to this documentary. I'm saving the last half hour for my late evening entertainment.

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@janis b
thanks for watching and thanks for stopping by.

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smiley7's picture

Rock on!

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@smiley7
great to see you out and about, my brother. Hope things are going well.

Thanks for stopping in and please don't make yourself scarce around here, my old friend.

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