Bass Life

Visiting Muscle Shoals Sound

It's not often when the Elites come to town you can take in some real music history, but the Shoals area of Alabama is full of it. There's the FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, and in Sheffield Alabama is this tiny building which is where such artists as  The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, The Black Keys and Cat Stevens recorded countless hit songs.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - It's not often when the Elites come to town you can take in some real music history, but the Shoals area of Alabama is full of it. There's the FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, and in Sheffield Alabama is this tiny building which is where such artists as The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, The Black Keys and Cat Stevens recorded countless hit songs.
Cher's sixth album is actually named after the address of Muscle Shoals Sound. She played with the four founders of the studio, who were known as the Swampers.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Cher's sixth album is actually named after the address of Muscle Shoals Sound. She played with the four founders of the studio, who were known as the Swampers.
When B.A.S.S. sent Dave Mercer and a film crew to record a segment for Bassmaster LIVE, I couldn't help but come along and shoot some photos.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - When B.A.S.S. sent Dave Mercer and a film crew to record a segment for Bassmaster LIVE, I couldn't help but come along and shoot some photos.
We started in the basement, which is where the bands would hang out while the studio engineers were busy working above them in between takes. The studio was recently restored (with help from Dr. Dre!) and albums of music produced here line the walls.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - We started in the basement, which is where the bands would hang out while the studio engineers were busy working above them in between takes. The studio was recently restored (with help from Dr. Dre!) and albums of music produced here line the walls.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Gold records, too.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Gold records, too.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
It's almost time for the interview...
Photo: Chris Mitchell - It's almost time for the interview...
Judy Hood gave us a wonderful tour of the studio. She's been around it for 30 years and it's a big part of her life.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Judy Hood gave us a wonderful tour of the studio. She's been around it for 30 years and it's a big part of her life.
For a very good reason - she's married to one of the Swampers, David Hood.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - For a very good reason - she's married to one of the Swampers, David Hood.
Dave Mercer interviews Judy in the secret bar that is hidden downstairs. Sheffield, Alabama was technically in a dry county, but when the Rolling Stones came here, it was definitely not dry down here.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Dave Mercer interviews Judy in the secret bar that is hidden downstairs. Sheffield, Alabama was technically in a dry county, but when the Rolling Stones came here, it was definitely not dry down here.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Mercer felt right at home in this secret bar, but we had to go upstairs and see the studio.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Mercer felt right at home in this secret bar, but we had to go upstairs and see the studio.
One last thing - the restoration of the studio was so meticulous that they looked at old photos and searched high and low ... to find a couch that matched the old days.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - One last thing - the restoration of the studio was so meticulous that they looked at old photos and searched high and low ... to find a couch that matched the old days.
You can feel it when you walk in - this room is where the magic happened. The restoration includes a neat trick - they can play you parts of songs that were recorded right here. It's chilling, looking at the piano that you hear a song recorded on it.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - You can feel it when you walk in - this room is where the magic happened. The restoration includes a neat trick - they can play you parts of songs that were recorded right here. It's chilling, looking at the piano that you hear a song recorded on it.
Judy goes over some of the artifacts here from 50 years ago.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Judy goes over some of the artifacts here from 50 years ago.
Drums have their own isolation booth, so as not to interfere with the sound picked up by the other mics.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Drums have their own isolation booth, so as not to interfere with the sound picked up by the other mics.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Photo: Chris Mitchell
This is the original piano played by everyone from Bob Segar to Paul Simon.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - This is the original piano played by everyone from Bob Segar to Paul Simon.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
This little bathroom in the studio has a great story behind it - Keith Richards wrote the Rolling Stones' hit song Wild Horses in it.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - This little bathroom in the studio has a great story behind it - Keith Richards wrote the Rolling Stones' hit song Wild Horses in it.
They even have the original invoice to the Stones for it.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - They even have the original invoice to the Stones for it.
Linda Rondstadt was one of many vocalists that recorded in this booth.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Linda Rondstadt was one of many vocalists that recorded in this booth.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Modern studios use some kind of foam insulation. In the 70s, it was much more stylish.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - Modern studios use some kind of foam insulation. In the 70s, it was much more stylish.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
There are touches of modernity here - the studio is a museum during the day, but at night artists still rent it out and record here.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - There are touches of modernity here - the studio is a museum during the day, but at night artists still rent it out and record here.
I did not sit on the couch.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - I did not sit on the couch.
This old reel to reel machine is exactly like the ones used in the 1970s here.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - This old reel to reel machine is exactly like the ones used in the 1970s here.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
While not the original recording equipment, it's the same kind that was here. The computer is a new addition, though.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - While not the original recording equipment, it's the same kind that was here. The computer is a new addition, though.
I'm not going to lie, I took a ton of pics of this board because it was cool. I did resist turning any of these dials.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - I'm not going to lie, I took a ton of pics of this board because it was cool. I did resist turning any of these dials.
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Photo: Chris Mitchell
Photo: Chris Mitchell
While we waited to get our tournament finally going, this was a wonderful time for us to visit this amazing historic site. If you are ever near the Florence, Alabama area, definitely make the trip. It's worth it.
Photo: Chris Mitchell - While we waited to get our tournament finally going, this was a wonderful time for us to visit this amazing historic site. If you are ever near the Florence, Alabama area, definitely make the trip. It's worth it.