Legendary music producer and recording engineer Rick Hall, owner of FAME Recording Studios and father of the “Muscle Shoals sound,” died at his Alabama home on Jan. 2 after a long illness. He was 85.
One of the most influential figures in American music of the last 50 years, his uncanny instinct for hit songs propelled the career of countless artists.
Hall co-founded FAME in 1959 in Florence, Ala., with Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford. In 1961, following a business disagreement, Hall retained the FAME name and moved the studio to nearby Muscle Shoals, Ala., where he began to define the Southern soul sound.
The long list of Southern soul classics recorded at FAME includes Wilson Pickett’s “Land of a Thousand Dances,” “Mustang Sally” and “Funky Broadway,” James and Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” and “Do Right Woman (Do Right Man),” Clarence Carter’s “Slip Away” and “Patches,” Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” and Otis Redding’s “You Left the Water Running.” Hall also produced Etta James’ signature tune, “Tell Mama,” for Chicago-based Chess Records.
Identified early with soul and R&B artists including Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, Hall went on to produce songs in every genre of popular music. He found success in the 1970s recording a stream of hits for the Osmonds and Donny Osmond. He also produced Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy,” Mac Davis’ “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me” and Paul Anka’s comeback record, “You’re Having My Baby.”
Later, with songwriter and co-producer Robert Byrne, Hall developed the band Shenandoah into one of the most successful country acts of the 1980s. Moving into the 21st century, Hall recorded three songs with the country band Alabama for its When It All Goes South anniversary album. In 2007, he reactivated his FAME Records label through a distribution deal with EMI.
Hall was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1985. The 2013 documentary film, Muscle Shoals (Facebook link), brought renewed attention to his career and introduced the Muscle Shoals sound to a new generation of listeners.
In 2014, he received a Grammy Trustees Award, a lifetime achievement honor for non-performers. That recognition was followed in 2015 by the publication of his memoir, The Man from Muscle Shoals: My Journey from Shame to Fame.
Stream the 40-song FAME Studios Spotify playlist, compiled by JamBase:
More from Pro Sound News:
- DVD Review: Muscle Shoals, by Clive Young, March 19, 2014
- Beats to Back Muscle Shoals Studios, by Clive Young, Nov. 29, 2013
Around the Web:
- Remembering Rick Hall and the Musical Alchemy of FAME Studios, by Amanda Petrusich, Jan. 3, 2018, The New Yorker
- Rick Hall, The Father of the Muscle Shoals Sound, Dies at 85, by Randy Lewis, Jan. 2, 2018, The Los Angeles Times