Cut from the heart, not from the charts.
That was the mantra of Rick Hall, the prolific producer and progenitor of the famed Muscle Shoals sound, who passed away on Tuesday, January 2, at age 85, in Florence, Alabama.
Hall’s approach was borne of a preference for getting great musicians together in the studio for a jam session, and then seeing what gems resulted. It was a way of working that made him valued by many of the 20th century’s musical greats as he produced, co-produced, engineered and wrote hits for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Shenandoah, the Osmonds, Mac Davis, and a whole lot more.
His storied career, which launched in earnest when Hall began writing songs alongside another future great country music producer, Billy Sherrill, started in the mid-1950’s. What came next was none other than FAME Studios (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises), which began in its namesake Florence before moving to Muscle Shoals, where the studio still operates today. The historic Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was an offshoot, founded by the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (“The Swampers”) who left FAME to start a recording home of their own.
Rick Hall’s musical contributions span genres from soul to country, pop to rock. Learn more about his impact from Jon Parales’ obituary in the New York Times, or better yet dive into Hall’s 2015 memoir, “The Man from Muscle Shoals: My Journey from Shame to Fame.”
Jimmy Hughes “Steal Away” was a soul hit for produced by Rick Hall that helped put FAME’s record label on the map.