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Legendarisk studio stenger døra
Datum: 2005-02-21

For flere generasjoner musikkelskere har ordene Muscle Shoals vært ensbetydende med fantastisk musikk. Med en spesiell groove. Noen av nøkkelmusikerne fra Muscle Shoals ble sist hørt på plata »Testifying/ The Country Soul Revue« , den dagsaktuelle oppfølgeren til de to overlegne samlingene »Country Got Soul Vol. 1 &2«.

Vi har plukket opp denne artikkelen i forbindelse med nyheten om at studioet stenger etter 36 år.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, the Alabama venue where Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Wilson Pickett, the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon all made classic records, has closed its doors forever.

»It's a sad day in America,« says producer, session musician and arranger Al Kooper. »So many great records were made there. The musicians, engineers and the magic of the room made it special.«

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios was founded in 1969 in an old Sheffield, Alabama, casket warehouse by musicians Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson, who doubled as its famous house band, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (a.k.a. »the Swampers,« as immortalized in Skynyrd's
»Sweet Home Alabama«). Their first client was Cher, who recorded her 3614 Jackson Highway album there, and named it after the studio's address.

Atlantic Records producer/executive Jerry Wexler was an early supporter, booking many of the label's artists into the studio. »It seemed we could do nothing but make good records: Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Willie
Nelson -- Lulu came from England,« says Wexler. »We had this little hideaway, this little retreat with these really terrific musicians, these incredible white boys who played the blues so authentically that it caused a lot of head-scratching. The best part of my career was not the gold records or the Hall of Fame or awards -- it was hearing the music being recorded live at that time.«

After more than three decades of operation, the studio -- which moved to a 31,000 square-foot building on the banks of the Tennessee River in 1978 -- recorded its last sessions in December and shuttered on January 14th because of declining business. The two Neve consoles have been sold to studios in Los Angeles and Detroit, the studio owners are exploring donating memorabilia to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a local film production company has purchased the property.

»It almost brought me to tears when I had to do this,« says co-owner Wolf Stephenson, who, along with his two fellow executives of blues/gospel label Malaco Records, purchased the studio from the Rhythm Section members in 1985. »It's heartbreaking.«

»It's a strange thing,« adds Hood. »All of a sudden, the gold records are down off the walls . . . I'm not sure I know what to think yet.«

However, for artists like Bob Seger -- who, after hearing the Rhythm Section's work on Arthur Conley's »Sweet Soul Music,« recorded five albums at Muscle Shoals -- it was not the building but the band that made the studio special. »Muscle Shoals did the ballads like 'Main Street' much better than my band,« Seger says. »The wonderful thing about them is the second you started playing the song, it sounded like a record.«

Another attraction was that the studio's small-town location was far away from big-city distractions and prying eyes. »The town never impinged upon anyone,« says Wexler, recalling a day when the Rolling Stones ordered breakfast at the local Howard Johnson's. »One little waitress said, 'Are you
a group?' One of the members said, 'Yeah, we're a group. We're Martha and the Vandellas.'«

Scottish-born rocker Mark Knopfler, who first recorded with Bob Dylan at the studio, found the cuisine somewhat lacking. »Jerry introduced me to salted ham and grits,« he says of Wexler. »I don't understand grits. To me, they always tasted like wet newspaper.« But, for Knopfler, recording at Muscle Shoals made it all worth it. »Laptops and home stations are fine, but it's another thing to be in a proper recording studio full of creative people all sharing in the same piece of music at the same time.«

Hood, whose son Patterson fronts the Drive-By Truckers, maintains that all that magic still resides in Alabama. »I don't want the closing of Muscle Shoals Sound to make anybody think that music is no longer happening here,« he says. »It's been happening since before I started, and it's still going on today. It was always the people.«


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