By Published On: October 13, 2023Categories: Travel

Story By Hannah Goldfinger
Photos Contributed By Shelia Eckman

 

Lights … Camera … Action! 

No, wait. Start Your Engines! 

No, wait. Touchdown! 

No, that’s still not right. 

Ah — how about — One, Two, Three, Hit it! 

Music is the heartbeat of a city. Especially, Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 

That’s because Muscle Shoals is the home of FAME Recording Studios. 

“Any discussion about American music that doesn’t include Muscle Shoals, Alabama, isn’t really a discussion at all,” says the FAME website. “Heart-pounding. Soul-shaking. Iconic. Many words have been used to describe the Muscle Shoals sound. It’s the sound that implored a generation of musicians to travel to the southern banks of the Tennessee river, searching for a bit of that Muscle Shoals magic. Fame Recording Studios is where it all started and where that sound lives on today.”

It wasn’t always called FAME, per say. Once upon a time, it had a bit of a longer name — Florence Alabama Music Enterprises. 

“Originally housed above City Drugstore in Florence, Alabama, Florence Alabama Music Enterprises was founded in 1959 by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford,” the site says. “In 1960, Hall took over sole ownership and shortened the name to the acronym FAME and temporarily moved to Wilson Dam Highway in Muscle Shoals. This is where Muscle Shoals would have its first international success, with Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On”. Hall took that money, along with a borrowed $10,000, built and moved the studio to its current location at 603 East Avalon Ave. in Muscle Shoals. Beginning with the legendary session that produced Jimmy Hughes’ “Steal Away”, FAME has been producing chart-topping hits ever since.”

It’s almost a guarantee you’ve heard of many of the artists who have played at FAME, signed with or that FAME Publishing has had cuts on their music — Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Marie Osmond, Paul Anka, Terri Gibbs, Jerry Reed, Pam Willis, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, Jason Isbell, George Strait, Joe Diffie, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kenny Chesney and many more. 

The list goes on and on. 

FAME has stepped into the 21st century, too.

“Today the company has a catalog of over 3,000 songs with multiple top 10 singles, ASCAP awards and Song of the Year awards,” the website says. “The catalog boosts the writing of Phillip White, Jason Isbell, Walt Aldridge, James LeBlanc, Dylan LeBlanc, Brad Crisler, Gary Nichols, Angela Hacker, Robert Byrne, Gary Baker, Russell Smith, Tony Colton and many more.”

It has a podcast available, too, on Apple Music. 

There are testimonials from bands who changed the world with their music. 

“We were trying to get that bass sound Arthur Alexander was getting in Muscle Shoals, we love his records,” said John Lennon of The Beatles. 

Producers, too, spoke highly of FAME. 

“Muscle Shoals changed my whole approach to music. It affected anyone who ever heard the music that came out of there, and that’s pretty much everyone in the world,” said David Z, musician and producer of Prince, Etta James and Billy Idol.

FAME offers studio tours each week. There are standard tours, Monday through Friday at 9 a.m and Saturdays at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. There are backstage tours offered Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. 

“The Backstage Experience offers a behind-the-scenes look at selected areas of the studios not available on standard tours,” according to the FAME website. “Indulge yourself in an exclusive experience masterfully guided by a member of the FAME team. The Backstage tour price includes the normal studio tour.

“The Backstage Experience takes you behind the velvet rope including, FAME’s publishing office, Rick Hall’s personal office, exhibits showcasing FAME’s multiple awards including gold records and song-of-the-year awards, and exhibits focused on instruments played in historic sessions including the legendary Aretha Franklin sessions and instruments from Rick Hall’s personal collection.

In terms of taking music and making it world-wide, FAME offers studios A and B. And if you’re a musician, you may be thinking right now, what do I do to get in one of those studios.

“FAME’s legendary Studio A and Studio B offer cutting-edge facilities for hit-makers, chart-toppers and emerging talent at almost any budget,” the website says. “Melding the best of vintage and 21st-century recording equipment and techniques, our studios are the perfect spaces for producing the exact sound you’re looking to put out into the world.

“Fame Recording Studios offers an extensive collection of vintage and modern production gear with the ability to record in state-of-the-art digital or classic analog coupled with our world famous collection of historic and contemporary instruments that are yours to choose from. Historic facilities. The latest technology. A sound like no other. World class engineers and staff. FAME Recording Studios has everything you need to get your sound.”

One can book recording time on the FAME website, www.famestudios.com/recording-studios/.

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