Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, must famously known as FAME Music Studio, is a mecca for musicians and music lovers. Visiting it immediately made my #25List when I planned my North Alabama weekend.
From Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved A Man to the War and Treaty project by the Blind Boys of Alabama, FAME has recorded a variety of musicians.
I booked the standard tour thinking it would be sufficient but I wish I’d booked the behind-the-scenes tour. I wanted to know more about the studio and it’s musicians. And I’d hoped to meet some aspiring artists and ask them how they knew FAME was the right choice for them.
Rick Hall, founder of FAME, was infamous for his exacting and tough methods. But those methods were pretty much guaranteed to produce hits. So many that in 1970 he was nominated for the Producer of the Year Grammy, in 1971 he was named World Producer of the Year by Billboard Magazine, and he received the Grammy Trustee Award in 2014. There’s a great documentary titled “Muscle Shoals” that provides a deep-dive into his ideals.
He produced hits for Alicia Keys (Pressing On), Candi Staton (That’s How Strong My Love Is), Mac Davis (Texas In My Rear View Mirror), Wilson Pickett (Mustang Sally), and Sirens Of The Ditch by Jason Isbell.
The “Swampers”, the legendary rhythm section backup group, received a special shout-out in “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The current roster of musicians and backup singers live nearby and are a quick phone call away.
I also leaned that although most musicians record digitally, those that want to record on tape can do so at FAME.
Visiting FAME is not only a step back into time but it’s also a step forward into the future of music as new artists flock to FAME to create the sound only FAME can.
I was impressed that Hall was able to create an equitable workplace in 1960 because there was no difference between white and musicians of color at FAME. Everyone was treated the same, walked through the same doors, used the same restrooms, received the same quality of recordings. Hall is often considered “ahead of his time” with regards to race but he was actually exactly in his time. There was no reason to treat people differently and he knew it and acted that way. Perhaps the freedom to create without artificial barriers, injustice, and racism is what makes FAME’s sound so unique. It’s the unity of the musicians, on equal wavelengths, and the vibration that creates.
FAME is located at 603 East Avalon Ave, Muscle Shoals, Alabama 35661. You can book the standard or backstage tour here, and I really recommend the latter.
Have you visited FAME? What’s your favorite hit? My best museum experience was listening to a replay of Aretha Franklin belt out “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” in the studio where she recorded it. Y’all, it was phenomenal!!!