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In the list of iconic recording studios, Music Shoals Sound Studio is right up there with the most famous. During its heyday of the 70s, the studio hosted a wide array of artists that produced dozens of hit records, including Aretha Franklin, Cher, Boz Scaggs, The Rolling Stones, the Staple Singers, Bob Seger, Traffic, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Leon Russell and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The studio closed in 1978, but thanks to a grant from Beats By Dr. Dre, the studio is set to reopen once again.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio will first be open for tours with an admission fee of $12, but will soon reopen as a working facility in the coming months, according to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that now owns the studio. The studio is the Alabama Tourism Office’s Attraction of the Year, which will be heavily promoted.
State tourism director Lee Sentell thinks that the documentary “Muscle Shoals” played a direct influence on the decision by Beats Electronics to restore the studio. “Without Steven Badger’s documentary, the (Alabama) Music Hall of Fame would probably still be closed, and Dr. Dre and the people at Beats Electronics probably would not have known that the studio in Sheffield was just sitting there waiting to be revived,” he said.
The interesting thing about this is that the famous artists that worked there did so mostly because of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the studio band that owned the facility. Consisting basically of keyboardist Barry Becket, drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, and guitarist Jimmy Johnson, the Rhythm Section backed up musical luminaries like Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Joe Cocker, Glenn Frey, Bob Seger, Percy Sledge, the Staples Singers, Aretha Franklin, Alice in Chains, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Little Milton, Sawyer Brown, Tony Joe White, the Oak Ridge Boys and many more.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios was actually moved to a different larger location in town in 1978. It was sold to Malaco Records in the mid 80s and remained in operation for another 20 years.
This original version of the studio will soon be open for sessions again though, although chances are that much sought-after swampy sound won’t be found without the players that made it happen.