I have never been a fan of The Crimson Tide, but between the musicians that claim Alabama as their original home and the musicians who passed through Fame or Muscle Shoals recording studios, the musical history of the state is as dense as its swamps.
There are only a handful of recording studios that can claim the firepower of Muscle Shoals in its prime. Barry Beckett-keyboards, Roger Hawkins-drums, David Hood-bass, Jimmy Johnson-guitar; and a host of monstrous talents that came and went.
The Staple Singers-I’ll Take You There. The vocals were all Staple. The groove was all by the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
Boz Scaggs-Loan Me A Dime. Back in the day this extended jam was among the most requested tracks at FM radio stations. This cover of a Fenton Robinson song featured Duane Allman when he was playing guitar at Muscle Shoals for Aretha, Wilson Pickett, and others.
Herbie Mann-Push Push. Jazz flautist Mann showcased Duane Allman on the title track to the album Push Push. Only those with a strong stomach spent much time with the album cover, but Duane’s guitar solo is worth the Pepto.
Wilson Pickett-Mustang Sally. This recording fans the flame that was the Wicked Pickett. Recorded at Muscle Shoals. Rumors to the contrary,my son, Wilson, is not named for the singer. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
The Louvin Brothers-My Baby’s Gone. The gods of roots-alt-country if I may coin a non-existent genre that actually exists. The led, shall we say, a picaresque existence that began in Alabama.
Emmylou Harris-From Boulder To Birmingham. She was born in Birmingham. She’s playing the Genesee Theater in Waukegan this Friday. And, like you, I love her.
Alabama Shakes-Hold On. The debut sensations of 2012
Blind Boys of Alabama-Higher Ground. 1939. I said 1939. That’s when they first sang together as young boys. And amid the usual personnel changes that accompany a pre-World War II singing group, founding member Jimmy Carter is still singin’.
The Rolling Stones-Hand of Fate. The Rolling Stones recorded some of their best work at Muscle Shoals. Wild Horses. Brown Sugar. But this track featured M.S. session guitarist Wayne Perkins of Birmingham playing lead. He was one of the rumored replacements for Mick Taylor. The Stones would have been a better band if it hadn’t been a rumor.