After finding a small Kustom amp with the tuck and roll covering in red sparkle on craigslist, I started thinking it would be a nice addition to my studio room. I have 3 Fender blackface tube amps from the ‘60’s and 1 small Fender modeling amp, a purely solid state would be something different and the Kustom tuck and roll covering definitely has a coolness factor… especially in red sparkle!!
Since Huntsville is only about an hour from Muscle Shoals and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was a place I wanted to visit, I checked on tours of the studio. Tours were 7 days a week 10am to 5pm. This would make a nice road trip, ride down to Huntsville and pick up the amp and then straight across Alabama to Muscle Shoals for the studio tour.
We left about 7:30am and headed south on I-65. Took about 2 hours and a half to get to the meeting place to purchase the amp, that went off without a hitch, purchased the cool looking red sparkle Kustom TR12L which, even though it is small, it is instant CCR sound!!! (Checkout video)
After driving west about an hour or so we arrived in the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals. The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (actually in Sheffield Ala) was very easy to find at 3614 Jackson Hwy. Had a short wait for the tour to begin, but the wait was soon forgotten.
We entered a dimly lit basement room that had some seating and album covers all around the room. All of the albums were recorded at the studio.
Watched some excerpts of the documentary Muscle Shoals (which I had seen previously) and the tour guide talked about the restoration of the studio. We also got to see a hidden bar, since Muscle Shoals is dry.
Then up to the studio, where the Swampers (from the line in Sweet Home Ala, “In Muscle Shoals we have the Swampers”) recorded countless hits for many artists.
I could feel the vibe as we walked in. We entered into the control room first, although the equipment presently in the room was upgraded and not original (since it is a working studio again) there were pictures of some of the original stuff.
We left the control room and moved into the corner where bass man David Hood was setup. His original Fender Jazzbass, Bassman amp and his Conn Strobotuner were all there ready to go.
Of course there was a drum room for isolation were drummer Roger Hawkins played.
Down the wall from the drum room was a bathroom in the studio, the guide told of tracks actually recorded in the bathroom, there is a certain sound in a small enclosed room with no sound treatment. Notice the toilet seat mounted above the door.
Down from the bathroom was a corner with a couch. The couch was original to the studio and countless artists had sat there working on the tracks, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.(Notice the picture of Jagger shaking maracas)
In the front corner was an isolated vocal booth, very dead with sound treatment and a picture of Linda Ronstadt recording a vocal track in there.
Around the corner was where the guitarist lived. There was an Ala. shaped guitar on loan from the state of Ala. (not original to the studio)
We saw the Fender amp and 3 guitars used by the Swampers guitarists, Jimmy Johnson and Pete Car.
Next, the center of the room was where keyboardist Barry Beckett worked. There was a Yamaha grand piano that countless artists have used for recordings. Billy Powell first played FreeBird as the guys from Lynyrd Skynyrd came back from lunch and heard Powell (a roadie at the time) playing on the piano to freshly recorded tracks. Bob Seger and Paul Simon also used the piano to name a few.
Also there is a Hamond B3 with leslie and a Wurlitzer electric piano, all used on many recordings.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio opened in 1969 and saw the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Staple Singers, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Tamiko Jones, Cher, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens, just to name a few before the studio moved to a lager facility in 1978.
As we left Muscle Shoals I had to swing by FAME Studios for a picture. FAME is where the Swampers first became studio session players with their mentor Rick Hall.
I highly recommend visiting Muscle Shoals Ala and 3614 Jackson Hwy and feeling the Rock N Roll vibe!!
One thought on “From Huntsville to Muscle Shoals”
That is an awesome write up. If you never get to go yourself, you can feel like you did after reading this!