“Hard Times Was the Name of the Game”: A Q&A with Rick Hall of FAME Studios

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American Songwriter spoke with venerable FAME Studios producer Rick Hall as he readies publication of his memoir The Man From Muscle Shoals, a book that documents his place in the storied music history of this small Alabama town. And don’t forget to sign up for American Songwriter‘s Live & In Person VIP getaway in Muscle Shoals, which takes place March 27-29.

Hey Rick. Congrats on the book. What compelled you to write it?

Well, it started off as a daily diary, and to be honest with you, it took me and my co-writer ten years to write this book. We didn’t drag our feet on it; it just took a long time to get it like we wanted it. Of course I wanted it [Muscle Shoals] to go down in history. It’s a small town of about 8,000 people, and I cut the first record here, so I figured I should be the one to write the book.

Do you feel like the documentary Muscle Shoals has renewed interest in the place and its history?

Yeah, I do. And I think it’s very important that people read this book and learn a little something [more] about Rick Hall and the Muscle Shoals sound. I think it has everything to do with the music business, and, as you know, the music business is going through a tough time, and if we don’t do anything about it in the next 10 years, there won’t be one, except the old stuff we recorded years ago, and that’s not what we want, but that’s where we’re going.

What’s your relationship with The Swampers [a.k.a. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section] these days? Would you say it’s one of friendly competition?

Oh yeah, they’re dear friends of mine and those days are long gone. We made up and I even recorded an album at their recording studio with Candi Staton several years ago. I did that as a gesture to let them know that I love them, and they love me, so we’ve buried the hatchet and moved on with our lives.

At one time, though, we were stiff competitors and there was some bitterness between us all, but I want to make a statement that The Swampers are only one of three music groups that I had in the studio that started out with me, and they were the third group of musicians that recorded with me. We produced all the records of Wilson Pickett of course, and The Swampers did do the recordings for Aretha Franklin and some songs on Paul Anka and some later stuff.

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