Friday, June 12, 2015

everybody was writing

"We were away to the races, cutting hits."
> Jerry Wexler

--------------- [excerpt, Sweet Soul Music] ----------- And this, according to Rick Hall, "was when Tom Stafford heard about us and sent word that he wanted to have a meeting.  We had never heard of him, but people said he had money to spend, and we began to work day and night."  This was the beginning of Fame Music.

The name, though it suggests all kinds of richer connotations, was easy enough to come up with, standing as an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises.  The location, too, was logical enough.  Tom Stafford's father had given him the space over the drugstore formerly occupied by a podiatrist.

There were plaster casts of people's feet scattered all around, and everything was "really cruddy," but Billy [Sherrill] and Rick [Hall] threw themselves wholeheartedly into the new enterprise in the spring and summer of 1959. 

They set up Army cots among the plaster casts, "and we began to staple egg cartons on the wall.  Which is the story," Rick says, "of every Southern producer in the business, but we did it anyhow for acoustic purposes, and we drug in old used carpet that they tore out of the theaters and put it on the floor....

We went to Birmingham and got three cheap mikes and a little mixer, and we began the task of putting together demos of new tunes, and everybody was writing them.  I was writing.  Billy was writing.  Tom was trying to write.  All of a sudden big time had hit Muscle Shoals."

...The very idea of a recording facility in rural Alabama,...not to mention the fact that this recording facility was getting songs cut in Nashville by famous stars, attracted every aspiring musician for miles around -- and undoubtedly created some more.

...To Dan Penn, who came up from Vernon to make a record just before high school graduation in the spring of 1960...the studio was "the hottest place I ever walked into in my life, and still overall one of the hottest places I've ever seen. 

It was electric, and Tom Stafford was the hub of it.  He could tell you things without sounding like a schoolteacher, and you just knew he wasn't going to pitch you wrong.  We all met right there at that drugstore.  Everyone I knew met there.  It was nothing but pure-D hanging out."

-------------- [excerpt 2] -------------- [The] explanation has always stressed that Stax [Records in Memphis] was simply too busy with its own artists, that they were working practically around the clock, and that Stax no longer had time for outside production. 

Undoubtedly this was part of the reason, but no less certainly Wilson Pickett's unique personality entered into it as well. ..."Wilson couldn't get along with anyone, and they just said, 'Hey, man, don't bring that asshole down here again.'"

So Wexler departed with Pickett in tow, and Atlantic broke off its incipient production deal....after only a momentary delay Wexler headed straight for Muscle Shoals.


You ask me to give up the hand of the girl I love
You tell me, I'm not the man she's worthy of
But who are you to tell her who to love?
That's up to her, yes, and the Lord above --
You better move on


{Sweet Soul Music, by Peter Guralnick, copyright 1986.  Back Bay Books -- Little, Brown.}

{"You Better Move On," written and sung by Arthur Alexander, 1961, recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Session musicians included David Briggs, piano, Terry Thompson, guitar, Forest Riley, acoustic guitar, Norbert Putnam, bass, Jerry Carrigan, drums.}


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