Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers….
— Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Sweet Home Alabama”
3614 Jackson Highway was home to one of the most successful musical groups ever assembled: the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, perhaps better known by its nickname, the Swampers. David Hood (bass), Jimmy Johnson (rhythm guitar), Roger Hawkins (drums), and Barry Beckett (keyboard/piano) were among the most sought-after musicians in the country by the time they left FAME Studios in 1969 to start their own recording business, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
Now fully restored with a mix of equipment and furniture that were original to the studio, used in other studios during the same era, or replicated based on photographs, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is open for tours every day of the week.
The studio is actually located in Sheffield, Alabama, just down the road from Muscle Shoals and across the Tennessee River from Florence. It’s not simply a museum and tourist stop; musicians still record here, and there’s a mix of old and new equipment available to them.
The studio had an audio board like this one during its heyday, but this particular one was brought in during the studio’s restoration. Still, this console has its own special history. Chet Atkins used it when recording his music, and our tour guide pointed out the circular stain in the bottom left of the second photograph. That’s where Atkins used to set his cans of Dr. Pepper.
In the photos that follow, you’ll see some interesting pieces of history: the piano Paul Simon used to record “Kodachrome” and other songs; David Hood’s bass corner and Roger Hawkins’ drum booth; and some original studio furniture. Check out the special edition Gibson guitar shaped like the state of Alabama.