Saturday, December 17, 2005

DBT Lyrics Tour - Ronnie and Neil

Meanwhile in North Alabama, Wilson Pickett comes to town
To record that sweet soul music, to get that Muscle Shoals sound

Meanwhile in North Alabama, Aretha Franklin comes to town
To record that sweet soul music, to get that Muscle Shoals sound

One morning before I headed out to take some pictures for this series I picked up the TimesDaily over breakfast and was greeted with the following article:

Webster Has Plans for Studio:
In 1999, Webster purchased the nondescript stone building at 3614 Jackson Highway, the original home of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

He restored the studio, going as far as replacing the original sound and recording equipment down to the very model numbers.

The building has also been nominated for inclusion in the National Record of Historic Places.

'It will be themed around Muscle Shoals Sound.'
I decided to make the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studio my first stop for the day. I had planned on snapping a few quick pictures of the front of the building before moving on to some other Colbert County/DBT landmarks. When my dad and I pulled up to the Studio, Noel Webster was standing outside directing a bulldozer that was clearing a spot next to the studio that will be the outdoor theatre. I introduced myself and told him what I was doing. He invited my dad and I to come inside the studio and check things out. When we walked in the back door Noel flipped the light switch and the sound system started playing "Wild Horses" by the Stones. Noel started to show us around and, honestly, we could have spent a couple of days in the place in order to see everything. It was, to say the least, stunning the amount of history this small, ex-casket factory, contained. I would calculate that Billions of dollars worth of music was created and produced here. Noel pulled out pictures, album covers, framed pieces of the old wall that had signatures on it from artist all the while spitting historical tid-bits in his rapid-fire manner of speech. I was so enthralled that I had to force myself to take some pictures along the way. Before we left, Noel asked my dad and I if we wanted to see something that no one had seen since the '70's. We said "Of Course" and Noel went to the basement and returned with the old ledger books that contained the dates and dollar amounts charged to the artists who worked there. L.S, Aretha, Bob Seger, Wilson Pickett, Rod Stewart and a host of others were contained in these ledgers. It was amazing.

Noel told us about Dylan walking down to the river bottom and chatting with the local fishermen who had no idea who he was. Hard to imagine... He showed us a great picture of Duane Allman buck nekkid standing in the woods behind the studio. He told us so many stories that I'll probably update this post as I remember them...

I won't go into the detailed history of this place and the players. The links below supply a history more comprehensive than anything that I could state. You can check out who recorded at FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound.

I want to the Noel for being so gracious and for a tour of a lifetime.

Cooley's wearing this t-shirt during "Marry Me" in Live at the 40 Watt

Cher's Album Cover

Patterson gives a good history lesson on FAME here. Just scroll down the page and you can see the band standing in front of FAME when they recorded TDS.

Let's head on back to Muscle Shoals Sound

The First home of the Swampers aka the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Donny Short, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett.

Meanwhile in North Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd came to town
To record with Jimmy Johnson at Muscle Shoals Sound

Click on this pick to see what Skynyrd had written on a door.

They have an entire wall in the studio that's been covered with plexiglass. This one tile has the names Annette Snell and Jerry Powell. Noel told the story that Annette had died in a plane crash a few days after she signed the wall. Jimmy Johnson's brother was on that plane and perished too.

The other name is Jerry Powell. Noel said he was connected with Skynyrd. Notice the date, Oct. 19, 1977. This was the day before that fateful plane crash in the Louisiana swamps that killed Ronnie and the others. I haven't been able to find anything that connects Jerry with Skynyrd other than having the last name as Billy. Still... erie.

Annette Snell: ...Annette cut the brilliant "Its All Over Now"/"Promises Should Never Be Broken" at Muscle Sholas before her tragic death in an air crash on her way back to Alabama....

Bob Se"a"ger. Who ever wrote it misspelled his name.

The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" was written in this bathroom.

"Another attraction was that the studio's small-town location was far away from big-city distractions and prying eyes. "The town never impinged upon anyone," says Wexler, recalling a day when the Rolling Stones ordered breakfast at the local Howard Johnson's. "One little waitress said, 'Are you a group?' One of the members said, 'Yeah, we're a group. We're Martha and the Vandellas.'"


Anonymous said...

Hey sugar--
I've been away from the group for a while (missed many, didn't miss a few). I am thoroughly enjoying your tour. I appreciate you showing what our home really is. Working in, driving across that River every damned day, listening to Muscle Shoals music or DBT, blue skies, and hearing "Thank God for the TVA"........I LOVE ALABAMA! And I love that damned band! Thanks for showing others how rich and layered home is. I'm just sorry we couldn't feed you home cookin or Dale's. Let us know the next time you're in town. The choice will be yours! Any way you might be makin' the Athens shows?
Angie From Moulton

AAW said...


I'm glad you're enjoying the tour and it is good to have you back over on the list. I'm one of those expatriate Alabamians who struggles with the "duality" Love it and I hate it.

Next time I'm home I'll take you up on some home cookin'. Wish I could make the Athens shows but it is just too far to fly and I ain't got enought dough. Hopefully, they'll be in Cali soon.


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Unknown said...

I'm the "Jerry Powell" written about. How well I remember signing that wall. The pen didn't want to write too well so I settled for more straight lines to get it to write. I'm originally from over south of Decatur but moved to Mobile in the early fifties. My group, "Carnival" based out of Mobile, was signed by Jimmy Roger and David after hearing some songs I had written and they came to see us perform in Birmingham. We hit it off and what a great time working with all four of the Swampers...with lasting friendships. We were recording the night I signed the wall as well as the next night when the plane crashed with Skynyrd aboard. Needless to say, we stopped the session that night and it hit Jimmy and the guys real hard! I am no relation to Skynyrd's Billy Powell but I can understand the assumption. As I write this in October of 2020 I am happy to announce "Merry Go Round" which we recorded in 1977 is finally being released! After 43 years! This is special to me to honor the memory of Jimmy and Barry, and certainly Roger and David, who are thankfully still with us! I am honored to have been a small part of the story!