Muscle Shoals

Synopsis: Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the 'Singing River' as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals changed the world and sold millions upon millions of copies. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white together in Alabama's cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the 'Muscle Shoals Sound' and 'The Swampers'. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals' magnetism, mystery, and why it remains influential today.
Production: Magnolia Pictures
  3 wins & 11 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
111 min


Magic is the word

that comes to mind for me

when I think of Muscle Shoals.

It's about alchemy,

it's about turning metal,

the iron in the ground,

the rust, into gold.

You just have to listen.

And you will be transported.

You will be changed.

You're gonna hear

some of the greatest voices

that ever were.

One, two, three!

One, two, three.



All right!


Got to know how to Pony

Like Bony Moronie

Mash Potato

Do the Alligator

Put your hand on your hips,


Let your backbone slip

Do the Watusi

Like my little Lucy



You know, I feel all right.

Feel pretty good, y'all.

Na, na-na na-na, na-na na-na,

na-na na-na na-na

Na-na na-na

Come on, y'all,

let's say it one more time.

Na, na-na na-na, na-na na-na,

na-na na-na na-na

Na-na na-na


Dancin' in the alley

With Long Tall Sally

Twistin' with Lucy

Doin' the Watusi

Roll over on your back

I like it like that

Ohh, help me

Ohh, help me

We started to hear

this sound coming out.

There was an amazing feel.

Kind of, uh, magnetic,

I suppose in a way, sound wise.

And then after a while,

this word, "Muscle Shoals"

comes into the picture,

and you put two and two together

and that was when I said,

"If we get the chance,

we got to go down there,"

you know.

People now still ask me,

"What is it about

Muscle Shoals?"

It's just a little village

on the Alabama border.

Why does that music

come out of there?

It's an enigma.

How did so much music

take place

in such an undescript

little town?

There was just something

about that place,

something that still

to this day nobody can explain.

At different points in time,

on this planet,

there are certain places

where there is a field

of energy.

At this certain point in time

for this number of years,

there was Muscle Shoals.

It's a unique thing,

rooms and record-making

like that, it doesn't happen

very often.

It's usually somebody like

Rick Hall that's like

a type of maniac.

With the drive and the foresight

to do it, you know,

and he's a tough guy.

This area here is where

my roots are.

And it's helped me develop

into whatever I am today.

My father was a sawmiller

and we lived way out

in the Freedom Hills.

No houses, no neighbors.

No kids to play with.

The floor in our house

was dirt.

The heater was made

out of an oil drum.

We slept on straw beds

made out of straw

that we pulled up

in the fields.

We had no bathing facilities,

no toilets, nothing.

And we just kind of grew up

like animals.

That made me a little bitter.

Somewhat driven.

I wanted to be special.

I wanted to be somebody.

Can you slip away,

slip away

Slip away, yeah

Oh, I need you so

The first record I cut

in this studio

was a record called

"Steal Away" by Jimmy Hughes.

Brand new building.

And I was hoping it had

the magic.

I didn't know.

So I brought my band in,

and I went up

in the control room

and sat down.

Okay, all set?

I turned on the microphones

and nervously hit

the talk-back button

to the musicians

and said with a slight crackle

in my voice, "Rolling."

One, two, one, two,

three, four.

When they kicked off

"Steal Away,"

I sat behind the console

and wept.

I just had huge chill bumps

come up on my arms.

And the hair on the back

of my neck actually stood up.

And of course,

this was the birth

of the Muscle Shoals sound.

I've got to see you


Not tomorrow

Right now

I know it's late, whoa,

I can't wait

So come on and steal away

I've heard entertainers

and producers tell me

that we got some kind

of sound here

that they can't get

anywhere else.

They have to come here.

It's that oh, deep down

into your stomach,

coming up out of your gut,

coming up out of your heart.

There's that

Muscle Shoals sound.

I won't tell

Anybody else

I'll keep it to myself

I know it's late, whoa,

I can't wait

So come on and steal away

That sound made it through

to even Ireland

and Britain.

And we felt the blood in that.

We felt the...

the sort of pulse of it.

And we wanted some, you know?

You gotta understand

that Muscle Shoals

had its own kind of R&B.

Different from Memphis,

different from Detroit,

different from New York,

different from L.A.

How did it happen

in this little town

of 8,000 people,

to start this whole style

of music?

It always seems

to come out of the river.

You know, even in Liverpool,

you know, the Mersey sound.

And then of course,


And here you have

the Tennessee River.

It's like the songs

come out of the mud.

We're at a place

called Ishatae.

It means it's a special place,

a holy place.

It's a place of music.

And it's a place of people.

I've been working on it

for 32 years.

There's over eight million

pounds of stones here.

It's a memorial to

my great-great-grandmother.

She was an American Indian,

and her people were Euchee.

My grandmother's people

called this river

that we call the Tennessee

today, they called it

Nunnuhsae, the river

that sings.

They believed a young woman

lived in the river,

sang songs to 'em,

and protected 'em.

In the year 1839,

my great-great-grandmother

was removed from right here

in Muscle Shoals.

She was taken to

the Indian Nations,

what is now present-day

Muskogee, Oklahoma.

When Grandmother got out there

to Oklahoma,

she said there were no songs.

She went and listened to all

the streams she could find

and there were no songs.

They couldn't sing,

they couldn't dance.

They couldn't hold

their ceremonies.

And they got to be

very sad people.

So, she started

to come back home.

She walked all the way back.

It took her roughly five years.

She had to come back

to this river.

The river that sings.

The great dams have softened

the woman in the river's songs,

but if you go to very quiet

places and listen,

you can still hear her songs.

I know; I hear her songs

nearly every day.

When I was a young man, starting

out in the music business,

Billy Sherrill and I,

who were writing partners,

got a phone call from

a guy that wanted

to start a publishing

company with us,

and had the sum of $500

to spend on us,

which we thought was

a gold mine.

So, Tom Stafford

was a dream come true.

We went in business

and we had a little bitty studio

over Tom's father's drugstore.

We got a few cuts,

made a few bucks,

and one day, I was called in

to a meeting with Billy and Tom

and they advised me that

they were not happy

with the way things

were going and thought

that I was a little too much

of a workaholic.

And said that they wanted

to have fun

while they were having

hit records,

and that I was just too adamant

and too, uh,


and too pushy.

So, they decided to...

to let me go.

So, I obviously went home,

began to lick my wounds,

and was very bitter.

During this time,

I worked at a place called

Reynolds Metals Company

in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

And I married my first wife,

Faye Marie, there.

She and I had been married

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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