The Astonishing History behind Muscle Shoals’ Fame Recording Studio

Fame Recording Studios
FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Photo via Nathan Watson for The Bama Buzz

Did you know that Muscle Shoals has been called, “The Hit Recording Capital of the World”? Even if you haven’t visited the city, you’ve definitely heard its sound, thanks to the little recording studio called FAME. Keep reading to tag along on our visit.

The studio is the reason Muscle Shoals carries that name, and why the city is well known for music. On top of that, Fame Studios is one of the longest-running recording studios, churning out hit after hit records since the 1950s. Even though Muscle Shoals is fairly small, there’s no mistaking the huge impact Fame Recording Studio had on not only Muscle Shoals, but the entire music industry.

The Origin of Fame Recording Studios & Why it’s still Popular Today

Rick Hall.
Rick Hall standing in front of his legacy–FAME Recording Studios Photo Via MusicTrail

“Any discussion about American Music that doesn’t involve Muscle Shoals, Alabama isn’t really a discussion at all. Heart-pounding. Soul-shaking. Iconic. Many words have been used to describe the Muscle Shoals sound.”

-Fame Recording Studios Website

Let’s travel back to where it all started: 1959. That year, Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford founded the Florence Alabama Music Enterprises above the City Drug Store in downtown Florence. The shortened acronym, FAME, undoubtedly fits the studio’s impact on the music industry. Some of the best-selling hits of the past 70 years have been recorded in this studio — simply put, it is music magic. In fact, the studio landed a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

Not only was the studio celebrated, but the founder, Rick Hall, became a notable figure for Muscle Shoals’ music.

 “Hall’s Grammy-winning production touched nearly every genre of popular music from country to R&B, and his Fame Studio and publishing company were a breeding ground for future legends in the worlds of songwriting and session work, as well as a recording home to some of the greatest musicians and recording artists of all time.”

—Rolling Stone, 2018

Although Rick Hall passed in 2018, his legacy and impact on the music world will live forever.

Legendary Musicians and Notable Hits of FAME

Framed Pic Of A Few Visitors Of Fame Studio.
Notice any Celebs? Photo Via Daeja Coleman for Bama Buzz.

If you’re a lover of Blues, Soul, Rock and Country music, some of your favorite songs might’ve been produced here. Here’s a list of some of the best songs recorded at Fame Studios:

  • “Steal Away” Jimmy Hughes, 1964
  • “What Kind of Fool do You Think I Am?” The Tams, 1964
  • “Hold On to What You’ve Got” Joe Tex, 1965
  • “Tell Mama” Etta James, 1967
  • “Slip Away” Clarence Carter, 1967

Recognize any? Along with the impressive number of hits composed at the studio, there have been legends that left their mark there, too. Here’s some honorable musicians that have stepped foot in FAME:

  • Aretha Franklin, ‘Queen of Soul” and one of the greatest music artists of the 20th century
  • Little Richard, American Musician
  • Demi Lovato, American Singer, Actress and Songwriter
  • Clarence Carter, American blues and soul singer
  • Alicia Keys, Pianist, Singer and Songwriter

As you can see, many classics have been produced at FAME, and great musicians have recorded here. That’s why, even today, a small town like Muscle Shoals can maintain its claim to fame.

Want to check out the studio yourself?

  • Tours are available Monday-Friday 9am-4pm & Saturday 10am-3pm on the hour
  • Reservations can be made here.
  • Location: 603 E Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL

What’s your favorite Fame recorded hit? Tag us and let us know @thebamabuzz.

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Daeja Coleman
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