The acronym is F-A-M-E, but it may as well be S-O-U-L.
It was a full half-century ago that the recording studio, record label and publishing operation originally known as Florence Alabama Music Enterprises established itself and its trademark sound with the hit recording of ‘You Better Move On’ by Arthur Alexander. In the fifty years since, FAME Studios and its founder Rick Hall have been at the forefront of the Muscle Shoals Sound. FAME begat the process whereby a little known Alabama backwater would evolve into the very crucible of southern soul, a holy place to where musicians, singers and fans still make a very specific pilgrimage in the hope of experiencing a little bit of the magic behind so many hit records: ‘I’m Your Puppet’, ‘Land Of 1,000 Dances’, ‘Tell Mama’ and countless others.
Rick Hall is now a grand old man of the music business, but back in the 60s he was more akin to an enfant terrible, with an unbending will that helped him make it against almost insurmountable odds, matched by an attention to detail that bordered on obsession. There have only ever been a handful of truly self-sufficient producer/engineers in the history of popular music, and Hall is pre-eminent amongst them. Atlantic, Chess and so many other legendary labels flocked to FAME to avail themselves of the sound, the players, the material, and most importantly the vibe that Rick Hall had created.
Fame Studios Story
The FAME Studios Story 1961-1973 is an exhaustive three CD set derived from two years’ worth of excavations by the intrepid Ace team at the hallowed FAME vault. The result is a full programme of FAME-related releases slated for issue on Ace, Kent, and BGP over the next couple of years, but the lynchpin is this definitive anthology that focuses upon the halcyon days of the studio and the label. It’s an open-minded, celebratory overview that, across 75 tracks, spotlights both artists and records that are either acknowledged greats, or lesser known – yet no less worthy – entries in the lexicon of soul.
Candi Staton is the finest female singer ever to grace a Southern Soul recording, her achingly vulnerable vocals perfect for the lyrics of the best country/soul songs. Luckily for us, during her tenure at Rick Hall’s Fame label she got the best songs, mostly from the pen of George Jackson, perhaps the top Southern Soul songwriter of his generation. George spent every waking minute of his day writing songs and probably came up with a few while he dreamt too. As Candi herself said, “That was his thing.”
When we issued the box set “Take Me To The River” in August 2008, we hinted that we had many more projects in the pipeline that would gladden the hearts of Southern soul fans. My colleague Dean Rudland’s trawl of the Sounds Of Memphis tape library continues to yield awesome results and we’re both very proud that we are bringing you “The Complete Goldwax Singles” across three double CD volumes, with the third to come early next year. Dean's “Memphis 60” project will soon spawn a follow-up volume and its 1970s companion is also doing very nicely.
As a songwriter, George Jackson is a Southern soul giant. He is revered by artists and soul fans alike for his prolific output of high quality soul songs and he was at the peak of his powers during his tenure at the FAME studios from 1968 to 1972. Rick Hall, who owned FAME, knew that if a top soul artist was coming into the studio and some songs were needed, then George was the man.
Hall Of Fame: Rare And Unissued Gems From The FAME Vaults
Various Artists (Fame)
Hall of Fame
Nearly two years after we began our initial excavation of the Rick Hall’s FAME Studios tape vault, our findings continue to enthral. So far we’ve brought you CDs of the complete FAME recordings of Spencer Wiggins, Candi Staton and Jimmy Hughes, the first of several volumes by George Jackson and a fantastic boxed set, as well as numerous vinyl treats. Now we’re reaching into the deepest corners of the FAME vaults for our first multi-artist scoop of rare and precious soul, part of an ongoing series we call “Hall Of Fame”.