Between 1964 and 1968, Rick Hall’s Fame label became a southern soul powerhouse, as demonstrated on this compilation, which combines the very best of the released material with recordings that remained unissued at the time.
Rural northern Alabama was an unlikely place for a musical revolution, but by the mid-70s the tri-city area of Sheffield, Florence and Muscle Shoals had many recording studios and was its own self-contained music industry. It thrived in the hands of a group of creative and talented musicians, but that it developed at all was almost entirely down to one man, Rick Hall. A decade and a half earlier Hall had started up Fame Studios with the hit ‘You Better Move On’ by Arthur Alexander and was almost entirely responsible for creating the atmosphere that saw everyone from Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding to Paul Anka and the Osmonds record in the Shoals area.
‘You Better Move On’ was the culmination of a dream Hall had entertained since starting Florence Alabama Musical Enterprises with Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford above a drugstore in Florence a couple of years earlier. When Hall found himself kicked out of the partnership with only the name of the company to call his own, he set up a studio in a former tobacco warehouse on the Wilson Dam Road. It was there he recorded Arthur Alexander, backed by the great rhythm section of Norbert “Curly” Putnam on bass, Jerry Carrigan on drums, David Briggs on piano and guitarists Terry Thompson and Earl “Peanut” Montgomery.
In late 1962, Hall moved the studio to East Avalon Avenue, where it remains to this day, and his A-team of musicians went with him. But as outside producers began to make use of the facility, unrest grew amongst the band, who found out how much more they could be earning in Nashville. By the end of 1964, most of the players had left. Rick then put together his second rhythm section, initially built around guitarist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Roger Hawkins of the Del-Rays, Albert “Junior” Lowe on bass, Linden “Spooner” Oldham on keyboards and guitarist Terry Thompson. Lowe, Oldham and Thompson would be augmented or replaced by bassist David Hood and Barry Beckett on keys to create the definitive line-up.
By this point Fame had become a local hub, with aspiring musicians, songwriters and singers converging on the studio to see if the magic would rub off on them. After a number of false starts, Hall had the Fame Records label up and running with a bona fide hit, Jimmy Hughes’ self-penned ‘Steal Away’. Between 1964 and 1968 the label became a southern soul powerhouse, as demonstrated on this compilation, which combines the very best of the released material with recordings that remained unissued at the time. Still available as a 2LP set (KENT2 504).