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The Glory Days Of Muscle Shoals: Part II

Muscle Shoals from 1972-1980, one of the most fascinating and perhaps unbelievable stories in the history of pop music recording.

“The better we get, the more we’re in danger of becoming mechanical about it. If we get dead on perfect every time, it could be a problem.”

Of course, other rhythm sections-in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Memphis and Nashville-also developed this close camaraderie, and made superb records.

But likely no other group can claim such diversity of styles, and such a high percentage of mega-hit records—scores of which are still selling and getting steady airplay decades later.

What’s the secret here?

The isolation and small town atmosphere could be a factor. “Through the years we’ve been able to draw energy from our roots,” says Hawkins.

“And we’ve been able to keep it all moving in a positive direction. If we were in New York, we’d be expending most of our energy just trying to get in the door. Here, we put that energy into making hit records.”

Surrounded by walls laden with gold and platinum records, Barry Beckett echoes Hawkins’ sentiments, then adds a final note of personal conviction.

“Trust is a big part of it. We have a family here, instead of going it alone. Of course, we were lucky to have the right teachers in people like Rick Hall, and people to help along with way like Jerry Wexler.”

“But mostly we made it because we stuck together as a unit and trusted each other.”

He pauses, looks away, then looks back straight in and says quietly: “Also, we wanted it bad, real bad.”

Muscle Shoals Studios Equipment List

Original Equipment
Console: Universal Audio 10-channel tube, later upgraded to Flickenger 16-channel and then MCI 24-channel with automation

Multitrack recorders: Scully 8-track, eventually upgraded to MCI 24-track
Mastering recorders: Ampex mono and Scully 2-track

New Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, 1978 – 80 era

Studio A
Neve 8068 (32 input) console
JH114 24-track recorder
Ampex ATR-102 2-track recorder
Audiocon room monitors (JBL loaded)
BGW and Crown monitor amplifiers
MDM-4 near field monitors
Lexicon Prime Time digital delay
Urei 1176 and dbx 160 compressor/limiters

Studio B
Neve 8088 (40 input) console
JH114 24-track recorder
Studer A80 and B67 2-track recorders
Audiocon room monitors (JBL loaded)
BGW and Crown monitor amplifiers
MDM-4 near field monitors
Lexicon 224 digital reverb
EMT (4) and Audion (1) plate reverbs
Live echo chamber (17x12x8)

“Floating” Effects Rack
ADR sweep equalizer
Orban Parasound parametric EQ
ADR Vocal Stressor
Eventide Harmonizer
Eventide Instant Flanger
Kepex (6) and Gain Brain (4)
Marshall Time Modulator
Lang EQ

The first article in this series is available here.

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