Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s directorial debut is Muscle Shoals, yet he’s managed to land some heavy-hitters to talk candidly about Rick Hall, FAME Studios, that studios’ house band’s subsequent split and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. To read more about the film, go here.
But on Wednesday evening at the Sundance House, it’s less talk and more tunes, featuring musicians who appear in the music doc, like John Paul White (The Civil Wars), Terence Blanchard, Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Percy Sledge, singer songwriter Dan Penn and keyboardist Spooner Oldham.
Several of the musicians exchanged e-mails with City Weekly regarding the famous Alabama studios:
City Weekly: What's your favorite story/memory about Muscle Shoals?
Dan Penn: So many but, I guess the night when Otis Redding did a demo for “You Left the Water Running.” Me and Rick Hall and Otis were in the control room and that was such a big night. And when we did “I’m Your Puppet,” that was another big one.
Spooner Oldham: Meeting my wife of 44 years, Karen.
John Paul White: I can honestly say one of my best memories is now gonna be seeing my name included with Dan, Spooner and David in an e-mail. One of my most lasting memories is of my first encounter with a Swamper. I was introduced to Jimmy Johnson back when Muscle Shoals Sound was still in the old armory down by the Tennessee River. I was completely wet behind the ears and falling all over myself. I asked him every question I could think of and he not only answered them, but he proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon telling me stories. I was transfixed. I was struck not only by his generosity but by the fervor of his storytelling -- the pride he had in what those four accomplished against all odds. I got it. I wanted it. For me, it was a point of no return.
City Weekly: Which song that was written and/or recorded there has the most significant impact on you? Why?
Dan Penn: I guess “Let’s Do It Over.” Why? Because it was very early, and we were trying to get started -- it was very hard to get started -- and then, all of the sudden, Joe Simon recorded the song and that was a hit and that gave us the leg up very early on. It really meant alot to get the song on the charts, the R&B charts.
Spooner Oldham: “You Better Move On,” by Arthur Alexander: An early hit record by an artist who wrote his song.
John Paul White: The recording of the Beatles' "Hey Jude" by Wilson Pickett continues to inspire me every time I hear it. That Duane Allman convinced him to record it at all is fascinating in itself. The alchemy between those two in that track is a raised bar I find incredibly intimidating. As many accolades as each of them have and will receive, I feel they are as underrated at their skill positions as anyone. Here you get to witness them at their best. It's a perfect track -- a timeless moment.