Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a museum by day and a recording studio by night. The museum preserves the historic building in Sheffield and shares the history of big hits coming from the tiny town of Muscle Shoals and neighboring communities in northwest Alabama.
When groups arrive, they’ll be shocked at how small the building is, and when they leave, they’ll be amazed at how much history is packed into the structure.
It was built in 1946 and became a studio in 1969, when a group of session musicians — the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as the Swampers — from the nearby Rick Hall’s FAME facility decided to start their own. It was the first studio to be owned and operated by session musicians and attracted legendary musical acts including Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones, Cher, Bob Dylan and many others.
Eventually, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio outgrew the 3614 Jackson Highway location and moved. The building fell into disrepair until a 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, revived interest in the building’s role in the area’s music history. The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation was created and opened the building for tours. It closed for nearly 18 months for extensive renovations and to restore the main studio to the 1969–1970 era. The studio reopened in January 2017.
All tours are guided and cover the basement and main studio, as well as a hidden room and the listening porch. Videos and music are incorporated, and visitors are allowed to play any instruments on display, some of which are original.
“Our guides talk about the past and the present of the studio, from the Swampers who started it all to who might be recording here tonight,” said Ana Hyde, assistant director of the foundation and studio and operations manager. “We realize that often people might not recognize the title of a song or an album we’re talking about, but when we play a clip, they recognize it right away. So, visitors will hear music clips throughout the tour as we share the incredible history of the studio.”
For more information, call 256-978-5151 or visit muscleshoalssoundstudio.org.
Article by MeLinda Schnyder