Much has been made in the last few years about the Muscle Shoals Sound and the pioneers of the music industry from Alabama. These pioneers included Sam Phillips who was born just a short drive from Muscle Shoals in Florence, Alabama. Sam founded Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. He is noted for having discovered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Rick Hall settled in Alabama and founded FAME Studios and is noted as the founder of the modern day “Muscle Shoals Sound”. Rick cites Sam Phillips as a mentor. Rick put together the original session musicians known as “The Swampers”. During the Civil Rights Movements he chose to work with black artists. A small list of artists who have recorded at FAME includes Wilson Pickett, James and Bobby Purify, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Etta James and Arthur Conley.
The Swampers (Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins Jimmy Johnson and David Hood) left Rick Hall’s Fame Studio to found the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. Artists who are noted as having recorded here includes Cher, The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Dr. Hook, Elkie Brooks, Millie Jackson, Julian Lennon and Glenn Frey.
This is where I came in May of 1983, after going to the police about being abused and kidnapped by Joe Elliott of Def Leppard and an unknown Kurt Cobain from my home outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Someone from Joe’s camp called one of the studios in Muscle Shoals for help and it was recommended they contact Chris Blackwell of Island Records. Chris was no stranger to Muscle Shoals, having signed Steve Winwood’s band Traffic who toured with The Swampers and in 1971 Chris brought Jamaican artist Jimmy Cliff to record “Another Cycle” at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
It was after this that many recommended I use song titles by artists and bands who had recorded in Muscle Shoals.
“ACHY BREAKY HEART” (Billy Ray Cyrus)
Rick was a musician and songwriter himself before founding FAME Recording & Publishing in Muscle Shoals. He wrote the song “Aching Breaking Heart” recorded by George Jones. With his blessing, I wrote the song “Achy Breaky Heart” which would be the biggest hit for Billy Ray Cyrus.
Vernon, Alabama native, musician, and songwriter Dan Penn often worked with Rick Hall at FAME. He co-wrote the song “I’m Your Puppet” with Spooner Oldham recorded by James & Bobby Purify in 1966 and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” for Aretha Franklin.
“NOBODY’S FOOL” (Cinderella)
“EVERYBODY’S FOOL” (Evanescence)
Penn wrote the song “Nobody’s Fool” (1972) which I first used the song title to write the song “Nobody’s Fool” recorded by the band I named Cinderella.
I took Penn’s song “Everybody” recorded by Tommy Roe and wrote the debut song recorded by Madonna.
It was soon after this I wrote the song “Everybody’s Fool” putting the two song titles together and would be recorded by the band I named Evanescence.
“SWEET SOUL SISTER” (The Cult)
Arthur Conley was an artist who recorded at Rick Hall’s FAME. In 1967, he released the song “Sweet Soul Music” co-written by Otis Redding. At the time I wrote “Sweet Soul Sister” inspired by Conley’s song title, I was learning about Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and other female artists who recorded in Muscle Shoals.
“ALL I WANT TO DO IS MAKE LOVE TO YOU” (Heart)
Dobie Gray worked with Rick Hall at Fame Recording Studios to record the song “All I Want to Do Is Make Love To You” (1979). I reworked the song while working on songs for Heart, which Mutt Lange who produced Def Leppard’s 1983 Pyromania album took credit for some of the songs I wrote. I also wrote “These Dreams”, “Alone”, “What About Love”, “Nothin’ at All”, and “Never” .
“CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE” (R.E.M.)
Not only did George Jones record in Muscle Shoals but recorded a complete album of Dallas Frazier cover songs (1968). As a teen, I loved the Oak Ridge Boys cover of Frazier’s song “Elvira” (1981). On the album of Frazier songs, Jones covered “I Can’t Get There From Here” which I borrowed the title to write the song for the band R.E.M. I wrote many songs recorded by R.E.M…including Radio Free Europe and Losing My Religion.
JERRY REED & BOZ SCAGGS
“THE BIRD & JUNGLE LOVE” (The Time)
In 1982, Rick Hall produced songs for Jerry Reed, which included “The Bird”. In 1983, the song title was offered to me.
The song “Jungle Love” was a song title I borrowed from The Steve Miller Band (1977). Boz Scaggs became a vocalist for Steve Miller and in 1969 worked with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and session guitarist Duane Allman on his second solo album.
In the 70’s, Linda Ronstadt came to Muscle Shoals to record.
“FALL TO PIECES” (Velvet Revolver)
As a teen, I wrote the song “Fall to Pieces” which was a song title I borrowed from Patsy Cline (written by Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard) of “I Fall to Pieces”. In 1972, Linda Ronstadt covered the song for her 3rd solo album…along with Glen Frey and Don Henley who would go on form The Eagles…and Barry Beckett with members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Later, I would write songs that Glenn and Don would record.
“I STILL MISS SOMEONE (BLUE EYES)” (Stevie Nicks)
On the same 1972 Linda Ronstadt album in which she covered the Patsy Cline song “I Fall to Pieces” she also covered the Johnny Cash song “I Still Miss Someone”. I used the song title to write the song recorded by Stevie.
THE ROLLING STONES
“STRAY CAT STRUT” (Stray Cats)
Before The Rolling Stones recorded part of their Sticky Fingers album in Muscle Shoals, in 1968 (the year I was born) they released their 8th album “Beggars Banquet” with the song “Stray Cat Blues”. After I wrote “Strut” recorded by Sheena Easton, I wrote the song “Stray Cat Strut” recorded by the group I named the “Stray Cats”.
“STUPID GIRL” (P!nk)
I always tried to stay away from the famous songs by certain artists, especially The Stones. In 1966, The Rolling Stones released the album “Aftermath” with the song “Stupid Girl”…which I used to write the song recorded by the artist I gave the stage name “P!nk”.
“OVER NOW” (Alice in Chains)
In 1964, The Rolling Stones released the album 12 x 5 of mostly cover songs. They covered Bobby & Shirley Womack’s song “It’s All Over Now”…which I used to write the song recorded by the band fronted by a friend of Kurt Cobain. This is also why Layne Staley chose the same day Kurt left the public life for him to leave the public life…April 5th…
“DOWN IN A HOLE” (Alice in Chains)
In 1980, The Rolling Stones released the album “Emotional Rescue” with the song “Down in the Hole”…and I used the song title to write the song “Down in a Hole”…during the time Kurt named the band “Hole”.
“HONKY TONK BADONKADONK” (Trace Adkins)
Years after writing silly songs such as “Fat Bottom Girls” for Queen, “Baby’s Got Back” for Sir Mix-A-Lot …I wrote the song Honky Tonk Badonkadonk inspired by The Rolling Stones 1969 single “Honky Tonk Women”.
GENO WASHINGTON & THE RAM JAM BAND
“CHERRY POPPIN’ DADDIES” (Zuit Suit Riot)
The English soul band Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band recorded Rick Hall & Dan Penn’s song “You Left The Water Running”. In 1967, the band released the album “Hipsters, Flipsters, Finger-Poppin’ Daddies!” which inspired me to name the group “Cherry Poppin’ Daddies” to record my song “Zuit Suit Riot” in 1997. This was years after working with the Stray Cats would recorded my songs.
“PAPER SUN” (Def Leppard)
In 1972, Steve Winwood’s band Traffic who was signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records (the man who proclaimed me his enemy when I was 15) recorded their album “Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory” with members of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios who also toured with the band. Before Traffic’s first album was finished (1967), Island Records released the song “Paper Sun”…which I used the title to write the song “Paper Sun” for Def Leppard.
The band name “ZZ TOP” came from Texas native ZZ Hill who in 1971 came to Muscle Shoals, resulting in several R&B hits including “Chokin’ Kind” and “It Ain’t No Use”, as well as the LP The Brand New Z. Z. Hill. This is also where the stage name “Dusty Hill” came from. It was my suggestion the band members grow beards.