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Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section

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Active from  1967
Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section wwwalamhoforgfilescache974191bbca0401e80afb20
Associated acts  David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett, Spooner Oldham, Pete Carr, Jim Capaldi
Members  David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett, Spooner Oldham
Similar  Rick Hall, Jerry Wexler, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter

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The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as the Swampers, is a group of American studio musicians playing soul, R&B, rock and roll and country, based in the city of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They have appeared on more than 500 recordings, including 75 gold and platinum hits. Originally the house band at Rick Hall's FAME Studios, the group went on to found their own competing business, the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. The group was inducted into the Nashville-based Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008 and into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995, "as four of the finest studio musicians in the world", also receiving the Lifework Award in 2008.


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The nickname "The Swampers" was given to the group by the music producer Denny Cordell during recording sessions for Leon Russell because of their "funky, soulful Southern “swamp” sound". They are referred to as "The Swampers" in the lyrics of "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974) by Lynyrd Skynyrd and appear on the cover of Cher's 1969 album 3614 Jackson Highway.

Affectionately called The Swampers, but usually known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, this group was one of the best-known session musicians. Along with Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios they are recognized as having crafted the "Muscle Shoals sound".

The four members of the rhythm section were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995 with a "Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement" and into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008 (the performers inducted into the latter were the four founding members of the Swampers—Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), and Jimmy Johnson (guitar)—plus Pete Carr (guitar), Spooner Oldham (organ and piano), Albert S. Lowe Jr., Clayton Ivey, Randy McCormick, and Will McFarlane.

Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson originally worked as the "house band" at Rick Hall's FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. They left FAME in 1969 and, in partnership with Jerry Wexler

Jerry Wexler, of Atlantic Records, brought artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to record with the all-white group of Southern musicians after their success with Arthur Alexander and notably with Percy Sledge on "When a Man Loves a Woman." In the 1970s, Stax Records, based in Memphis, also began bringing artists to the studio. Johnnie Taylor had a long run of R&B hits with the group, and the Staple Singers had their greatest crossover successes with songs like "I’ll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself." Later, the Swampers were the sound behind Bob Seger's hits, such as "Old Time Rock and Roll".

Other artists who recorded with the Swampers include Rod Stewart, Duane Allman, Boz Scaggs, Elkie Brooks, Paul Simon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Glenn Frey, Jim Capaldi, Julian Lennon, Delbert McClinton, J. J. Cale, John Prine, Alice in Chains, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Little Milton, Sawyer Brown, Tony Joe White, the Oak Ridge Boys, Eddy Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, and many more. Hawkins, Hood, and Beckett toured with the band Traffic for a while.

Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson closed the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway in April 1979 and moved the operation to a new studio at 1000 Alabama Avenue in Sheffield. They continued to operate at that new location until 1985 when they closed the business and sold it to their longtime friend Tommy Couch, owner of Malaco Records, based in Jackson, Mississippi. At that time, three of the rhythm section joined other session players, such as the keyboardist Carson Whitsett, backing Bobby "Blue" Bland and other notable artists recorded for the Malaco label and occasionally working at other studios. Becket, however, left Alabama at that time, moving to Nashville to work as a producer.

During the 1990s and later, the group continued working as a studio band, often with Clayton Ivey on keyboards, for artists including Gregg Allman (All Night All Stars), T. Graham Brown, Jimmy Buffett, Melissa Etheridge, John Hiatt, the Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Paycheck, Etta James, and Joe Louis Walker.

Lynyrd Skynyrd referred to the musicians as The Swampers in the 1974 song "Sweet Home Alabama":

"Now, Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
"And they've been known to pick a song or two
"Lord, they get me off so much
"They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
"Now, how 'bout you?"

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section is featured in the 2013 documentary film Muscle Shoals.


Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section Wikipedia