Hall, renowned for his work at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., just had his autobiography published, a 400-page tome aptly titled: The Man From Muscle Shoals: My Journey From Shame to Fame (Heritage Builders).
Born to a sharecropper family in rural poverty, Hall grew up in a dirt-floor shack with no bathroom. He faced a spate of personal tragedies: seeing his brother ultimately die after falling into a vat of boiling water used for washing clothes; his mother abandoning the family and turning to prostitution; his first wife killed in a horrific car crash; followed, two weeks later, by the tragic death of his father. There were numerous professional setbacks as well and Hall, turning to alcohol, hit rock bottom.
Driven by his father’s belief that “good wasn’t good enough,” Hall persevered, ultimately opening the first FAME Studios in an old tobacco warehouse.
FAME helped define what became known as southern soul music as Aretha Franklin (“I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You”), Wilson Pickett (“Hey Jude”), Arthur Conley (“Sweet Soul Music”) and Arthur Alexander (“You Better Move On”) cut career-defining tracks there. Percy Sledge, Etta James, Clarence Carter and Joe Tex also recorded chart-friendly songs there, while guitarist Duane Allman became an in-demand session player and internationally known based on his work at FAME. Country hits abounded as well via Bobbie Gentry, Jerry Reed, The Gatlin Brothers and Mac Davis.
Greasy Tracks first aired on May 6, 1995, with Albert King’s “Blues at Sunrise” ushering in what would be the start of two decades of soul and blues music with a unique, regularly occurring focus on southern soul. In the last five years, host Chris Cowles and colleague Tom Shaker have produced a series of six-hour specials on Stax Records, including broadcasting one edition from Memphis.
Dozens of musicians and authors have been guests on the program, including Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Jorma Kaukonen, David Bromberg, Bobby Whitlock, Boz Scaggs, Steve Kimock, George Clinton, Melvin Sparks, Skip Pitts, Wayne Jackson, David Porter, Mack Rice, Kirk Waylum, Jim Marshall, Ike Willis, Ray White, JJ Grey, Susan Tedeschi and Paul Barrere to name but a handful.