The Jan. 6 and Jan. 13 editions of Greasy Tracks featured tributes to legendary music producer Rick Hall who passed away at the age of 85 on Jan. 2.
Hall, renowned for his work at writer FAME Studios, in Muscle Shoals, Ala., recorded more than 300 hit singles and 40 records that attained gold or platinum status. The studio and its associated publishing company have been behind nearly 350 million records being sold. He was known as “The Father of Muscle Shoals Music.”
In addition to featuring a wide range of music Hall produced during his incredible career, the program included portions of previous interviews Hall did on WRTC as well as interviews with bassist David Hall of The Swampers and saxophonist Floyd Newman (The Mar-Keys, Memphis Horns) who shared memories of working with Hall. Noted music writer Marc Myers was also interviewed.
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 in Florence, Ala. In 1961, Hall moved the operation to the neighboring town of Muscle Shoals.
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
In 2013, Hall was featured in the documentary Muscle Shoals and a year later, he was honored with a Grammy Trustees Award for his “significant contribution to the field of recording.” His memoir, The Man From Muscle Shoals: My Journey From Shame to Fame (Heritage Builders), was published in 2015.