Rick Hall, Legendary Muscle Shoals Producer, Dies

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Rick Hall with Clarence Carter, for whom he produced “Patches,” a 1970 hit. (Photo: Magnolia Pictures; used with permission)

The spate of deaths of prominent music figures resumed quickly in 2018 with the news today (Jan. 2) of the passing of legendary music producer Rick Hall at his home in Muscle Shoals, Ala. The co-founder of FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals was 85, and had recently returned home from a nursing home.

Hall’s death was confirmed by the Alabama’s Music Hall of Fame with a brief note on its Facebook page: “Well, folks, 2018 is off to a rough start. Rick Hall has passed away. Rick Hall was a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable force in the world of music. A lifetime is not enough to appreciate his work.”

Related: 2017: A Farewell to those who left us

Hall’s many hit productions include Clarence Carter’s “Patches,” a #2 R&B and #4 pop hit in 1970.

Along with producer-songwriter Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford, Hall co-founded FAME (whose acronym stands for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) in Florence, Ala.,  in the late 1950s. It moved to Muscle Shoals in 1961. Among the countless country, R&B, pop and rock artists who recorded there are Duane Allman, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Joe Tex. The studio’s session musicians became known as the Muscle Shoals Horns, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section–immortalized as the Swampers thanks to the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama”–became the house band.

Muscle Shoals was the subject of a documentary, featuring many of the artists that recorded there. It was released in 2013 by Magnolia Pictures.

Gregg Allman’s final studio album, Southern Blood, released posthumously in 2017, was recorded at FAME.

The FAME Studio also posted a tribute to Hall on its Facebook page: “It is with the deepest sorrow we sadly announce the passing of our founder, leader and mentor, Rick Hall. His spirit will live on forever through the massive amount of legendary music he produced! Because of Rick, Fame will always be ‘shooting for the stars’!

We hope the band in Heaven is ready!! If not, there’s gonna be a problem!

We love you Rick and Linda Hall. Thank you for all you have brought to This world!”

Hall was born on January 31, 1932, in Tishomingo County, Miss. His earliest successes as a songwriter include “Achin’, Breakin’ Heart,” a #5 country hit for George Jones in 1961, and “She’ll Never Know,” a modest pop hit for Brenda Lee.

Hall produced this 1971 smash at FAME

As his career seamlessly spanned musical genres, Hall produced “One Bad Apple” for the Osmonds at FAME. The song, released on November 14, 1970, went on to reach #1 on February 13, 1971. Its enduring success led to its ranking as the #4 overall song of the year, earning Hall Producer of the Year honors by Billboard.

Among the many artists Hall produced during his career are Mac Davis, Bobbie Gentry and the Gatlin Brothers.

Among the other songs recorded at FAME were Arthur Conley’s 1967 hit “Sweet Soul Music,” the Wilson Pickett hits “Mustang Sally,” “Funky Broadway” and “Land of 1000 Dances,” Etta James’ “Tell Mama” (which Hall produced), and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man.”

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