That’s how Aretha Franklin describes The Swampers, the legendary house band at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the star-studded documentary Muscle Shoals.
The band, including bassist David Hood, then went on to co-found the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in 1969, solidifying the tiny town’s place in music history.
The records created at the two studios in Muscle Shoals almost boggle the mind, ranging from The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” to Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” and the original version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.”
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (a.k.a. The Swampers) played on The Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” which features one of R&B’s definitive bass lines from Hood, and also provided the backing on a slew of Aretha Franklin’s late 1960s hits. The band known for its funky sound is even immortalized the Lynyrd Skynyrd “Sweet Home Alabama” line “Now Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers…”
The key to that sound, as revealed in the documentary, may have something to do with the strong bass and drum sound favored in Muscle Shoals.
The story of FAME, its rival Muscle Shoals Sound, the artists who recorded in the studios, and even the qualities of the town itself conducive to the making of music, is told in high style in Muscle Shoals.
Asked about what he thought the attraction was for people to come to Muscle Shoals record in our interview with Hood, the bassist said, “I think everybody came because they heard something that we had already done. If it was a hit record, and everyone wants a hit record, they would come for that. If they liked a sound, they would come for that sound…”
The documentary delves into the life of FAME founder Rick Hall — his successes, tragedies, the split with The Swampers, and his misses — for example, he wasn’t up for letting tape just roll as session guitarist Duane Allman explored his own sound. The late Allman, of course, went on to create The Allman Brothers Band with brother Greg.
Along with interviews with Hall and The Swampers, the film also includes conversations with a multitude of the artists who recorded hit records in the little town, including Steve Winwood, Jimmy Cliff, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Percy Sledge.
If you love pop/soul/rock/R&B history, this is a documentary to see. For a little extra info about the movie, head over to the official movie site. You can check out the trailer here, too: