Get the Drum Sounds of FAME Studios | Reverb’s Studio Sampled Sounds

Timeless and memorable music typically comes about through a combination of era, location, and the active participation of a unique group of people. This convergence of probability is, in fact, "where the magic happens." While certain areas with denser populations and more diverse cultural fabrics tend to be epicenters of the arts, every once in a while, something serendipitous happens in the most unassuming of places.

Studio Sampled Sounds
Drum Series Vol. 3 | FAME Studios - Muscle Shoals, AL
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Today, we're bringing you the distinct drum sounds of Muscle Shoals' FAME Studios. We've compiled one-hits and loops that emulate the tracking spaces, drum kits, recording practices, and mixing techniques that made the Muscle Shoals sound famous around the world. And in line with our previous stop on the Studio Sampled Sounds tour, including Detroit's Motown and Memphis' Stax studios, we're looking back at what made the original sounds so memorable to begin with.

Muscle Shoals started a musical movement so powerful that, for a moment in time, they were able to dominate the entire global popular music spectrum, making even the biggest artists take notice. All of this fanfare, success, and the ensuing legacies that came with it were all being commanded from a small factory town in Alabama, that has a population of less than 15,000.

A major aspect of their musically expressive dominance was their pocket-grooving, trailblazing rhythm section—a true musical force that included a drum sound that was powerful and driving yet delicate and supportive when it needed to be.

Just a three-hour drive east from where we left off in Drum Series Vol. 2 in Memphis, is the town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. A small town in a region defined by farming and factory jobs. However, in 1959, all of that was about to change.

After the tragic death of his wife and father within a two week period in 1957, Rick Hall left his factory job to play music full-time. Meeting a business partner, Billy Sherrill, through touring, they would accept an offer from a local recording studio in 1959 to start a publishing company called Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, or FAME.

Rick Hall With An Original Bill Putnam (Universal Audio) 610 Console

Having some success with songwriting and producing music for a few other artists, their partnership dissolved, leaving Rick with the rights to the name. Reinvesting the funds from his early successes, he founded FAME Studios in 1960 at 603 East Avalon Avenue, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was only up from here for Hall. His first gold record came in 1961, with Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On." From that hit forward, Rick's business flourished.

In that era, his musicians included Norbert Putnam, David Briggs, Peanut Montgomery, and Jerry Carrigan as he worked with Atlanta-based agent Bill Lowery. The studio produced hits for Tommy Roe, Joe Tex, the Tams, and Jimmy Hughes.

Roger Hawkins, a local gigging drummer, would fill in for Jerry Carrigan when he couldn't make it. Eventually, Hall's in-house band would take up a better offer in Nashville and he made Hawkins, and the new additions of Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Johnson, and David Hood his new session band.

During this transition period, Hawkins would play on his first big hit record with Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." With Atlantic Records' licensing of the song, it would be a major turning point for Hawkins and Co., establishing a relationship with Jerry Wexler. The Atlantic producer soon brought Wilson Pickett, James & Bobby Purify, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding, and Arthur Conley to record at Muscle Shoals.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section With Aretha Franklin
Cher's 3614 Jackson Highway album cover with The Swampers

This inhouse band earned themselves the name The Swampers, and were also referred to as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Along with Rick Hall's production style, this ensemble of groove addicts pioneered what would later come to be known as the Muscle Shoals Sound.

Hawkins backed up some of the finer recordings of soul giants with a snare drum snap so dynamic that at times it seemed as if the stick had been fired from a tightly-wound crossbow. A drummer who covers all the bases, Hawkins' style is very loose and funky, syncopated and behind the beat. He could changes styles for whatever the session needed, as demonstrated with the bell-centric ride patterns in Wilson Pickett's "Land of 1,000 Dances" and the shuffling rim-clicks on The Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There." That sound came to define some of the most beloved soul and R&B recordings of all time.

Roger Hawkins

An intense drummer when needed, or calm and steady when appropriate, his ability to conform, accompany, and support the songs is what has made Roger Hawkins' playing so fascinating. Watkins' go-to kit was a Ludwig Hollywood, with a 20" kick, 12" and 13" mounted toms, and a 16" floor tom, with a 5 1/2"x14" Ludwig snare.

In 1969, just after Hall had signed a deal with Capitol Records, the four primary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section members Barry Beckett, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, and David Hood, left to found a competing business, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Eventually Roger Hawkins played on records by Paul Simon, the Staple Singers, Leon Russell, Sam & Dave, Cher, Bob Seger, Eddie Rabbitt, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, and Percy Sledge. He also toured with Steve Winwood and Traffic during the early 70s as well as stints in Eric Clapton's rhythm section.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section has appeared on more than 500 albums, including 75 gold and platinum hits.

The Studio Sampled Sounds - Drum Series Vol. 3 | FAME Studios - Muscle Shoals, AL collection features drum sounds, hits, one shots, and grooves emulated in the fashion of Roger Hawkins and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Our collection covers notable hits, such as Etta James "Tell Mama," Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally," "Land Of 1,000 Dances," and more.

Get the Studio Sample Sounds sample pack and listen to our audio demo of just some of the drum sounds available below. And be on the lookout for the next installments, featuring the sounds of Olympics Studios, Chess Records, and more.

Studio Sampled Sounds
Drum Series Vol. 3 | FAME Studios - Muscle Shoals, AL
Buy Now on Reverb
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