Rick Hall, Music Producer Known for Muscle Shoals Sound, Dies at 85

In the segregated Alabama of the 1960s, black and white performers collaborated at FAME, as they did at one other fortress of Southern soul, Stax in Memphis.

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Duane Allman signing a contract with Mr. Hall at FAME Studios in 1968.

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The Hall Family

“It was a dangerous time, but the studio was a safe haven where blacks and whites could work together in musical harmony,” Mr. Hall wrote.

Mr. Hall was a producer, co-producer, engineer or songwriter for main hits by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Etta James, the Osmonds, Mac Davis, Paul Anka and Shenandoah, amongst many others. His most well-liked recording methodology was to assemble trusted musicians and seize the perfect concepts from studio jams. “We cut them from the heart, not from the charts,” he informed The New York Times in 2015.

Rick Hall was born Roe Erister Hall on Jan. 31, 1932, in Forest Grove, Miss. He grew up in rural poverty in northern Alabama, raised by his father, a sawmill employee and sharecropper. He was 6 when his father gave him a mandolin, and he would go on to study fiddle, guitar and bass.

By the mid-1950s, he was in a band, the Country Pals, with a each day radio present on WERH in Hamilton, Ala. Billy Sherrill, who was in one other native band, started writing songs with him; Mr. Sherrill would change into considered one of nation music’s most vital producers.

In 1959, Mr. Hall, Mr. Sherrill and a 3rd associate, Tom Stafford, began FAME as a demo-recording studio and music writer. Mr. Hall and Mr. Sherrill additionally fashioned a rock ’n’ roll band, the Fairlanes, that added Dan Penn as lead singer; he would change into a Southern soul mainstay as a songwriter and producer.

The preliminary FAME partnership fractured, and Mr. Hall restarted FAME Studios throughout the Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals. He wrote songs that have been recorded by nation singers together with Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee and George Jones. But he noticed extra alternative in rhythm and blues.

In 1961, he produced a success: the soul singer Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On,” which might later be recorded by the Rolling Stones. That track financed the studio the place FAME continues to be situated, in-built 1962 at 603 East Avalon Ave. in Muscle Shoals. Another soul hit in 1964, Jimmy Hughes’s “Steal Away,” established FAME as a file label.

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Mr. Hall in New York City in 2015. “For every hit I have ever produced, I have given three pints of blood and one pint of sweat,” he wrote in his memoir.

Credit
James Dimmock for The New York Times

The producer Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records introduced Wilson Pickett to FAME for classes that yielded 5 singles: “Land of a Thousand Dances,” “Mustang Sally,” “Funky Broadway,” “Hey Jude” and “Hey Joe.” The concept of recording “Hey Jude” got here from the studio’s lead guitarist: Duane Allman.

Mr. Wexler returned to the studios with Aretha Franklin, who recorded two career-defining songs there in a day: “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.”

But that day led to a fistfight between Mr. Hall and Ms. Franklin’s husband and supervisor at the time, Ted White. Ms. Franklin by no means returned to FAME Studios; Muscle Shoals musicians, with out Mr. Hall, recorded “Respect” together with her in New York City. Still, FAME’s soul hits continued, amongst them Etta James’s “Tell Mama” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” and Clarence Carter’s “Slip Away” and “Patches.”

A studio band Mr. Hall had assembled at FAME — Barry Beckett on keyboards, Jimmy Johnson on guitar, David Hood on bass and Roger Hawkins on drums — turned acknowledged because the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also called the Swampers. In 1969, in partnership with Mr. Wexler, they based the rival Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Ala., and went on to file with the Staple Singers, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Traffic, Bob Dylan and plenty of others. They finally reconciled with Mr. Hall.

Mr. Hall gathered different musicians and continued to make hits. The Osmonds had a No. 1 pop single with “One Bad Apple,” produced by Mr. Hall in 1970. Mr. Hall was nominated for a Grammy Award for producer of the yr in 1970, and Billboard journal named him producer of the yr in 1971.

Mr. Hall largely turned towards nation and pop with hits together with Bobbie Gentry’s 1970 “Fancy,” Mac Davis’s “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me” and Paul Anka’s 1974 duet with Odia Coates, “(You’re) Having My Baby.” He co-produced Shenandoah, which had been a bar band in Muscle Shoals, because it turned a rustic hitmaker within the late 1980s.

The Muscle Shoals sound acquired renewed consideration with a 2013 documentary, “Muscle Shoals,” and in 2014, Mr. Hall acquired the Grammy Trustees Award, a lifetime achievement award. Through the a long time, FAME Studios has remained lively. Gregg Allman labored there on “Southern Blood,” his closing album, in 2016.

Mr. Hall is survived by his spouse, Linda Kay Hall; his sons Rick Jr., Mark and Rodney Hall; his brothers Larry and Jerry Hall; his sister, Betty Bedford, and 5 grandchildren.

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