About a week ago, I found myself in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I did not make a wrong turn and space out before landing there. This was a conscious and deliberate decision, one that I’ve thought about for quite some time. I finally made it to FAME Studios.
Truth be told, I nearly missed the place because the area around the iconic brown building with yellow block letters spelling FAME (which stands for Florence, Alabama Music Enterprises) has been engulfed by strip malls, pharmacies, fast-food restaurants and chain stores that litter the landscape of everywhere, USA. As I entered the door to the lobby of the studios, the air of modern mediocrity that emanates from boxy stores full of trinkets made in China evaporated.
The wood-paneled walls are adorned with gold records, plastered with pictures of musicians and furniture that looked like something out of your grandmother’s living room (minus the plastic covers, of course). I was standing in the same room where Gregg Allman cut his last record, where The Swampers worked for years before setting up their own studio, where Aretha Franklin cut the first of many hit records for Atlantic, and where Macon’s own Otis Redding produced some tracks for Arthur Conley. Hallowed ground indeed.
As luck would have it, the group that toured the studio with me was made up of folks from Tupelo and Memphis, and I and my companion represented Macon (full disclosure: I was that guy who wore an Otis Redding T-shirt to FAME Studios.) The “Muscle Shoals” documentary was mentioned and discussed several times during the tour. For those who are unfamiliar with the film, it is a fantastic documentary that tells the story of the area, one steeped in music history (side note: It’s still available on Netflix). That sentiment made my mind wander a bit.
No one can deny the positive impact that “Muscle Shoals” has had on the Florence-Muscle Shoals area. Why isn’t there a documentary about Macon’s music history? The depth of the music history in Macon is something that is at least comparable to that of Muscle Shoals. It’s a music history that should be appreciated outside the city limits in all of the sound and color it deserves.
Chris Nylund is a founding member of Field Note Stenographers, a collective of local musicians who write about shows in Middle Georgia. He likes books without pictures, good music and playing a variety of instruments with varying degrees of success. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.