A New Look at Muscle Shoals

A new film examines the old soul of Muscle Shoals

In the north corner of Alabama, on the banks of the Tennessee River, sits Muscle Shoals—a tiny town with a giant musical legacy. Beginning in the 1960s, some of the music industry’s biggest names—the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Paul Simon, and others—made the pilgrimage to this creative hub, where a group of local studios had tapped into a new sound, one that would alter the landscapes of rock ’n’ roll and soul. It’s this storied history that’s the subject of first-time director Greg Camalier’s documentary, Muscle Shoals.

The film explores the city’s emergence through behind-the-scenes footage and new interviews with artists including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Gregg Allman, Percy Sledge, and Aretha Franklin, as well as producer Rick Hall of FAME Studios and FAME’s renowned rhythm section, the Swampers, who later founded rival Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Overcoming racial barriers, the studios recorded hit after hit, giving birth to the legendary Muscle Shoals sound with such classic tracks as “Wild Horses,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” and “Simple Man.”

The documentary premieres this Saturday, January 26, at the Sundance Film Festival. Click here to watch the trailer, and stay tuned as new stops on the festival circuit are scheduled. Until then, listen to our Muscle Shoals playlist on Spotify.