Muscle Shoals Reunion – Allmans Past and Present
On July 18, 19, and 20th Muscle Shoals, Alabama was witness to an educational, musical and spiritual reunion courtesy of promoter Dan Randolph. Music put this town on the map thanks to the plethora of iconic hits that flowed from the FAME recording studios and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio beginning in 1960’s. Artists such as Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, etc. made their way to this northwestern Alabama town to tap into the R&B magic that seemed to be minted in their studios. Many also knew that a young Duane Allman set off for FAME in 1968 and persistently lobbied owner Rick Hall to get a chance to be a session musician for their superstar clients. Rick agreed and history was made.
Forward to 2014. Dan Randolph worked with the WC Handy Fest organizers in Florence, AL to create a show featuring Cowboy; Boyer & Talton with Galadrielle Allman, author of the biography “Please Be With Me, A Song For My Father, Duane Allman” at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, aka 3614 Jackson Highway. The first show sold out quickly so a second day was added. After that sold right out, FAME Studios were approached for a 3rd night location.
Dan’s basic reason to use those studios to stage these shows was “that’s where it all got started.” This was quite literally true for Galadrielle, as she noted during her reading she was actually conceived in Duane’s cabin in Muscle Shoals. Cowboy recorded their classic song “Please Be With Me” at Muscle Shoals Sound, with Duane Allman adding dobro. Further, Duane was instrumental in then getting Cowboy signed to Capricorn Records. Tommy Talton remembered the magnetism Duane possessed in making his ideas happen. And Studio B at FAME was where Duane first jammed with Jaimoe and Berry Oakley, birthing the first notes the Allman Brothers Band would ever play.
The evenings began with Scott Boyer & Tommy Talton playing an acoustic set, followed by Galadrielle reading to the rapt crowd from her book. She chose the chapter dealing with Duane’s time in Muscle Shoals, to their delight. Then Scott and Tommy joined her on stage, telling stories and taking questions. Rick Hall had high praise for Cowboy’s music and Tommy Talton’s guitar tone and technique, a rare effusive moment for the generally reticent producer. Joe Bell of Hittin’ the Note Magazine was on hand and commented it was one of his Top 10 shows of all time.
Galadrielle has had a busy year promoting her best seller, but noted “these shows were the most special ones of the whole book tour. The room (Studio B) has such an energy.” She also observed how little the town had changed over the years, it was “like going back in time.” She was treated to as yet unheard tracks of Duane recording at FAME with Rick directing him, and said “I was thrilled to be in the same place that my father actually spent time and loved people.”
A noteworthy fact is the audience for these three shows were split 50/50 with older fans who might have bought a Cowboy album in its first pressing, and a much younger demographic who could have learned the studio’s history from the wonderful 2013 Magnolia Pictures documentary “Muscle Shoals.” Dan Randolph was proud the reunion involved not only the original participants, but the next generation. In addition to Galadrielle Allman, Scott Boyer Jr. and Rodney Hall, Rick Hall’s son, were instrumental in this gathering. Rodney Hall is continuing the family tradition, he’s purchased Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Also, expect a new CD from Tommy Talton Oct. 28th (called “Until After Then”), proof the originators of Southern Rock are not yet done adding to the rich tapestry of our musical history.
(photo of Galadrielle Allman taken by Joe Bell, photo of Tommy Talton taken by Galadrielle Allman)