Less than three weeks after Hit Factory announced it was closing its New York studio, another world-class facility steeped in recording history has closed. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios — the Alabama facility co-founded by Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Barry Beckett and Roger Hawkins (original members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section) — has welcomed numerous chart-topping artists, including the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Cher (who named her 3614 Jackson Highway album after the studio’s address), Bob Seger and so many more.
Lynyrd Skynyrd video shoot at Muscle Shoals Sound, circa 1998.
The facility has been owned by indie blues label Malaco Records since 1985. Malaco Records principal Wolf Stephenson told Billboard that he and his partners were more interested in acquiring Muscle Shoals Sound Publishing (a catalog that includes “Old Time Rock & Roll” and “Torn Between Two Lovers”) than the recording studio. “The only reason we bought the studio was the banks we were dealing with wouldn’t loan us the money on the publishing company,” Stephenson said. “They didn’t have any idea what it was. It was jut a stack of papers to them.” The two-room facility was used extensively by Malaco-backed artists, but the past four years, according to Stephenson, saw a sharp decline in outside projects. “When computer and hard disk recording really got cheap and better at the same time, it just knocked the socks off a lot of studios — Muscle Shoals included. It was just a very difficult thing to compete with.”