The legendary rhythm section known as The Swampers is having some of their oriinal music released from the vaults of Muscle Shoals Sound Records after having decades go by since they recorded it.
Barry Beckett (keyboards) Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), and Jimmy Johnson (guitar) were one of the most respected and sought after session groups from the late 1960's onward.
They are responsible for playing several hit songs during their run including Big Joe Turners "Shake, Rattle and Roll," the Staple Singers "I'll Take You There," and "Respect Yourself," Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" and "Still Crazy After All These Years" and Rod Stewart's "Sailing" and "Tonight's the Night."
The collection of extremely rare music is amazing. This gives music fans a chance to get to know more about one of the session groups that has helped to create music memories, superstars, and massive hits.
For us baby boomers, it was the soundtrack of our lives. Virtually every soul record of the '60s and '70s had the same guys behind the music. The sound was black, but the musicians were white, four guys out of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Barry Beckett on keyboards, drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, and guitarist Jimmy Johnson were the founders of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, after splitting off from their gig as the house band for Rick Hall's FAME studio. Nicknamed the Swampers by Leon Russell producer Denny Cordell, they were immortalized in a verse from Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 hit Sweet Home Alabama: Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers/ and they've been known to pick a song or two/Lord, they get me off so much/They pick me up when I'm feeling blue.
Although those four were the core, other musicians rotated in and out, notably Eddie Hinton, who played guitar on the Staples Singers sessions that yielded I'll Take You There, guitarist Pete Carr, who spent a decade as lead guitarist at Muscle Shoals, and pianist/composer Spooner Oldham ( It Tears Me Up, Cry Like A Baby. )
The list of artists they backed is a who's who of soul, including, but not limited to, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Etta James, as well as the Staples. Most of their work has been well publicized and distributed. But recently Muscle Shoals Sound Records unearthed tapes from instrumental tracks recorded between '69 and '78 starring the Swampers.
It's a mixed bag of styles, kicking off with Roger Hawkins' funky Swampers sounding like an early Meters track. Muscle Shoals Malmo Express channels a Chuck Berry rhythm fronted with greasy Duane Allman style slide and double handfuls of frenetic Little Richard-worthy piano. Whiplash is a strange concept, like George Harrison trying on Duane Allman's slide backed by a Harrison Maharishi infatuated-era soundtrack. Pete's Song, a Carr composition, also recalls the Meters' work with a Allman-esque infusion in the middle and a smattering of jazzy George Benson guitar licks later on. Muscle Shoals starts out sounding like it came from a little farther south, a shimmery, bongo-backed, Latin-flavored tune that morphs into something that can't decide whether its loungey jazz or Todd Rundgren doing an offbeat take on the Spinners' Mighty Love.
Backporch Soul is churchy, deep roots soul, a track that has you expecting James Carr or Percy Sledge to wade in and thrash around in any second. Roger Hawkins' Sunday Morning R&B cries out for Sledge to swoop in on bloodied knees and sanctify it.
It's great to hear these guys stretching out and just letting it roll. But as good as they are on their own, you can't help but wish that somebody would have run out of the studio and dragged Pickett or Percy or Aretha back in front of a mic to pay lip service to these soulful treasures. --No Depression Magazine
In 1969, after years of working as the house band for the late Rick Hall at the legendary FAME Studios, where the likes of Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett recorded, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section struck out on their own. Affectionately known as the Swampers, the band set up their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound, at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama, and they didn t have to wait long for artists to seek them out. Cher, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, and other superstar acts came to town to get a helping of the Swampers funky, soulful Southern swamp sound.
But unlike other celebrated studio musicians such as Booker T. and the MG s, the Swampers never put out a record of their own material. Until now. On Friday, Muscle Shoals Has Got the Swampers will finally see the light of day. The title is taken from the shoutout given to the band by Lynyrd Skynyrd in Sweet Home Alabama, and the album includes fourteen previously unreleased instrumental tracks, mainly from 1969-1978, that sizzle with precision and groove.
We were never known as soloists because people gave us so much work, says Swampers bassist David Hood. Everyone would ask, When are you guys gonna make an album? We just didn t have time.
Eventually the Swampers which also includes guitarist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Roger Hawkins, and the now-deceased keyboardist Barry Beckett tried to make a record with a couple of singers, but as Hood says, It sounded like the singer, not us.
Unearthed by Jackson, Mississippi based Malaco Records, many of the album s tracks came out of studio jams the foursome would play while sitting around waiting for whatever legend was ready to record. A few of the cuts, including Muscle Shoals Malmo Express, were recorded specifically for a friend in Sweden who needed theme music for his public radio show. All told, the collection is a vital snapshot of music history and stands as a testament to the deep influence the band had on modern music. I m happy this is finally coming out, says Hood, one of the more modest and unassuming music legends around. I m really proud of what we ve done.
Garden & Gun is thrilled to premiere Muscle Shoals Has Got the Swampers. Take a listen and prepare to get funky. --Garden & Gun