- Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016
- MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP)
A fabled music studio where acts including the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan recorded hits hasn't even reopened following an extensive renovation, yet it's already being named Alabama's No. 1 tourist stop of 2017.
The Alabama Tourism Department has selected Muscle Shoals Sound Studio as the state's top attraction of the New Year.
Located in the northwestern Alabama town of Sheffield and once a sought-after recording location for some of the world's best-known musical acts, the concrete-block building fell into disrepair years ago after being used for other things, including an appliance store. Inspired by the 2013 documentary "Muscle Shoals," officials from Beats Electronics provided nearly $1 million to renovate the studio.
With the work nearly done and the studio set to reopen Jan. 9 for tours and later as a nonprofit recording center, the tourism agency expects it to become a major draw for visitors. The main studio has been revamped with a 1970s feel that includes bright colors, retro chairs and a metal ashtray; the sign over the front door is once again bright blue. Vintage recording equipment fills the production booth.
Tourists, many of whom saw the documentary, kept coming even while the studio was closed for renovation, and nearly half were from other countries.
"Muscle Shoals Sound is revered worldwide as one of the most influential and iconic studios," said tourism director Lee Sentell. "The film introduced the Shoals' musical heritage to a new generation of travelers."
Judy Hood, chair of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation and the wife of one of the original studio owners, David Hood, said 2017 is "going to be an exciting year for Muscle Shoals music." The foundation owns and will operate the studio.
Built around 1946, the building already is on the National Register of Historic Places. It opened as a studio in 1969 after a group of local musicians known as "The Swampers" — David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett — broke away from nearby FAME Recording Studios, another recording landmark.
During its heyday, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio drew the likes of Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Rolling Stones recorded "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses" there for their "Sticky Fingers" album.
The studio also played host to Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, the Staple Singers, and others.
The small building became known widely as 3614 Jackson Highway after Cher titled the first album recorded at the studio in 1969 by its address. It was also featured in the Stones' 1970 rockumentary "Gimme Shelter."
The rapper and producer Dr. Dre founded Beats Electronics in 2006. Apple Inc. purchased the company in 2014.