MUSCLE SHOALS – It is true that Cher’s album, 3614 Jackson Highway was not a hit. It is also true that the iconic photo taken of Cher and the musicians and producers in 1969 for the album cover is probably one of the most definitive photos of the home of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.
Those were the days.
That was then and this is now.
A few months ago, the old studio was bought by a not-for-profit foundation from the owner who had let it languish in a limbo-like state for over a decade. The intent, according to Rodney Hall, the man who is spearheading the resurrection, is to bring music recording back to 3614. Hall, son of Rick Hall, the Father of Muscle Shoals music, and operator of FAME Studio just a couple of miles from Jackson Highway, organized a day of cleaning up the place. It was really something to see.
Everybody showed up at 10 o’clock, resplendent in their work-cloths and adorned with shovels and brooms and weed-whackers. They fanned out into every corner of the building. Cleaning and dusting, taking a few short breaks to sip some water and look at the photos and autographs of the famous musicians who came from all over the world to record there. Then, it was back to work.
Some of the guys went downstairs to remove an old kitchen range and put it in their pickup truck to haul it away. Same thing happened to the old bath tub. While they were down there, Swamper David Hood stopped by in his 1973 vintage Porsche. He met the guys downstairs and pointed out to Rodney and Steve and some of the fellas where the hidden door had been. The door, which had been disguised to look just like a wall section, hid the lounge which was complete draught beer… a big secret in a town where beer was illegal at the time. “But how else were we to keep everybody there to work?” Rodney, (you could see the wheels turning) asked Steve Price and Steve Wiggins, “Just curious… Think we could build this door back the way it was?” It didn’t appear to be that big an obstacle to Price and Wiggins. They smiled, “Yeah… It can be done.” Moving on.
Upstairs, was where the the real action was taking place. Rebecca, John, Tracy, Sheri and Judy were busy. Joy and Tony. Bryan and Gene… All of the folks and more, whose names somehow didn’t make it to the sign-in sheet, put a lot of elbow grease into the place. And it paid off.
Next time Swampette, Judy Hood brings her Swampette Tour through the building, it will be standing tall for the first time in many years. David’s wife,Judy, remarked to Sheri, “I can’t believe that so many people have come here today to help. They are showing their love.”
And within the next couple of months, Rodney will be at the helm of the rebirth of 3614 Jackson Highway. There’s going to be some necessary work to do before the recording console, amps and instruments are brought in. The roof needs some work; nothing major. Some cosmetic stuff inside. Cher’s toilet seat needs to be straightened over the bathroom door.
Here’s some photos of the big cleanup day:
Photos by Sheri and Steve Wiggins