Episode 7: Clayton Ivey

Episode 7: Clayton Ivey

On Episode Seven of Through These Doors: A FAME Studios Podcast, Rodney Hall welcomes legendary producer and musician Clayton Ivey. Listen in as Hall and Ivey discuss Ivey’s over 50 years of hit records as a keyboard player at FAME and his own Wishbone Studios in Muscle Shoals to recording with some of the biggest acts in the world from Rod Stewart to Little Richard and producing acts like The Commodores, The Supremes, and The Temptations.

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Little Richard

The Innovator. The Originator. The Architect of Rock and Roll.

These are just a few of the names bestowed upon the legendary Richard Wayne Penniman, better known to the world as Little Richard, one of the most influential recording artists in the history of popular music. Few have left a more indelible mark on our culture’s fabric than Little Richard. One only needs to listen to The Rolling Stones (who toured with Richard in the early-60s), Jimi Hendrix (who played in Richard’s band for a short period) and The Beatles (who also toured on a bill with Richard in the early-60s).

According to Richard, as quoted in his biography, The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White, The Beatles’s manager, Brian Epstein, told him, “These boys worship you. You’re the only famous artist they’ve ever met. They’ve never met a famous person in their life. They want their picture taken with you.”

Sometimes, however, when we extol an artist for their influence, we can diminish their greatness somewhat by viewing them only in a light shined by others. It is not only because he influenced so many other rock and roll bands that we should remember how great Little Richard’s music is — because, in fact, there are so many aspects of his performance style and playing abilities that are still untouched by others — to this day.

Little Richard was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1932, the third of 12 children. Obsessed with music in his early years, he was given his first big break at the age of 14 opening for Sister Rosetta Tharpe at the Macon City Auditorium after hearing him singing her songs prior to a performance.

By 1949, he was performing in minstrel performer Doctor Nubillo’s traveling show and was later inspired to don some of the more flamboyant outfits worn by Nubillo — like capes and turbans — that would come to define the signature, electrifying, live performances he would become known at the apex of his career.

After years of touring and performing with little traction, Little Richard scored his first smash hit, “Tutti Frutti” in 1955, continuing to deliver an unprecedented string of hits in the late-50s, including “Long Tall Sally,” “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” “Ready Teddy,” “The Girl Can’t Help It,” (the title song for the 1956 movie of the same name starring Jane Mansfield) “Rip It Up,” and “Lucille,” to name only a few.

This record run of hits would come to an abrupt end, however, as in the middle of his 1957 tour with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, Richard announced that he would be leaving popular music behind and following a life in the ministry.

Cutting the tour short and returning to the U.S. ten days earlier than expected, Richard learned that his original flight had crashed into the Pacific Ocean, further cementing his decision to stop performing secular music and he enrolled at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, to study theology, following a “farewell performance” at the Apollo Theater and a “final” recording session with Specialty Records.

His break from secular music would prove to be short-lived, and Richard embarked on several successful rock and roll tours throughout the sixties — although due to the arrival of the Beatles and other British bands as well as the rise of soul labels such as Motown and Stax Records, Richard’s new releases were not well promoted and found little airtime on the radio.

By 1970, three years had passed since the last new material from Little Richard. Wanting to cross over to both black rhythm and blues and white rock audiences, Richards signed with Reprise Records (having turned down offers from other labels, including The Beatles’s Apple Records).

Hoping to meld his signature sound with the hit-making power coming out of Muscle Shoals in the early 1970s, Little Richard decided to record his next album, The Rill Thing, at FAME Recording Studios under the direction of Producer Rick Hall.

“I worked with several of my early rock and roll idols who’d had a profound effect on the shape of my musical ideas. Little Richard was one.” said Hall (in his autobiography, “The Man From Muscle Shoals.”) “After Little Richard visited FAME, he made Muscle Shoals a part of his musical identity. A number of my best studio musicians, including guitarist Travis Wammack and bassist Jesse Boyce, later joined Richard’s road band and toured the world.”

Although The Rill Thing was not the commercial success Richard was hoping for, the album received near unanimous critical acclaim and delivered Richard his last Billboard Hot 100 hit, Greenwood, Mississippi, written by Travis Wammack and Albert Lowe Jr. Billboard Magazine described the album as a “stomping, swinging, soulful leap backwards in the rock ‘n’ rolling ’50’s with the Muscle Shoals gang” and Joel Selvin of Rolling Stone considered the album “a major artistic triumph for Little Richard” that “faithfully exhibits Richard’s maturity as an artist both through the selection of material and the contemporary instrumental setting”.

Little Richard continued to tour and record throughout his life and, in 1986, was a member of the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and the Everly Brothers.

On May 9, 2020, Richard died at the age of 87 at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee after a long illness.

FAME is honored to have played a part in the extraordinary career of a truly original and singular performer. While Little Richard would have always reached the heights of Rock n’ Roll supremacy, FAME wouldn’t have been the same without his ground-breaking music and style.

A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom

Episode 6: Norbert Putnam

Episode 6: Norbert Putnam

On Episode SIX of Through These Doors: A FAME Studios Podcast, Rodney Hall is thrilled to welcome Muscle Shoals music legend, Norbert Putnam, for a memorable trip down music memory lane. From his days recording in FAME’s first dozen hits to recording with Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Jimmy Buffet,  to being inducted into the Musicians and Alabama Music Hall of Fames, you’ll want to listen to every second of this enlightening and fascinating conversation.

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IK Multimedia announces T-RackS FAME Studio Reverb

For Immediate Release

The officially certified collection from the legendary FAME Studios of Muscle Shoals, Alabama,
modeling the acclaimed live rooms, iso booths and more


November 4, 2021 – IK Multimedia announces FAME Studio Reverb for T-RackS, capturing the sound and vibe of FAME Studios and offering innovative controls for achieving the Muscle Shoals sound in any studio.

Among recording artists, it’s called the “hit recording capital of the world.” For over 60 years, FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, has produced an endless stream of iconic hits powered by a sound that simply can’t be found anywhere else in the world, until now.

An entire studio’s worth of spaces
T-RackS FAME Studio Reverb offers a total of 9 spaces, with 2 live rooms, 5 iso booths, an EMT plate reverb and FAME’s newly-restored echo chamber, plus Modern and Vintage modes for each, giving users a full suite of reverb effects in a single plug-in.

A newly-restored part of music history
In addition to the rooms and plate, IK is proud to have helped FAME’s Rodney Hall restore one of FAME’s original echo chambers. Long out of use, this newly restored chamber is equipped just as it was in the ’60s and sounds every bit as amazing now as it did then.

That exact sound, instrument by instrument
IK worked hand-in-hand with FAME to precisely capture not just the mic placement used on all their iconic albums, but where the performers were positioned as well. Users can select which instrument they’re processing and T-RackS FAME Studio Reverb instantly re-positions both the microphones and source in the room, right where the magic happened.

Iconic consoles for iconic spaces
Beyond using FAME’s extensive vintage mic locker, IK took care to capture each studio’s unique sonic signature.

Studio A boasts a Neve 8232 console, while Studio B, recently renovated and restored by Rodney and GRAMMY Award-winning producer Glenn Rosenstein, offers an SSL 6056 E formerly loved by Stevie Ray Vaughan and used on his most successful albums.

Or, for a more vintage sound, users can switch either studio to use FAME’s original Universal Audio 610 console, hand-built for FAME, to precisely capture the vibes of FAME’s earliest decades.

The deepest level of authenticity
To capture both the unique acoustics of each studio, IK used its unique Volumetric Response Modeling (VRM™), an advanced hybrid convolution technique, to deliver the highest-quality reverb effects possible.

T-RackS FAME Studio Reverb takes this to a whole new level, using proprietary new techniques to enhance the measurement process for a truly immersive experience. The new SPREAD control lets users broaden each room’s response to best fit the sound source.

Convenient tone shaping
T-RackS FAME Studio Reverb offers all the necessary controls to shape the spaces including reverb time, width and frequency controls, microphone controls (left, right, or both) and accurate leveling/monitoring of the mixed signals.

To offer even more realism, when using the two studio’s live rooms, FAME Studio Reverb offers two faders for mono room ambience, which can be mixed into the stereo signal or used alone, just as if recording at FAME itself.

The power of T-RackS
Like all T-RackS plug-ins, T-RackS FAME Studio Reverb offers two ways to work: as a single plug-in, or within the T-RackS 5 shell.

Pricing and availability
T-RackS FAME Studio Reverb is coming this November and is available for pre-order from the IK Multimedia online store and from IK authorized dealers worldwide at a special limited-time introductory price of $/€129.99* (reg. $/€149.99).

*All pricing excluding taxes.

For more information about FAME Studio Reverb or to see it in action, please visit: http://www.ikmultimedia.com/trfame and https://www.ikmultimedia.com/trfame/video

Best regards,
IK Multimedia. Musicians First.



About IK Multimedia: IK Multimedia is a leading music technology company that harnesses advanced software and hardware design to make professional quality tools accessible to everyone-from its ground-breaking AmpliTube and T-RackS software and award-winning iLoud reference monitors, to its UNO range of analog synthesizers and drum machines. With millions of installations and registered users worldwide, IK also leads the way for mobile musicians with its acclaimed iRig series of music creation tools for use with iPhone, iPad, Android and Mac/PC. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

FAME Music was established in 1959 in Florence, Ala., and moved to Muscle Shoals, Ala., in 1961, where it became the indisputable heartbeat of the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound. FAME Music entities include FAME Publishing, FAME Recording Studios, House of Fame, LLC FAME Records and Muscle Shoals Music Group. FAME has worked in the studio with some of the greatest artists in music history — including, but not limited to, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Jason Isbell, and Etta James — and has been involved in recording and/or publishing records that have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide. Visit FAME at www.famestudios.com.

Episode 5: Candi Staton

Episode 5: Candi Staton

On Episode FIVE of Through These Doors: A FAME Studios Podcast, Rodney Hall is honored to welcome the legendary First Lady of Southern Soul, Candi Staton, for a wildly entertaining talk about her life and hit-making career. From touring the Chitlin’ Circuit as a child to topping the charts and being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss.

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Aretha Franklin

“Aretha Franklin was one of the most phenomenal recording artists I have ever met, and in a short twenty-four hour period in my FAME Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, she was to change my musical life forever.” — Rick Hall

It’s hard to fathom today, but there was a time when Aretha Franklin couldn’t buy a hit record. In 1966, after recording nine albums of feckless, light jazz, pop standards without a hit, she was released from her contract with Columbia Records and, at the age of 25, was at a crossroads in her career. That would all change in one electrically-charged, tension-filled, magical recording session on January 24, 1967.

Although she had yet to make her mark on popular music, Atlantic Records co-founder Jerry Wexler knew she had a voice and a once-in-a-lifetime talent that could transcend the musical boundaries that had been placed on her. She just needed the right songs and the right sound. She would find those songs and that sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Wexler had signed Franklin in November of 1966 and wanted to pair Aretha with the funky sound that was coming out of FAME Recording Studios, the sound and feel that was producing hit records for Jimmy Hughes and Wilson Pickett. On a mild January day in 1967, Wexler would get the sound he was looking for…and more.

As told by FAME founder Rick Hall in his memoir The Man From Muscle Shoals, “At around ten o’clock that morning, Aretha walked into the studio, then casually walked over to the baby-grand piano that sat in a corner of the studio in front of the large control room glass window, and sat down to do what she came to FAME to do – to cut a hit record and create her career on Atlantic.”

The session included a lineup of some of the best musicians Muscle Shoals had to offer: Roger Hawkins on drums, Tommy Cogbill on bass, Jimmy Johnson on rhythm guitar, Chips Moman on lead guitar, Charlie Chalmers and Ed Logan on saxophones, Ken Laxton on trumpet, David Hood on trombone, Spooner Oldham on electric piano, with Rick Hall engineering.

The first track they set out to record was “I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You),” a waltzy ballad that, according to Hall, needed a little something special to take off. That something special was provided by the great Spooner Oldham. As Hall recalled in TMFMS:

“We were looking for that special groove or hook that would set the record apart from the ordinary and it wasn’t long before Spooner Oldham filled that need. He started playing a funky, soulful blues riff on the Wurlitzer electric piano that set the mood for “I Never Loved A Man” – and became a signature piano blues riff forever

Like a Stradivarius violin, Wurlitzer pianos only mellow with age, and I still have two of them in my FAME Studios today, the one used on Aretha’s session and another one.

As soon as he hit it, everything about that track started coming together. The combination of Aretha playing her gospel-sounding acoustic piano fill lines and Spooner’s bluesy riff on the Wurlitzer glued the whole rhythm track together and set the tone for Aretha to belt out, “You’re a no good heartbreaker, you’re a liar, and you’re a cheat ….”

By the end of the day, Franklin would have the A and B sides of a number one record: “I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You)/ Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”.

Over 54 years on, the story of the tumultuous session that birthed those hits has morphed, distorted, and expanded into legend. To hear Rick Hall tell it, check out his aforementioned memoir, or see it depicted on the big screen in the upcoming biopic RESPECT, coming to theaters on August 13, 2021.

Although Aretha Franklin would never record in FAME Studios again after that historic session, we feel honored that our stories are forever intertwined. Aretha, of course, would go on to become one of the greatest singers who ever recorded and FAME continues to make hit records to this day. However, neither would be the same after that magical day in January.

Thank you, Aretha. For the music, for the soul, and for the memories. Thank you.

Join Us For a Once-In-A-Lifetime Evening of Dinner, Dancing, and an Exclusive Screening of RESPECT starring Academy Award® winner Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin

Join Us For a Once-In-A-Lifetime Evening of Dinner, Dancing, and an
Exclusive Screening of RESPECT starring
Academy Award® winner Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin

Get Your Tickets While They Last at: bit.ly/fame_respect


Be one of the first people in the world to see Academy Award® winner Jennifer Hudson bring Aretha Franklin to the big screen — then celebrate the Queen of Soul with an unforgettable evening of dinner and dancing benefiting the Muscle Shoals Music Association — preceded by an exclusive Pre-screening Q&A with Aretha session musicians and music legends: Spooner Oldham and David Hood.

Miss Franklin’s first smash hits were recorded at Muscle Shoals’s own Fame Recording Studios with producer Rick Hall and legendary Muscle Shoals musicians Spooner Oldham, David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, and Roger Hawkins.

Enjoy a spectacular evening of entertainment and fundraising with the Muscle Shoals Music Association! Included with your VIP ticket is a complimentary screening of the upcoming motion picture RESPECT, starring Academy Award® winner Jennifer Hudson as the legendary Aretha Franklin. This incredible story was written by Callie Khouri and Tracey Scott Wilson, with screenplay by Tracey Scott Wilson and directed by Leisl Tommy.

Complimentary VIP screening, Q&A, Dinner, and Singing River Dance Party donation: $150
$40 donation to MSMA receives a complimentary general admission ticket to screening.

Tickets can be purchased here: bit.ly/fame_respect

This exclusive package includes:

  • Pre-screening Q&A with Spooner Oldham and David Hood who played on the Aretha sessions at Fame Recording Studios and are portrayed in the film.
  • Music Shoals after-party including dinner and dance party with world-renowned DJ Russ “BoomBox” Randolph spinning Muscle Shoals classics from yesterday and today.

After Party starts at 9 pm at the Singing River Room & Terrace | Marriott Shoals Hotel Conference Center | 10 Hightower Place, Florence, AL 35630. Tickets are open to the public.
100% of your purchase is a tax deductible donation to Muscle Shoals Music Association (MSMA).

*Recording devices (including phones that have recording capability) are not allowed in the theatre during the screening. By attending, you agree not to bring any such device into the theatre, consent to a physical search of your belongings and person, and consent to monitoring during the screening. Any attempted use of a recording device will result in your immediate removal from the theatre and forfeiture of the device, and may subject you to criminal and civil liability. Thank you for your cooperation. The health and safety of our guests and staff is our top priority. We ask that all event attendees wear a mask while indoors to help protect against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Muscle Shoals Music Association Mission Statement:

Founded in 1975, The Muscle Shoals Music Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission of “preserving and promoting the legacy and future of Muscle Shoals Music, while creating educational and employment opportunities for a new generation of music makers.”
The MSMA’s purpose is built on the pillars of education, employment and awareness. The MSMA develops programs to educate through local, regional and world-wide educational systems and organizations. Go to www.muscleshoalsmusicassociation.com for more information.

David Hood

Start by playing Percy Sledge’s “Warm and Tender Love” from the album Warm & Tender Soul.

Focus in on the bass line. Simple, but exact; undeviating and absolute. Now, throw on Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” and listen for the bouncy groove that gives the song its driving energy. Two very different songs, two perfect outcomes, two examples of the mastery and range of David Hood. 

For over 50 years, David Hood has provided backbone and signature bass lines to some of the greatest songs ever recorded. Never adding more than the song needs, never delivering less than the song deserves, yet always providing his signature blend of innovation and command of the musical lexicon. Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Cher, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Cat Stevens, The Staple Singers, Julien Lennon, Traffic…the list is endless.

Born in Sheffield, Alabama, David Hood is Muscle Shoals through-and-through. He picked up his first bass guitar at the age of 16 and the world of music hasn’t been the same since. He first wandered into FAME Recording Studios to record a track with The Mystics, a local band he was playing with at the time, and it wasn’t long after that he was being called into the studio by Rick Hall for session work — including historic sessions with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, and Etta James. Along with his legendary contributions on bass, he also played trombone on James and Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You),” amongst others.

In 1969, Hood and the fabled rhythm section known as “The Swampers” (David Hood, Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, and Jimmy Johnson) left FAME to open Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield where they continued recording hits for artists including Paul Simon, Cher, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Levon Helm, and an endless list of others. In the mid-1970s, “The Swampers” also took their show on the road, joining Traffic for tours of Europe and the United States. The live album “Traffic: On The Road” offers superb proof of what these incomparable musicians could offer outside of the studio setting.

Hood’s career success has continued unabated throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, through today. David recently played with the stardom bound War and Treaty for FAME’s 60th anniversary project.  In 2014, David joined the folk-rock group The Waterboys for a tour of Europe that lasted through 2016 and, in 2019, he added his virtuoso playing to Sheryl Crow’s eleventh studio album Threads, which also featured Jason Isbell, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and Keith Richards, to name only a few.

In 1995, Hood was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and in 2008, along with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame

While we at FAME have always known David Hood is a once-in-a-lifetime musician, we have always thought of him firstly as a trusted friend, loving father, and all-around beautiful human-being. FAME wouldn’t be what it is today without David Hood and we would like to take this opportunity to honor and celebrate his legacy — a legacy that shows no signs of letting up — and to thank him for being a beloved member of the FAME Gang!

Etta James

“When I sing for myself, I probably sing for anyone who has any kind of hurt, any kind of bad feelings, good feelings, ups and downs, highs and lows, that kind of thing.” — Etta James

That voice.

Powerful. Assured. In control of every phrase and note. 

Etta James’s Tell Mama is a tour-de-force that showcases the swagger and poised sensuality that became the hallmarks of her Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame career. It has been said that you could hear her whole life in her voice.

And, yet, when Etta James first walked into FAME Recording Studios on a sultry August day in 1967, the 29-year-old singer — and those around her — had little reason to believe she was at the top of her game. Fighting a heroin addiction, the years prior to 1967 had found her forging prescriptions, bouncing checks, and stealing from friends to finance her habit. Jame’s career was suffering and something needed to change.

James had been brought down to Muscle Shoals at the encouragement of Leonard Chess, the co-founder of Chess Records, who had produced or co-produced five of her six previous albums for Chess subsidiary labels Argo and Cadet, beginning with 1960’s At Last!. Chess believed that recording at FAME would remove her from the big city temptations that had been plaguing her life. He also believed that working with acclaimed producer Rick Hall would inject the same hit-making, “Muscle Shoals Sound,” magic that he had previously delivered for artists such as Clarence Carter, Aretha Franklin, and Wilson Pickett. 

James would also be backed by one of the great rhythm sections of all-time: The Swampers, featuring Jimmy Ray Johnson and Albert “Junior” Lowe on guitars; Roger Hawkins on drums; Barry Beckett and Spooner Oldham on keyboards; and David Hood on bass. The sessions also included a brass section featuring Gene “Bowlegs” Miller on trumpet; James Mitchell and Aaron Varnell on sax; and Floyd Newman on baritone sax. 

The combination of Etta James and this once-in-a-lifetime collection of musicians was electric.

Tell Mama kicks off with the title track, a song Hall had recorded previously in 1966 with Clarence Carter (as “Tell Daddy”). Like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower,” Etta James makes the song her own and her raw, emotional performance sets a very high bar for an album that consistently raises the bar. “Tell Mama” was released as a single in October of 1967, and was a Billboard R&B Top 10 hit.

The album’s second track, “I’d Rather Go Blind,” is another instant blues/soul classic that has since been covered by an eclectic range of artists, including B.B. King, Paul Weller, Rod Stewart, and Beyoncé. Legend has it that when Leonard Chess heard the song for the first time, he had to leave the room in tears.

Speaking to al.com in 2018, Grammy Award-winning, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell had this to say about Rick Hall’s production on the record: 

“He served the song. Rick understood that what really matters is: How good is this song? And what can we do to let everybody know how good this song is? But I think the heart of it, what really made “I’d Rather Go Blind” stand up and hold up and sound current was the fact that a great song never sounds dated. And Rick knew that.”

At just under thirty minutes, there isn’t a wasted moment in the 12 songs that make up Tell Mama. 

Sadly, James would continue to struggle with her addictions for years before finally overcoming them. In 1978, she opened for the Rolling Stones in support of the Stones’s Some Girls album. Keith Richards would later write about his love for James in his 2010 memoir “Life”:

“Another great singer and a girl after my own heart — as well as my bride in a rock-and-roll “marriage” — is Etta James. She’d been making records from the early ’50s, when she was a doo-wop singer. She’s expanded into every range since then … Now, Etta had been a junkie. So we found reciprocation almost immediately … It takes one look in the eye for one to know another. Incredibly strong, Etta, with a voice that could take you to hell or take you to heaven. And we hung in a dressing room, and like all ex-junkies, we talked about the junk. And why did we do this, the usual soul-searching. This culminated in a backstage wedding, which in show business terms is like, you get married but you’re not really married. You exchange vows and stuff, on the top of the backstage stairs. And she gave me a ring, I gave her a ring, and actually that’s where I decided her name’s Etta Richards. She’ll know what I mean.”

Etta James released more than 20 albums in the course of her five-decade career, won six Grammy awards, and was voted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. The FAME family will always feel blessed to be a part of her legend. To hear select tracks off Tell Mama and over six-and-a-half hours of FAME Recording Studios classics, go to our FAME Studios and Publishing early years playlist here on Spotify.

Bobbie Gentry

“To me, producing ‘Fancy’ was like producing a movie score. I had always wanted to produce a record that would paint a picture in your mind.”

— Rick Hall

There are times in history when things align perfectly and magic is produced from situations that seem less than conducive to the creation of genre-defining art. When Bobbie Gentry walked into FAME Recording Studios, in 1969, to work for the first time with FAME owner and producer Rick Hall, her career was seemingly at a precipice. Her debut album, Ode To Billie Joe, had rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts in 1967 (knocking The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from the number one spot) on the back of the album’s eponymous single, which was the number one song on the Billboard charts for four weeks and ranked as the number three song of 1967 behind Lulu’s “To Sir With Love,” and The Box Tops’ “The Letter.” Gentry also garnered the 1967 Grammy Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. 

Her second album, the avant-garde concept album centered around contemporary life in the Deep South, 1968’s The Delta Sweete, received positive reviews, but failed to crack the Billboard Top 100 — peaking at 132. Gentry released two more albums in 1968, Local Gentry and an album of duets with Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell, which was certified Gold and earned Gentry and Campbell the Academy of Country Music award for Album of the Year.

In 1969, she released her fifth studio album, Touch ‘Em With Love, which included only two songs written by Gentry and only reached number 164 on the Billboard 200. 

Working with Rick Hall in Muscle Shoals offered Gentry a chance to recalibrate. Although Fancy includes only one track penned by Gentry (the title track), the songs on the album are a tour-de-force return to the assertive and powerful narrative songs that are the hallmark of her talent and the partnership with Hall seemed to be a match made in recording studio Heaven.

As Hall later recalled, “The first time I heard Ode to Billie Joe, I was driving past the studio, and I almost ran my car into a telephone pole! I was so amazed! Her story was my story. That’s how I grew up. “Bale the hay. Pass the biscuits,” you know? There were so many Southern things that she did. I felt in my heart that if I ever met her, we’d hit it off. I offered to produce her. We had dinner together, and we did hit it off. We had a great time together. She was one of my very favorites.”

One of the many things that set Bobbie Gentry apart was her insistence on success on her own terms, perhaps best put by writer Tara Murtha her book for the series “33 ⅓” from Bloomsbury Press, Ode to Billie Joe, wherein she describes Gentry as “…a remarkable businesswoman, and a talented multi-instrumentalist artist. She was ahead of her time in a male-dominated industry in an era when sex appeal helped move product, but could also be a liability for a woman who wanted to conduct her own business. Women wanted me to know that she went out of her way to help other women come up in the industry.”

Fancy is a feminist epic which has only grown in stature over the years. Gentry’s unmatched talent (she also painted the album’s cover) combined with Rick Hall’s production, and choice backing contributions from The FAME Gang, produced a seminal album that will continue to inspire multiple generations. FAME is honored to have worked with the one-and-only Bobbie Gentry and is proud to consider her family. We’re excited to put Fancy on heavy rotation and celebrate one of the true greats for May’s FAME Backstage Artist of the Month.