Clarence Carter

Clarence Carter’s time at Fame produced some of the most soulful grooves in the history of recorded music. “Patches,” “Slip Away”, and “Too Weak to Fight” alone would be enough to be placed in the conversation when talking about the great soul artists of all-time — and that’s before mentioning hits like “Backdoor Santa” (with its distinctive horn break, later sampled by Run DMC on their “Christmas in Hollis), “Snatching It Back” and “Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street).”

Blind at birth, Clarence Carter was born in Montgomery, Ala., in 1936. His grandmother gave him his first guitar at the age of nine. Carter graduated with a bachelor of science degree in music at Alabama State University, where he teamed with another blind student Calvin Scott, recording under the name Clarence & Calvin — later changing to the CC Boys — and serving as back-up musicians for touring acts, such as Otis Redding and John Lee Hooker.

In 1965, Carter and Scott, looking for that elusive hit record, wandered into FAME Recording Studios to record the songs ”Step by Step” and “Rooster Knees and Rice”.  FAME owner Rick Hall immediately recognized their distinctive sound and talent. Later, the CC Boys recorded singles at FAME which found their way to famed producer Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records. The Carter/Scott partnership was not long-lived and Carter embarked on a solo career in 1966, signing with the FAME label and co-writing and releasing the hit single “Tell Daddy” which hit #35 on the Billboard Charts in January, 1967. The reworked song would later be a monster hit for Etta James as “Tell Mama,” also recorded at FAME.

Carter released the “This Is Clarence Carter” album, in 1968, which earned him his first gold record with the million-selling hit “Slip Away,” which featured Spooner Oldham on keyboards. The following year, he continued his run of success with his second gold record, ”Too Weak to Fight,” from the album “The Dynamic Clarence Carter,” which also featured guitar work by a yet-unknown guitarist by the name of Duane Allman. 

In the early 1970s, Carter continued churning out hits with such songs as “The Feeling Is Right,” “Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street),” and “Patches,” which reached number two on the U.S. R&B chart.  “Patches” won a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Song” in 1971.

In 2001, “Slip Away” also had the unique honor of appearing on the soundtracks for the best adapted screenplay nominee “Wonder Boys,” and the best original screenplay winner “Almost Famous” at the Academy Awards.

After more than six decades, Carter is still going strong, releasing new records and touring. FAME is honored to be a part of his legacy and to highlight his legendary career. To re-introduce yourself to one of the most dynamic and fruitful periods in the history of Southern Soul, check out Clarence Carter — The FAME Singles Volume One here: https://famestudios.com/product/clarence-carter-the-fame-singles-volume-1/

Candi Staton

Between 1968 and 1974, Candi Staton released a trilogy of albums on FAME Records that rightfully places her in the pantheon of “greatest female vocalists of all time.” “I’m Just a Prisoner,” “Stand By Your Man,” and “Candi Staton” are genre-defining classics that cemented Southern Soul as a musical artform.

Candi Stanton’s first session at FAME Recording Studios took place on September 25, 1968, culminating in the single “I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart” that reached #9 on the R&B charts. Candi is a beloved member of the FAME family, giving us a treasure trove of timeless R&B classics including the Grammy-nominated hits “Stand by Your Man” and “In the Ghetto.” To hear a comprehensive overview of Staton’s work at FAME, check out the Ace Records release “Evidence – The Complete Fame Records Masters” which contains every song she recorded for FAME between 1968 and 1974.

Throughout her career, Staton’s singular vocal ability has tamed any musical genre she has lent her talents to, and following her fruitful time at FAME, Candi went on to record the massive Disco generation hits “Young Hearts Run Free” and “Disco Hit “Victim.” Candi performed and recorded with a wide range of artists including Mac Davis, B.B. King, Al Green, Bobby Womack, Ashford and Simpson, Boz Scaggs, Little Richard, The Commodores, and Johnny Mathis.

In 2014, Candi was FINALLY inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in recognition of her nearly a half-century of contributions to Alabama’s music legacy.

We are honored to have Candi Staton in our family, and we are forever grateful for the kindness she has shown FAME over the years. The sign above the entryway to FAME’s studios reads “Through these doors walk the finest musicians, songwriters, artists and producers in the world.” This month, FAME is proud to celebrate the legacy of an artist that ranks among the best of whom that sign describes, the First Lady of Southern Soul, Candi Staton.

Wilson Pickett

The word “pioneer” gets thrown around a lot these days to describe people that really aren’t all that pioneering. However, when talking about soul legend Wilson Pickett, the word barely does him justice. Wilson Pickett was an electric performer who oozed raw soul and helped define the sound of Southern Soul with hits that include — but aren’t limited to — “Mustang Sally,” “Land of 1000 Dances,” and “Funky Broadway.”

Born in Prattville, Alabama, in 1941, the youngest of 11 children, Pickett became forever etched in the Muscle Shoals firmament when, in 1966, famed record executive Jerry Wexler brought Pickett to FAME Studios. Initially skeptical about returning to his home state, and recording with FAME’s all-white Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Pickett fell into a remarkable creative groove, recording an embarrassingly rich collection of timeless hits during his stint at FAME, such as the aforementioned “Land of A Thousand Dances” and “Mustang Sally.”

Always the innovator, Pickett also recorded what many believe to be the first “Southern Rock” record when he used Duane Allman as a session guitarist on his hit cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” which appeared on the LP of the same name and also included a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” and “Sit Down and Talk This Over,” co-written by Pickett and Bobby Womack.

Although Pickett recorded sporadically after the 1970s and produced fewer hit records, his live performances remained legendary. Wilson Pickett was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. In 2003, Pickett was featured in the documentary Only The Strong Survive, and continued to perform while battling numerous health issues, before succumbing to a heart attack in Ashburn, Virginia, on January 19, 2006.

The walls of FAME still echo with the sound of Wilson Pickett’s genius. His legacy and the songs he left us will forever be remembered and continue to give back well into the future. We feel blessed to have known Wilson Pickett and to have played a small part in helping deliver his vision and feel forever indebted for what he gave to Muscle Shoals.

Mac Davis

In September of 2020, we lost one of our closest and dearest members of the FAME family.

Mac Davis was not only one of the great musicians/songwriters/performers to ever grace the American music scene, he was also one of the most selfless and caring human beings that the world has ever known.

Mac was an inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and received a BMI Icon Award for his decades-long contribution to the American songbook. He has a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame and a street named in his honor in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas: Mac Davis Lane.

Some will know Mac from his chart-topping solo hits, including “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” “Texas in My Rearview Mirror” and “It’s Hard to Be Humble.”

Some will know Mac from the songs he wrote that were performed and recorded by hundreds of artists, including Nancy Sinatra, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Reba McEntire, Tom Jones, and many more, including his songs that became hits for Elvis Presley, including “In The Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation.”

Never a one-trick pony, Mac was one of those people who excelled at everything he put his mind to and along with his successful career in music, he also had a thriving career as an actor, starring in the films “North Dallas Forty,” “The Sting II,” and “Possums.” He also starred as Will Rogers in “The Will Rogers Follies” on Broadway, hosted an episode of “The Muppet Show,” and hosted his own variety show “The Mac Davis Show” on NBC.

Here at FAME, we will not only remember Mac as a world-class entertainer, but as a true friend who was always there whenever you needed him. Mac was never shy about using his celebrity status to bring about positive change in the world, and was a life-long supporter of the FAME Girls’ Ranch, generously donating his time and talents whenever we held a benefit or fundraiser.

Mac will be missed here at FAME, but he will always live on in the music he left us, his extensive charity work, and the stories of camaraderie and kindness that will forever echo in the walls of this studio and on the streets of Muscle Shoals.

Thank you for everything, Mac.

Dan Penn

If you were going to create a Mount Rushmore for the Muscle Shoals Sound, Dan Penn would be one of the first people you’d carve into it. Dan has left — and continues to leave — an indelible stamp on music history and is recognized as one of the great songsmiths of the past fifty years. Dan was the first in-studio songwriter that Rick Hall hired at FAME and music historian Peter Guralnick once described him as the “secret hero” of 60s R&B.

In 1959, Dan wrote his first hit, Is A Bluebird Blue? — a hit for Conway Twitty — at the tender age of 18, and has gone on to write and co-write countless soul classics, including Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (written at FAME Recording Studios with Spooner Oldham during the famous Aretha Franklin sessions), Dark End of the Street (co-written with Chips Moman), I’m Your Puppet (w/ Oldham), and It Tears Me Up (w/ Oldham), while also delivering numerous hits as a producer, including The Letter, a number one hit in 1967 for The Box Tops and their then sixteen-year-old singer Alex Chilton.

For over sixty years, and now at age seventy-eight, Dan has never slowed down when it comes to writing, producing, and performing hit records, and if shows on his latest album, Living on Mercy, which comes 26 years after his last solo album, 1994’s Do Right Man and forty-seven years after his solo debut Nobody’s Fool, released in 1973.

Dan Penn will always have a home at FAME and we are beyond proud to be able to call him a friend and consider him a foundational member of the FAME family.

Mickey Buckins

Some artists are just Muscle Shoals through and through. Mickey Buckins is one of those artists. 

In the mid-1960s, Buckins toured throughout the Southeast, fronting Mickey Buckins and the New Breed and recording British Invasion mixed with Alabama garage-rock numbers, such as “Long Long Time” and “Reflections of Charlie Brown”. 

In 1967, Rick Hall hired him at FAME studios where he started out as an assistant and, in his words, “did anything and everything that needed to be done.” From there, Buckins worked his way up the ranks at FAME to assistant engineer before becoming a producer, studio manager, and chief engineer.

As a producer and arranger, Buckins was a valuable member of the world-famous Fame Gang band, adding his masterful touches to hit recordings by singers such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Lou Rawls, the Osmonds, Little Richard, Bobbie Gentry, Etta James, and Candi Staton.

Buckins is also an accomplished composer, penning five BMI award-winning songs including Janie Fricke’s chart-topping “Tell Me a Lie”, “Double Lovin’” a Top 10 hit for the Osmonds, and “The Feeling Is Right” a Top 10 R&B hit for Clarence Carter, to name but a few. Recently Mickey has had his songs recorded by the “King of Americana” Jason Isbell appearing on his “Here We Rest” and “Live From Alabama” albums.  His song “Double Lovin” by Spencer Wiggins was also used in a national Citi-Bank commercial in 2020.

After more than five decades of leaving his stamp on the sound of Muscle Shoals, Buckins is still going strong. FAME is not only honored to be a part of his legacy, but proud to call him family.

Walt Aldridge

There were times in the 80’s and 90’s when it seemed as if the only thing keeping Muscle Shoals music alive was some amazing songwriters and FAME’s country productions including Shenandoah, Jerry Reed, Larry Gatlin, Terri Gibbs, and The Shooters to name a few.

Walt Aldridge was the most successful of these songwriters/Producers. He spent close to 20 years with Fame.

Walter has been the recipient of over 20 gold and platinum records; 7 #1 records; has had 56 top-40 songs on the Billboard Charts and has twice been named in their top 10 writers of the year. Walt has also had two songs of the year.
He also wrote and produced Heartland’s #1 record “I Loved Her First”.

Here is a hidden gem from Walt’s catalog with Rick Hall Music Publishing: “A Little of You” performed and produced by Walt. FAME is very proud of our long business and personal relationship with Walt and the many successes we’ve had together. Truth be known, we might not still be here if not for his songwriting talents.

Thanks for Everything, Walt!! Much Love to you!

Click here to listen to Walt Aldridge’s “A Little of You”

Check out 12 Walt Alridge classics on this Greatest Demo Hits Playlist