News Column

They came. They saw. They sang.

November 19, 2013


Nov. 19--Some say the magic of Muscle Shoals can be found in the water. What else can explain the musical Mecca rising from the small north Alabama town along the banks of the Tennessee River -- a river referred to by Native Americans as "the river that sings."

"Muscle Shoals," the story of a north Alabama town's influence on the world of music will come to the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts for a one-night screening Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

The documentary, which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and won the audience award at HotDocs, focuses on FAME Recording Studios founder Rick Hall, the rise of the Muscle Shoals sound, how music eased racial tensions and a rhythm section known as the Swampers -- yes, those Swampers, immortalized in Lynyrd Skynyrd's "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

Now how about you?"

Between FAME and the Swampers, who appeared on more than 75 gold and platinum hits and opened their own recording spot, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, the town -- population 13,000 -- earned the nickname "Hit Recording Capital of the World."

The movie showcases the iconic music of the 1960s and 1970s, like "I'll Take You There," "Brown Sugar," "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Mustang Sally," "Kodachrome" and "Free Bird." Musicians featured in the film include Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, Aretha Franklin and John Paul White of the Civil Wars.

Although nurtured, grown and recorded in Alabama, the music's appeal spans the world, evidenced by the documentary's widespread popularity. In the past four months, the movie screened to sold-out houses in Iowa's corn fields, Washington's Pacific Coast seaports, Virginia's Appalachian Mountains, San Francisco's hippie neighborhoods and the bustling entertainment capital of New York.

" 'Muscle Shoals' comes from the heart -- not only the film but the entirety of the tale itself," director Greg "Freddy" Camalier said. "Long before I ever had the good fortune to stumble upon it, this heart was touching the world through the incredible music that emanated from there."

During a road trip from the East Coast to New Mexico, Camalier "stumbled upon" Muscle Shoals in 2008, initiating a four-year research project of the town's cultural, racial and musical history.

"It is very exciting and an honor for us to be able to show this documentary about a place that has had such an impact and continues to have an impact on people here," said Lindy Ashwander, executive director of the Princess.

Over the years, Muscle Shoals' musicians, from the Secret Sisters to Walt Aldridge to Teddy Gentry of the band Alabama, have taken center stage at Decatur's historic theater.

Tickets to Thursday's screening are $10. Currently, the only movie theater in Alabama showing the film is Birmingham's Edge 12. On Dec. 26, Huntsville's Flying Monkey Arts Center will show "Muscle Shoals."

PBS announced the inclusion of the documentary in the 2014 Independent Lens series. The movie is scheduled to air April 21 at 8 p.m.

Catherine Godbey can be reached at 256-340-2441 or

If you go

What: "Muscle Shoals"

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets: $10, available at the door, by calling 256-340-1778 or online at


(c)2013 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)

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