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Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 by

C. S. Fuqua, author of Music Fell on Alabama, offered this remembrance of record producer Jerry Wexler:

Jerry Wexler is known to many around the Shoals as the “Godfather of Muscle Shoals Music.” Wexler died on August 15, 2008, at age 91 of complications related to congestive heart failure. Had it not been for Wexler, Muscle Shoals may never have become known as the “Hit Capital of the World.”

In 1966, Rick Hall of Fame Studios alerted Wexler to the talent available in the Shoals by pitching to Wexler the song “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Impressed by the ability and special sound of Shoals’ musicians, Wexler then took Wilson Pickett to Fame to record Pickett’s first Top 10 hit, “Land of 1,000 Dances,” but, by the time Wexler took Aretha Franklin to record at Fame, friction had developed between Wexler and Hall that threatened to destroy the relationship. An altercation between Franklin’s husband and Hall caused Franklin to return to New York before completing scheduled recording, but Wexler still wanted to use the Fame rhythm section musicians for Franklin, so he asked Hall if he could take them to New York to record the King Curtis album King Curtis Plays the Great Memphis Hits. Hoping to salvage the business relationship with Wexler, Hall sent the section to New York, and Wexler promptly used the section with Franklin. Wexler later guaranteed enough work for the rhythm section musicians to enable them to leave Hall’s Fame and open the Muscle Shoals Sound studio.

Although Wexler eventually moved most of his recording business to Miami, Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound had by then established solid reputations that would continue to draw major acts to the Shoals to record for years to come. You can find more on Wexler and his connection to the Shoals in Music Fell on Alabama and in the Times-Daily extended obituary “Magic Man”.

Music Fell on Alabama is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

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