Muscle Shoals to premiere in Melbourne

The township of Muscle Shoals in Alabama, USA, has long been associated with the celebrated Muscle Shoals Sound that emanated from Fame Studios. That sound is now celebrated in a documentary, Muscle Shoals, that focuses on the studio’s owner, Rick Hall, and the studio in which artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, The Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff and many others have all recorded.

Interestingly, Fame Studios has never been the subject of a documentary before, but that changed when music lover Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier visited Muscle Shoals as part of a road trip and hatched the idea of making his first ever foray into the film world.

“I couldn’t believe that the story hadn’t been told before,” Camalier says.

“That really dumbfounded me and even though I hadn’t made a documentary before – I was in commercial real estate – I grew up listening to music. But I soon found out I knew only of a small amount of music that had been recorded in Muscle Shoals.

“So to keep discovering all these artists that I knew and loved had at one time or another recorded there made me realise the Muscle Shoals story had to be told,” he adds.

“And it’s all from this small, rural place that’s in the middle of nowhere.”

Camalier was able to entice such people as Bono, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Cliff, Greg Allman and Steve Winwood along with many other luminaries to be interviewed for the documentary which also features some rarely-seen archival footage.

“It was a matter of being tenacious and also knowing some people who had some contacts,” he says.

“And they were all keen because they had such an affinity with Muscle Shoals. If it had been for some other documentary, I think it would have been a case of, ‘Sorry, no thanks’. The fact it was Muscle Shoals and it hadn’t been done and had never had its day in the sun before was what helped.” Studio owner Rick Hall, who came from a dirt-poor family and is widely known throughout the music industry for his strong will and forceful ways, proved to be a different kettle of fish however.

“Oh, Rick took a while to convince,” Camalier says with a laugh.

“He was very suspicious [of us] at first and we really had to earn his trust. Some of the more personal stuff in the documentary actually took a couple of years of convincing before he felt comfortable enough to talk about it on camera.

“But Rick does come across in the documentary like he is in person – a fascinating, magnetic individual who has been forged by the fire in his belly for music, Camalier continues.

“You can’t help but be drawn to him.

“Everyone else involved with the studio was pretty open to talking about everything though,” he adds.

“So we were able to get some really good stories on film about all that went on.”

The late Duane Allman, who recorded many sides at the studio as a session player including, most notably, Boz Scagg’s Somebody Loan me A Dime and Wilson Pickett’s version of Hey Jude, used to pitch a tent in the car park.

“Rick had lots of guitar players but this long-haired hippie kept pestering him for a session,” Camalier says.

“He was told he wouldn’t be given any work, but Duane pitched his tent in the parking lot – he was told he could go right ahead and do that – and continually kept buggin’ Rick. The rest is history.”

Muscle Shoals, which had its premiere at Sundance Film Festival before picking up the Grand Prize at Boulder International Film Festival, will now have its Australian premiere in Melbourne.

“I was really hoping to come down,” Camalier concludes,

“it would have been my first trip to Australia but, with Christmas and everything, it’s just not going to happen.”


The Australian Centre for the Moving Image Cinemas presents Long Play: Muscle Shoals (PG) from December 27 to January 19.

Rick Hall and Clarence Carter


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