Sweet home Alabama

Documentary details Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and the sweet sounds of the South

The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There”, Bob Seger’s “Night Moves”, the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”.

You probably wouldn’t know it, but these classic songs were born in the backwater town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 

In addition to those artists, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio has served such rock ’n’ royalty as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, yet its story is not well known. 

“I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been told as well,” says Muscle Shoals documentary director Greg Camalier, on the phone from his home in Boulder, Colorado.

“I mean, not only that it was so important as far as American history and American musical history, I couldn’t also believe that it had never been told… The story found us as much as we found it. We came upon the town, happened by chance late one night, and we spent the night there when I was on a road trip with my good friend.

“We were kind of mesmerized by the town and we kind of knew a little about its musical history, but just a very small bit” he continues. “We had no idea the magnitude of the story, [so] we extended our trip and stayed there for a full day and we were really moved by the story and the town. That day was the genesis for the film.” 

Camalier is very passionate about music, and plays a few instruments himself. After executive producing a few modest comedies, Muscle Shoals is his directorial debut and it comes straight from the heart.

Such big names as Bono, Mick Jagger and Alicia Keys make an appearance, but that’s not really what the flick is about.

“They’re not really the stars of the film. The stars of the film are the guys down there who were the local guys,” Camalier says. “So telling the story of those guys in the town is the most rewarding. 

“And obviously working with the big name people who came out was a huge boost for the film, because they had great insights to share on the film and they’re iconic in of themselves. They had so many great things to add and made the film that much richer.”

Camalier strives to move the audience in some way with his film.

“It’ll be a little different. You may be surprised coming out of it after going in with what you sort of thought. It’s a real personal story as well as a musical story, so that’s one of my favorite parts about it,” he says.

As for the director, he says now that his first film is in the can, he can’t wait to make more. 

 “I’m bit by the bug now,” he admits. “All I want to do is make films. I’m working on another documentary and I really want to do a narrative.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 6, 2013)

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