The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as The Swampers, is a group of American soul, R&B, rock and roll and country studio musicians based in the city of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They have appeared on more than 75 gold and platinum hits.
The Swampers, one of the best-known groups of session musicians, crafted the "Muscle Shoals Sound." They were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995 for a "Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement" and into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008 (the performers inducted into the latter were the four founding Swampers: Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass), Jimmy Johnson (guitar), plus Pete Carr (guitar), Spooner Oldham (organ and piano), Albert S. Lowe Jr., Clayton Ivey, Randy McCormick, and Will McFarlane). The nickname "The Swampers" was given to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section by singer/songwriter Leon Russell, who recorded with them (Russell was an alumnus of another super backing group The Wrecking Crew.)
Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records brought artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to record with the all-white group of Southern musicians after their success with Arthur Alexander and most notably on Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." They originally worked at Rick Hall's FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. In 1969, Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson left Fame and started the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
In the 1970s, the Memphis, TN based Stax Records also began bringing artists down to Alabama. Johnnie Taylor had a long run of R&B hits with the group, and The Staple Singers had their greatest crossover successes with songs like "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself." Later, they were the sound behind Bob Seger hits such as Old Time Rock and Roll. Other artists who recorded with the Swampers include Rod Stewart, Duane Allman, Boz Scaggs, Elkie Brooks, Paul Simon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Glenn Frey, Jim Capaldi, Julian Lennon,Delbert McClinton, J.J. Cale, John Prine, Alice in Chains, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Little Milton, Sawyer Brown, Tony Joe White, The Oak Ridge Boys, Eddy Mitchell and many more. Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Barry Beckett toured with Traffic for a while.
The studios in Sheffield were later bought by longtime friend Tommy Couch, owner of Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records, and the group joined other session players, such as keyboardist Carson Whitsett, playing behind Bobby "Blue" Bland and other legends on the label, though Beckett left for Nashville, where he established himself as a producer.
Lynyrd Skynyrd famously mentions them in "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?"
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section is featured in the 2013 documentary film Muscle Shoals.
US Pop chart
recorded November 4, 1966
"I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)"
recorded January 24, 1967
recorded April 1967
"Take Time to Know Her"
recorded February 1, 1968
recorded November 27, 1968
"Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)"
recorded January 6, 1969
"Take a Letter, Maria"
recorded August 19, 1969
"I'll Take You There"
The Staple Singers
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license