RIP Rick Hall

Rick Hall, the record producer and executive who, as the founder of Fame studios, almost single-handedly established the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals as a crucible of some of the greatest soul music to be produced in America in the 1960s and 1970s has died aged 85.

As a hands-on producer at his Fame studio, Hall supervised classic recordings by Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Candi Staton and of course Bobbie. A fellow Southerner, Hall was born in Forest Grove, Mississippi, and brought up in Franklin County, Alabama. In 1970 he produced the Fancy album, including the title track which remains one of Bobbie’s best story songs; a musical cross between country, blues and pop that could define modern Americana. Years later in 1978, he would also produce Bobbie’s last recordings for the Curb division of Warner Bros. Hall remembered his time working with Bobbie fondly:

“I loved Bobbie. My God, she was a beautiful woman. She had a great mind! She had all kinds of talent. The first time I heard Ode to Billie Joe, I was driving past the studio, and I almost ran my car into a telephone pole! I was so amazed! Her story was my story. That’s how I grew up. “Bale the hay. Pass the biscuits,” you know? There were so many Southern things that she did. I felt in my heart that if I ever met her, we’d hit it off. I offered to produce her. We had dinner together, and we did hit it off. We had a great time together. She was one of my very favorites.”

Bobbie recording at Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals, photo from the Fancy LP cover and Rick Hall at Fame.