In 1967, another artist not originally from the Muscle Shoals area, by the name of Etta James (who was under contract to Chess Records at that time, based in Chicago), was sent down to FAME Studios to be produced by Hall to see if she could achieve the same success as Aretha Franklin. The result was a Top 40 record on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart at number twenty-three and a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot Soul and R&B Singles Chart. The song entitled “Tell Mama” became James’ biggest hit since the early 1960s. The track was written by Clarence Carter, who was a song-writer under contract to FAME Music Publishing Company. It was the title track of the album that was put together from the four sessions that Etta had at Muscle Shoals, with several tracks not thought worthy of inclusion. One track that did feature was “I’d Rather Go Blind”, which didn’t make much impact at the time but which has gone on to become a blues standard and, along with “At Last”, Etta’s best-known song.

The quality of the work that Etta James and the Muscle Shoals musicians put together was finally recognised when an album of the complete Muscle Shoals sessions was issued in 2001, featuring all twenty-two songs that had been recorded in 1967 and 1968.

Etta James released her first single in 1955 and her first album “At Last” in 1960. Her last album was released in 2011, fifty-six years after that first single.

Etta James
Photo:Roland Godefroy

(Wikimedia Commons)