The first rhythm section at FAME was put together by Rick Hall when the studio was set up at 603 East Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, following the success of Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On”.
The second FAME Rhythm Section, which is the most famous of all the FAME rhythm sections, consisted of Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Junior Lowe and Barry Beckett. Duane Allman & Spooner Oldham also played with this section, which cut hits at FAME with artists such as Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Arthur Conley, Clarence Carter, Candi Staton and James and Bobby Purify.
Jimmy Johnson and Roger Hawkins were the Del Rays and had a hit with “Fortune Teller”. Jimmy was Rick Hall’s first employee. He worked as secretary, janitor and engineer. As the first section started to move away to Memphis and Nashville, Jimmy and Roger eased into their positions as session players.
Barry Beckett had moved to Pensacola, Florida from Birmingham, Alabama and was playing on sessions for Papa Don Schroeder in Pensacola. Papa Don came to FAME to work on a James and Bobby Purify record and brought Barry with him. Attracted to what he had found, Beckett soon moved to Muscle Shoals and began playing as keyboardist for the FAME house band.
At David Hood’s first FAME session, he was not on bass, which he later became renowned for. Hood played trombone on “Tell Mama” by Etta James. Later David worked his way into the house bass position and played on most of the hits that came out of FAME during this time.
It is no accident that all the successful studios at this time, such as Motown and Stax, had a really strong group of musicians who enjoyed playing together and developed a distinctive sound. The group at Muscle Shoals, under the direction of Rick Hall, were able to play in a wide range of styles and laid down tracks really quickly. Their success did not go unnoticed. Many artists and managers were attracted to FAME and, later, to Muscle Shoals Studios. Given the talent of this rhythm section and their successors, it is not surprising that success bred success.