The Muscle Shoals based FAME label was one of the most influential imprints in soul’s rich and garlanded history… and the irony is that the label’s founder, Rick Hall, didn’t really have any intention of starting a label when he opened up his recording studio in 1961 in the one track Alabama town of Muscle Shoals. His aim seemed to be to lease out studio time to anyone who wanted to make records and any he worked on himself he intended to license out to others he deemed more suitable to run the business end of the music scene.
Hall, though, hit the ground running when his recording of Arthur Alexander’s ‘You Better Move On’ was snapped up by Dot and became a hit (and, of course, a huge influence on a whole generation of UK beat musicians). Hall’s second major discovery was Jimmy Hughes whose first record ‘I’m Qualified’ was licensed to Jamie-Guyden. However, when Hughes’ next offering was knocked back by the Philly record men, Hall decided to set up his own label on a proper business footing – so Fame was officially conceived and the rest, of course, is history.
Over the last few years the UK’s Ace Records have done a wonderful job reissuing the Fame back catalogue…. and now they’re embarking on something really special. Over the coming months they plan to release three double CD sets that will contain all the singles issued by the Fame label.
They’ve just released volume 1, which covers the 1964- 67 period and the generous 52 tracks (the A and B sides of the entire single issued in those years) is a wonderful snap shot of a label working towards finding a signature sound. Featured artists include Arthur Conley, Terry Woodford, Art Freeman, Clarence Carter, Dan Penn, James Barnett, June Conquest and, of course, the mighty Jimmy Hughes, whose monumental ‘Steal Away’ set the Fame fame wheels in motion.
The three volume series along with the recent Muscle Shoals documentary is a fitting tribute to Rick Hall – a reluctant soul hero who was awarded a Grammy Special Merit Award earlier this year.
As a Fame footnote, the Ace imprint, Kent, will be releasing a very special limited edition vinyl album on CLARENCE CARTER to tie in with Record Store Day – April 19th. The double album – complete with gatefold sleeve – will feature Carter’s best singles and the choicest of his album cuts selected from his five-year tenure at Fame. ‘Slip Away, the Ultimate Clarence Carter’ is sure to become a collectors’ item.