Without a doubt, 1969 is the most important year in the career of drummer, producer, and songwriter Roger Hawkins, without whom the pop music of the '70s would have sounded quite different. But that date has yet to be as firmly established as the official founding of the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, an enterprise also involving splendid rhythm guitarist Jimmy Johnson, spunky bassist David Hood, and special keyboardist Barry Beckett. For much of the following decade this became the "in" rhythm section for a variety of artists whose main concern was either chart success or the desire to achieve it.
For the most part, Hawkins has a superb reputation; he is clearly on the short list of great American studio drummers. Nonetheless, not every decision involving the utilization of the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section is considered brilliant in retrospect. In particular, fans of the free-flowing jazz-rock of the British band Traffic point out that leader Steve Winwood's decision to literally ditch his loyal players, such as Jim Capaldi and Rick Grech, in favor of the Muscle Shoals' mob was the beginning of the end, obscuring the group's happy creativity in a fog of timid funk. Nonetheless, the way many famous artists considered their options during this period was pretty simple: get the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section for that next record, or die. Hawkins' drumming is featured on projects by Paul Simon, the Staple Singers, Leon Russell, Sam & Dave, Cher, Bob Seger, Eddie Rabbitt, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, and Percy Sledge. That, of course, is just a short list.
The drummer started out gigging at dances and clubs in Alabama and Tennessee, eventually leading to a house band gig at an Alabama studio optimistically called FAME. In this capacity, he backed up some of the finer recordings of soul giants such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, establishing a snare drum snap so dynamic that at times it seemed as if the stick had been fired from a tightly-wound crossbow. The aforementioned guitarist Johnson was one of his associates from this studio, and by the end of the '60s they had stepped out to start their own Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The rock giants were soon flocking, with some, such as Winwood and later, Eric Clapton, also nabbing Hawkins for touring assignments.
Often in partnership with Beckett, Hawkins has also branched into songwriting and production. The duo were responsible for the hit entitled "Starting All Over Again" by Mel & Tim, and have also produced tracks for Paul Simon, Bob Seger, and Canned Heat, among others. After selling their original studio early in the '90s, Hawkins opted to continue managing the facility under the new owners. His expertise both as a player and philosophical overlord has continued to be in demand throughout the overlapping styles of rock, rhythm and blues, gospel, and country. Traffic fans just cross their fingers that he won't be the drummer who gets the call if there is ever a reunion of this group.
~ Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide
|Roger Hawkins worked as a drummer at dances and clubs throughout North Alabama and Southern Tennessee before securing a position with the rhythm section at FAME studio. He was soon pounding out the rhythm for acts such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.
In 1969, he and Jimmy Johnson formed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and invited fellow studio musicians, David Hood and Barry Beckett to join them. This associaion of musicians became known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
As a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Hawkins has played with such artists as, Paul Simon, the Staple Singers, Leon Russell, Sam and Dave, Cher, Bob Seger, Eddie Rabbitt, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Percy Sledge, and many others.
During the early 70s his solid backbeat brought him to the attention of Steve Winwood, who asked that he join the group "Traffic" for tours of the U.S. and Europe. Eric Clapton recruited his talents for a tour in the early 80s and he has appeared live and on television with Glenn Frey, Peter Yarrow, Ronee Blakely and others.
Along with partner Barry Beckett he co-produced the classic Mel and Tim hit "Starting All Over Again". Other production credits include Canned Heat, Bob Seger, Paul Simon and others.
Following the sale of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in the early 90s, Hawkins stayed on as Studio Manager of the facility. He continues to produce records and play recording sessions with some of the top acts in Country, Rhythm & Blues, Pop, and Gospel Music.
Barry Beckett - Roger Hawkins - David Hood - Jimmy Johnson
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section also known as The Swampers were
the session band that made Muscle Shoals Sound Studio world famous
David Hood - Roger Hawkins
Roger Hawkins - David Hood
The legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
3614 Jackson Highway Sheffield Al.
Who They Are:
The FAME/Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, in particular Jimmy Johnson (guitar), David Hood (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums), and Barry Beckett (keyboards).
What They Played On:
Nearly anything you'd call Southern or Memphis soul, including cuts with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett ... let's just stop and point out they've played on over 500 albums.
Why They’re Important:
This group started as one of the FAME Rhythm Sections, where they nailed down Aretha's "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You," which would have been enough to secure their place in history. They founded the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and became the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section; and worked as producers for the Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the latter of which immortalized them as "The Swampers" in "Sweet Home Alabama." Hood also gets bonus points for his role in the conception of Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers.
Legend Has It:
The recording of I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You remains one of pop's most intriguing sessions. After the title track and part of "Do Right Woman - Do Right Man" were recorded, the work fell apart when Aretha's husband/manager Ted White got into a scrape with a musician (some reports say the musician, later fired, had hit on Aretha; others chalk it up to drinking on both sides). Atlantic Records Vice-President Jerry Wexler later snuck Hawkins, Johnson, and other performers up to New York to secretly finish this landmark in pop history.
"I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You"really, could it be anything else? It's the very sound of soul, the launch of Aretha's career, and features Hood on trombone. Of course, "Mustang Sally" isn't too shabby either.
The Oak Ridge Boys
The Staple Singers
The Forester Sisters
T. Graham Brown
Bjorn Jason Lindh
...and many more