At The Blackbird Academy, along with receiving an exceptional audio education, students are offered the opportunity to partake in trips to two of America’s most renowned recording destinations. The walls of the studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee can practically speak; or in this case, sing. Regardless of talent or skill, we can all learn from the past. In visiting these legendary studios, students get a firsthand look into where artists such as The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Al Green and many others laid down some of the most influential tracks in American history.
Learning about the origins of recording and the ways in which it has changed over time is an important aspect in The Blackbird Academy’s curriculum. Understanding the history of audio technology allows our appreciation for music to be much greater. To be in the same place where a record like “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones was recorded pushes our appreciation even further. That place is Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, in Sheffield, Alabama; just one of the many historic places you will visit on your trip to Muscle Shoals. Some say it’s the river which brought life to the studios and the amazing music created there. Others will point to the man which started it all, Rick Hall, owner of FAME Studios. This is where it all began, and where your journey will commence. Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and even Alicia Keys have all recorded here. However, part of what made the studio so great was its incredibly talented group of session players, also know as The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or The Swampers. After many great successes under Rick Hall, The Swampers grew tired of not working for themselves. Long story short, they took their talents elsewhere, starting Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and eventually moving into a larger building, now owned and operated as Cypress Moon Studios. To learn more about this incredible story and the music made there, check out the documentary, “Muscle Shoals.” Here is a video which highlights a few of the things students get to experience on their trip:
It is nearly impossible to talk about the history of American music without mentioning the home of blues, soul and rock 'n' roll: Memphis, Tennessee. Much like in the case of Muscle Shoals, all roads seem to derive from one person. That individual, who is recognized for discovering the likes of Elvis Presley, Howlin’ Wolf and Johnny Cash is Sam Phillips. All current music is influenced from the records and artists before our time. There is no debate of the immense influence Sam has played in the current state of the music industry. Artists are still being driven by the history in Memphis, with more recent hits like “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, having been recorded at Royal Studios. To get an idea of the The Blackbird Academy’s trip to Memphis, please watch the video below:
There’s no denying that these are places in which the energies from such greats still linger, and a place you must experience to fully understand. Sometimes the importance of how we got to this point in the state of today’s music is overlooked. At The Blackbird Academy, its importance is cherished and celebrated; giving students an appreciation for the past, in hopes to make great records in the present and future.