Music and Mystique in Muscle Shoals

Author: Christopher M. Reali
The sound that built the Hit Recording Capital of the World
Cloth – $110
Paper – $22.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 07/19/2022
Cloth: 07/19/2022
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About the Book

The forceful music that rolled out of Muscle Shoals in the 1960s and 1970s shaped hits by everyone from Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon. Christopher M. Reali's in-depth look at the fabled musical hotbed examines the events and factors that gave the Muscle Shoals sound such a potent cultural power. Many artists trekked to FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound in search of the sound of authentic southern Black music—and at times expressed shock at the mostly white studio musicians waiting to play it for them. Others hoped to draw on the hitmaking production process that defined the scene. Reali also chronicles the overlooked history of Muscle Shoals's impact on country music and describes the region's recent transformation into a tourism destination.

Multifaceted and informed, Music and Mystique in Muscle Shoals reveals the people, places, and events behind one of the most legendary recording scenes in American history.

* Publication of this book was supported in part by a grant from the Judith McCulloh Endowment for American Music and by a grant from the AMS 75 Publication Awards for Younger Scholars Fund of the American Musicological Society, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About the Author

Christopher M. Reali is an assistant professor of music at Ramapo College of New Jersey.


"Reali’s work successfully shatters misconceptions about soul music and an identifiable Shoals sound." --Library Journal

"A fascinating study of a musical microcosm, reveling in contradictions and debunking myths." --Kirkus Reviews

"Reali’s cultural history of the magical, mystical Shoals captures the multifaceted layers of this little Alabama spot that produced so much storied music from artists as diverse as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, and the Osmond family." --No Depression

"Reali's account is fascinating, essential reading for anyone interested in American music and cultural history." --Shepherd Express

"Thanks to a fine effort by the author, readers can now enjoy a well-rounded, succinct history of Muscle Shoals, and many of the musical highlights that have been created there over the last seven decades. A solid addition to the College of Musical Knowledge!" --Blues Blast Magazine


"Grounded in oral histories and meticulous archival research, Reali's work takes us deep into the story of the Muscle Shoals sound, providing additional complexity and context that helps to answer the question scholars and music enthusiasts have been asking for over half a century: 'Why Muscle Shoals?'" --Carolyn M. Crawford, Director, Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area

"Reali’s meticulous research--including his use of original oral histories and new archival finds--situates Muscle Shoals’s rich musical history within a broader understanding of its impact on pop music and culture in the United States."--Charles L. Hughes, author of Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South


• A No Depression Most Memorable Music Book of 2022