MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. – It’s no secret, the iconic Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals played a crucial role in the musical careers of several legends.
The studio, and its founder Rick Hall, are featured in the upcoming movie ‘Respect,’ the biopic of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Award-winning singer/songwriter and American Idol alumna Jennifer Hudson plays the role of the late Franklin.
The man playing the role of Hall, Myk Watford, is one of north Alabama’s own.
“It gives me chills just to be sitting in here,” said Watford, sitting inside Fame. “Just knowing all the music that was recorded here. All the artists that worked here, and of course Rick [Hall] who, not alone, but with the help of other people around here, changed the landscape of music.”
Franklin’s ascension to fame was largely bookended at the studio of the same name. Watford, originally from Russellville, is quite familiar with the role Muscle Shoals played in her evolution as a soul artist.
“As everyone around here knows, Rick [Hall] was a big part of her history; before she came down here to Fame she didn’t have any hits,” said Watford. “They were trying to sell her as more of a jazz musician which isn’t what she wanted.”
At Fame, the house band had perfected a funky, muscular style that came to be known as the “Muscle Shoals sound,” Countless great singers recorded there: Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Etta James.
Many say Franklin left Fame a different artist than she was when she arrived.
“When you grow up around here, like I did, you hear those stories all the time,” said Watford. “That’s part of the reason why it gives me chills to be in [Fame Studios]. I’ve always heard those stories; to be, in a small way, a part of that story now is just something that’s hard for me to even put into words, it’s very special.”
The movie chronicles Franklin’s life before and after that fateful visit to Fame.
“Her story goes well beyond here,” said Watford. Who she became, the queen of soul, was kind of just born here.”
Watford says he’s heard stories about Rick Hall for most of his life.
“I want to be able to be accurate in all aspects of who he was and sort of immersing myself in the spirit of the character. I just wanted to get his spirit right. I think when you’re playing someone who is a real person, you have an obligation there to capture their spirit.”
‘Respect’ will premiere in theaters on August 13.