Jimmy Johnson, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, dies at 76, Rock and Blues Muse

Photo: AP/Jay Reeves

Jimmy Johnson, a co-founder of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, whose influential R&B-based guitar work was an integral of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, has died at the age of 76. Johnson passed  in his hometown of Florence, Alabama. His family posted the announcement on Facebook.

In the early 1960s, Johnson began learning engineering skills at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. A few years later, he began playing rhythm guitar, and joined the Fame rhythm section, and eventually The Swampers, the celebrated Muscle Shoals Studio house band. His guitar work can be heard on recordings by Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Leon Russell, The Staple Singers, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin, among other greats.

In 1969, Jimmy Johnson founded the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios with drummer Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett and David Hood in Sheffield, Alabama.  The studio became a household name to musicians and the record-buying public, putting Muscle Shoals on the map as a center of first-class musicianship and superb record production.  As a recording engineer, Johnson worked on classic singles such as Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman,” and the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses.”

In addition, he ran the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios music publishing company, was Vice President of A&R for Capitol/MSS Records, and President of MSS Records/Malaco. Jimmy Johnson also served the music community as President of the Muscle Shoals Music Association, and chairman of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board.

By Annie Dinerman