The 1972 pop classic, “I’ll Take You There” by the Staples Singers, is widely recognized as the song that best defines a genre of American music that record producer Jerry Wexler labeled “Rhythm & Blues”. The bass line (at the 1:52 mark) of “I’ll Take You There” is widely acknowledged as the definitive rhythm line associated with R&B. David Hood is the man who takes us there with that funky solo. Along with Jimmie Johnson, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett, he formed the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
The musical journey of David Hood began well before his work with the Staple Singers. The line-up of artists before and after reads like an encyclopedia of American & British Rock, Blues, and R&B performers. From Aretha Franklin and Etta James to Paul Simon, Steve Winwood, Levon Helm and Duane Allman, David’s minimalist style exemplifies the collaborative hallmark of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
Beginning of the Journey
Born and raised—and still living in—Northern Alabama, David started playing trombone at age 14 for the Sheffield High School Band; at age 17 he found his calling, the bass guitar. While attending the University of North Alabama, David and three former classmates from Sheffield High School formed their first band, The Mystics, playing the fraternity circuit in Alabama and Mississippi. When not in school or playing with The Mystics, David hung out at Rick Hall’s Fame Studio and Quin Ivy’s Quinvy studio, hoping to begin a career in the fledgling recording industry in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
As recently chronicled in the documentary film titled Muscle Shoals, David’s recording career began in 1966. In just his first two years as a studio musician, Hood played bass or trombone on several early Muscle Shoals hits including James and Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet”, Percy Sledge’s “Warm and Tender Love”, Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved A Man” and Etta James’ “Tell Mama”.
So began a recording career that is among the most prolific in quantity, diversity and quality—touching the lives of thousands of musicians and millions of listeners.
The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Begins
A major turning point occurred in 1969. On the verge of signing a new contract with Rick Hall at Fame Studios, the group that was to become the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section partnered with Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records to open a new studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama. The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio took the name of the men who were to become the heart and soul of a body of music created over the next 20 years rivaling Memphis, Nashville and New York City.
The first album cut at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio marked the beginning of Cher’s phenomenal solo career. The album, titled 3614 Jackson Highway, was produced and engineered by Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd of Atlantic Records. Aside from the musicians, Jerry, Tom and Rick Hall were integral figures in American music history and David’s career. When asked about Rick, David described him as a “taskmaster” who could be very hard on his musicians, demanding the focus and precision that would prepare David for his future with Wexler.
“Wexler scared me to death! The first time I met him… I heard this Yankee accent over the talkback in the studio: ‘David, would you come up here please’. Oh God, what does he want… he’s gonna fire me! We laughed about it later. He was a tough old guy, but hey, Jerry and Tom Dowd produced Ray Charles on “What’d I Say?” They weren’t musicians, but they had incredible intuition, trained ears and depth of knowledge. Jerry could tell me where to accent and where to push. He knew when something is in the pocket, it can be one click faster or slower and it won’t work. He could always tell when it was there.”
Following the success of Cher’s album, a who’s-who of musicians and bands made their way to Muscle Shoals.
Working with Duane Allman
In 1969 Duane Allman joined the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section for Boz Scaggs’ first album. Duane had worked at Fame on many of the hits that made Muscle Shoals famous including Wilson Pickett’s version of “Hey Jude”. Also featured on Boz’s first album was the 13 minute tour-de-force “Loan Me A Dime” where we hear some of the finest playing of the man who would go on to form The Allman Brothers Band and set in motion a new genre, Southern Rock. “Loan Me A Dime” provides a clear and compelling example of the musicianship of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
The melodic keyboard opening (first organ, then piano) played by Barry Beckett is followed by perfectly paced (Hawkins drums) series of soulful exchanges including Boz’s lyrics, David’s pulmonary bass, beautiful horn arrangements and of course, the interplay of guitar by Boz, Jimmie Johnson, Eddie Hinton and the blues powered improvisation by Duane Allman.
The 1970’s saw the demand for Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and David’s bass playing grow. Nearly every day for the next two decades, the studio and David were booked by the icons of American music to record an unmatched catalog of hits. The artists included The Staples Singers, Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Traffic, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Buffett, James Brown, Levon Helm, and The Rolling Stones.
During this remarkable musical period, David’s most important legacy emerged. As the father of Patterson and husband to Judy, David’s family life and dedication to the Shoals community has always taken center stage. Inspired by the music of his father, Patterson Hood began writing songs at 8 years old, playing guitar at 14 and formed his first band (Adam’s House Cat) with childhood friend Mike Cooley in 1985. In 1996, Patterson and Mike organized The Drive-By Truckers, a Southern/Country rock band who’s DNA is clearly traced back to David Hood, The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the sounds of Swampland.
David is currently a member of The Decoys, a band he co-founded with Scott Boyer that includes Kelvin Holly, NC Thurman and Mike Dillon. While his career as a studio player is widely known, David has toured with Traffic, and appeared with BB King, Mavis Staples and Bonnie Bramlett. David continues to work in the studio, perform live with his son Patterson and his current band, The Decoys.
For the session where his signature bass line in “I’ll Take You There” was recorded, David was paid just $71. But for the man whose day-to-day audience became the equipment, the producer and the engineer, David Hood enjoys the greatest of all rewards, life-fulfilling relationships with family, friends and wonderful recording artists.