The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

May 14, 2014

Muscle Shoals musicians inspire students

— SHEFFIELD, Ala. (AP) — Visiting a high school brought back memories for Spooner Oldham.

"This reminds me of playing at assemblies and the high school prom," Oldham told Sheffield Junior High School students.

The Center Star native and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member said he spent countless hours during his high school years getting together with other musicians at a cousin's house and learning music. He said he knew he liked that, and stuck with it.

With that, Oldham, who has left his mark on many hit records from artists such as Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jewel and the Drive-By Truckers, offered the students the same advice about selecting their career path.

"Just like it and stay with it," he said.

Oldham, along with fellow music legends Donnie Fritts, Earl "Peanutt" Montgomery and Will McFarlane, chatted with students Tuesday during a program that began with students seeing the "Muscle Shoals" documentary. The documentary traces the roots of the recording industry in northwest Alabama.

The decades that separated the age of the musicians from those of the students seemed to disappear as they talked with the students, whose ages generally were 12-14. The musicians often talked about bands they started out in during their teen years, which helped the students relate.

"They're an inspiration to us," student Maggie Vandiver said shortly after the event.

Rebekah Griffin said she also was impressed by the music in the documentary and the laundry list of songs that have a Shoals connection. "It really amazes me that all this came out of here."

Rebecca Tumlinson said it was moving to hear example after example of that famous Muscle Shoals sound in the documentary. "It's wonderful, just that soulful sound."

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