Born: February 4, 1943 Sheffield, Alabama
1987 Music Creator's Award; 1995 Induction Alabama Music Hall of Fame; Walk of Fame Star
Jimmy Johnson's first appearance as a paid guitarist was at the age of 15 at a Saturday night dance at the National Guard Armory in Tuscumbia, Alabama. He earned $10.00 for that night's "fun," and he was "hooked." He couldn't believe he was paid for doing what he loved.
His first experience in a recording studio was in his Uncle Dexter's studio across the street from his home in Sheffield, Alabama. In the early 1960's he went to work for Rick Hall as the first employee of Fame Studio - doing everything from engineering and typing to "sweeping up" after the session.
By the mid-60's he had begun playing rhythm guitar on sessions and, eventually, became a regular member of the studio rhythm section. In 1969 he and his partners, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Barry Beckett, decided to form their own rhythm section and buy a studio - a move that created the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. In the 70's and 80's Jimmy Johnson was busy producing Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackfoot, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Levon Helm, Billy Vera, Billy "Crash" Craddock, Connie Francis, Lloyd Price, The Rossington Band, Luther Ingram, B.W. Stevenson, Mickey Newbury, Paul Simon (with Paul, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was nominated for a Grammy for the album "There Goes Rhymin' Simon"), Bob Seger, and many others.
His distinctive guitar fills can be heard on the recordings of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Millie Jackson, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Dr. Hook, Leon Russell, The Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Z.Z. Hill, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Lulu, R.B. Greaves, Luther Ingram, Rod Stewart, Johnny Rivers, Paul Anka, Clarence Carter, Oak Ridge Boys, Boz Scaggs, Dorothy Moore, Cher, Bobby Womack, Jose Feliciano, Art Garfunkle, Tony Orlando, and Etta James, "The Right Time", just to name a few.
Throughout his career he has remained renown as a recording engineer, having worked the controls on such classics as the Rolling Stone's "Brown Sugar", "Wild Horses", Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman", Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music", and George Michael's (Solo Version) "Careless Whisper".
As a music publisher Jimmy's copyright credits include: "Down Home Blues", "Old Time Rock And Roll", "Torn Between Two Lovers" and "Starting All Over Again" to name a few. MSS Publishing continues to be successful.
The original site of the first studio was 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield in a former casket warehouse. It opened in 1969 with - in addition to Jimmy and Roger - two additional owners, David Hood and Barry Beckett. The foursome became the world famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
Today, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a state-of-the-art two studio complex located on the Tennessee River in Sheffield, Alabama. The 31,000 square foot structure is steeped in history. From its beginning as the city's power plant in 1903 and later serving as the Naval Reserve Center, the structure has served its many purposes well.
Expanding from an eight track to a 24 track studio and outgrowing the original facility, the partners agreed to purchase the old Naval Reserve Center not only for its potential as a studio complex but for its nostalgic musical background. Oddly enough the Naval Reserve Center in the 50's and 60's was the site for teenage dances and "sock hops". Young people from the Shoals area met at the center and danced to the music of the local bands. In 1979 the new facility was opened.
Through the doors of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio have come some of the most famous recording artists, musicians, producers, engineers, and songwriters from all over the world. The recording sessions at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio have given worldwide audiences hours of musical enjoyment.
The 90's find Jimmy Johnson at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, still producing, playing, and engineering. He now finds time to extend his interests and talents in support of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame - of which he is Chairman of the Board.
Jimmy has played venues that extended the length and breadth of the United States, multiple tours of Europe with varied artists, and performed two seasons at the Montreus Jazz Festival in Switzerland. His memories chronicle some of the best rock and roll years; he has been quoted in books and publications such as Sweet Soul Music, Say It One Time For The Broken Hearted, Stars Fell On Alabama, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, and Guitar Player Magazine. He was listed in Playboy Magazine's jazz poll in 1983. He has been interviewed by public television and heard on King Biscuit Hour, Sound Tracks of the 60's with Murray the K, Voice of America, British Broadcasting Company, and radio stations in Scandinavia, Germany, Senegal, West Africa, Holland, Japan, just to name a few. He can be seen in "The Gimme Shelter" rock movie classic. Jimmy is listed in the Who's Who of Entertainment. The title cut of the original "Bengi" movie has Jimmy's rhythm guitar behind the voice of Charlie Rich. The movie soundtrack. "Across 110th Street", is filled with his distinctive rhythm guitar.
He and his fellow "swampers" (a name for Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section coined by Leon Russell and immortalized in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, "Sweet Home Alabama") were recently interviewed by David Ritz. The topic was the "rock and roll" legend Jerry Wexler with whom Jimmy has had a friendship and working relationship for over 30 years.
Jimmy lives overlooking the beautiful Tennessee River - the very same river that inspired the lyrics of Julian Lennon's song "Vallotte" on his visit to Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Jimmy finds solace in the fact that he still loves working in the music industry, still has his permanent residence in the Muscle Shoals area, and is still paid for doing what he loves - being an independent producer/engineer/musician and publisher.
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame