SHEFFIELD — An iconic recording studio that hosted the likes of Cher, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and The Black Keys is now in the hands of a group that wants it to become part of a new Muscle Shoals music experience.
Noel Webster, the former owner of 3614 Jackson Highway, the original location of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, said Thursday that the studio has been sold to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation.
Webster said the sale closed Thursday.
“We’re happy to have the property,” said Rodney Hall, chairman of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. “We think it was a fair deal.”
Hall declined to disclose the selling price.
“Rodney was very gracious,” Webster said. “We got a great deal.”
Hall said the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation wants to renovate the studio to the condition it was in during its heyday, but also upgrade it with modern technology.
It also would be a part of a new Muscle Shoals music exhibit that is in the development stages.
Webster said the foundation purchased the building and some surrounding property that includes a cluster of empty buildings behind the studio.
He purchased the building in 1999 and eventually restored the studio to as close to its original condition as possible, including much of the recording equipment.
The equipment, he said, came with him.
“I left the pictures and the memorabilia in there for them, but none of our historical equipment,” Webster said. “They have a clean slate to start from.”
Many artists recorded in the studio, with the biggest being the blues/rock band The Black Keys, who recorded their Grammy Award-winning 2010 album “Brothers” at the venerable studio.
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios was founded in 1969 by “The Swampers,” Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Roger Hawkins and the late Barry Beckett, who had worked as session musicians at Rick Hall’s FAME Recording Studios.
Through the years, some of the biggest stars in music, including Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Boz Skaggs, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Seger and Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded there and at the second location on Alabama Avenue.
The plan being developed by the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation involves creating a partnership with FAME Recording Studios and Cypress Moon Studios, whose Alabama Avenue location in Sheffield was the second site of Muscle Shoals Sound.
The studios would complement the construction of a facility dedicated to showcasing the history of Muscle Shoals music in a Smithsonian-quality series of comprehensive exhibits.
“Now the first leg is done,” Hall said. “We have to raise money to upgrade it to museum quality.”
He wants to utilize the buildings behind the studio, possibly for a museum or gift shop.
Webster cautioned that making too many renovations to the building could affect its status as part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Hall said he approached Webster about purchasing the building about a year ago. Fundraising efforts began in January about the time the “Muscle Shoals” documentary debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.
Hall estimates it could take $75,000-$100,000 to properly equip the studio.
“Eventually, it’s going to need a new roof,” Hall said.
Hall said Huntsville real estate agent Ann Adams Borque was instrumental in helping close the deal.
He also thanked Sheffield resident and attorney Gene Hamby for assisting in finding donors to help the foundation purchase the property.
Hall said a portion of a donation Hamby made to the city of Sheffield several years ago for the creation of a music museum was used for the purchase of the old studio.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.