Lynyrd Skynyrd is from Jacksonville, Florida. They wrote this song about their impressions of Alabama and as a tribute to the studio musicians at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
, where they recorded from 1970-1972. The studios gained fame during the '60s and '70s when it became the vogue thing for bands to record there. Artists like Bo Diddley, Aretha Franklin, and many big southern rock groups recorded there. "The Swampers" was a name Leon Russell's producer Denny Cordell came up with for the musicians, and when Russell earned a Gold Record for his 1971 album Leon Russell and the Shelter People
(recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios), he gave one to the guys that said, "Presented to The Swampers." (These commemorative gold records were often given to folks who helped create or market the album, and they often went to record executives or radio stations). Lynyrd Skynyrd saw the record, and when they included the line, "Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers" in this song, they popularized the nickname and brought a lot of attention to these Alabama players who worked behind the scenes on many famous recordings. To find out how the nickname originated in the first place, we asked a Swamper - bass player David Hood, who told us: "We had been working with Leon, we had been working with Denny Cordell, who was his producer. I think Denny came up with the name. We did an album called The Shelter People
. And on the album there were musicians on some tracks from Tulsa - Carl Radle and some of the guys from out there - and tracks by us. And to differentiate, he wrote down "The Muscle Shoals Swampers" on the ones we did, and the Tulsa one, I don't know what he called them, but the Tulsa people on the others. And that just kind of took.
As for Skynyrd's Muscle Shoals output, they recorded a full album there in 1972 which wasn't released until nine of the tracks were included on their 1978 album (after their tragic plane crash) Skynyrd's First and... Last
. According to David Hood, the tape from the sessions, which included their song "Free Bird
," got kinked at some point after it left the studio, and when the band's manager would play it for record companies, it was flipped and sounded terrible. The band wasn't happy with the Muscle Shoals crew at the time, but put aside any hard feelings when they found out the recordings were fine if played correctly. These early Skynyrd recordings were produced by Muscle Shoals house musician Jimmy Johnson; the band's first release was produced by Al Kooper