Jimmy Johnson – Profile

Session guitarist. Band member. Engineer. Producer. Music Publisher. Commercial Studio owner. Project Studio Pioneer.

jimmy3614If Jimmy Johnson had merely achieved competence in so many facets of his profession, his music would be note worthy. That he became so successful at each makes his career a virtual one-of-a-kind. But it’s when you listen to Jimmy Johnson’s stories of professional life lived almost entirely behind soundproof glass that his unique and staggering breadth of musical experience begins to sound like American pop music history itself. Not that Jimmy would ever take himself that seriously. Watch his face while he answers, “Dumb luck” to the question, “What contributed most to your success?” and you’ll swear he half expects you to supply a better answer. But his opinion turns out not to be typical “aw-shucks” Southern self-depreciation. Jimmy Johnson really believes he’s one of the luckiest “pickers” to walk the earth. – By: Diane Gershuny and D.K. Sweet 


Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Barry Beckett, etched their place in musical history by recording a variety of memorable hits across the full spectrum of contemporary music. Unlike a popular band, the rhythm section found itself playing sometimes totally different styles of music from day to day. This odd juxtaposition gave the section a broad artistic pallet from which to draw and helped it earn hits by Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Traffic, Art Garfunkel, Leon Russell, The Oak Ridge Boys, Millie Jackson, Bobby Womack, The Staple Singers, Rod Stewart, Don Covay, Percy Sledge, Luther Ingram, Paul Davis, Mary MacGregor, Glenn Frey, Julian Lennon, John Conlee, Ronnie Milsap, The Forester Sisters, Clarence Carter, T. Graham Brown, Dr. Hook, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. European, Canadian and Asian artists, Frankie Miller, Kazuhiko Kato, Jim Capaldi, Bjorn Jason Lindh, Boule Noire, Toulouse, Ola Magnell, Pugh Rogefeldt, and Eddy Mitchell traveled to the Northwest corner of Alabama for a bit of the magic created by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Their greatest talent was their ability to create the perfect foundation for an artist’s hit.

After gaining recognition as the sound behind the hits coming from the Muscle Shoals recording studios of Rick Hall and Quin Ivy, the members of the rhythm section opened the first Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The small funky building at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, AL, opened in May 1969. It was the birthplace of many of the greatest records of the 1970s, despite the many inconveniences caused by its small size. Producers Jerry Wexler, Al Bell, Phil Ramone, and Brad Shapiro brought their latest acts, and the hits flowed out to labels like Atlantic,homebox5 CBS, Stax, and Capitol. In 1978, a former Naval Reserve Station on the banks of the Tennessee River was renovated into a multi-studio complex. The spacious facility not only offered the traditional hit making rhythm section, but also the latest technical advances. The members of the rhythm section had also begun having success with their own productions, and the larger more versatile complex was necessary so that various recording sessions could be underway simultaneously. A label deal was formed with Capitol resulting in the release of material by Delbert McClinton, Levon Helm, Russell Smith, Lenny LeBlanc, Jackson Highway and Frankie Miller, and in house publishing companies published the hits “Torn Between Two Lovers,” “Old Time Rock And Roll,” “Starting All Over Again” and “Down Home Blues.”