April 22 – Carr Drove Sound Of Many A ’70s Hit

The South had two great “rhythm sections”. Unsung heroes in the music world, session musicians and music producers who worked in the background to make other musicians work shine. While the most famous such outfit anywhere was likely L.A.’s Wrecking Crew (with the likes of Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine), in Georgia there was the fine Atlanta Rhythm Section, musical aces from a studio in Doraville who eventually put out their own hit records. Less widely known but equally talented, across the border in Alabama was Muscle Shoals. A studio used by R&B, rock and country stars through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Nicknamed “the Swampers”, they got a nice shout out in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthem “Sweet Home Alabama.” Today we remember one of the finest Swampers, Pete Carr. Pete was born on this day in 1950.

Carr was perhaps the guitarist in the Muscle Shoals set. Born in Florida, like so many others of his generation, he decided on a career in music after seeing and hearing the Stones and the Beatles. He began playing guitar at 13; at 15 he met the Allman Brothers at a concert. He and Duane became friends and in 1968 the two of them (as well as Gregg Allman) were in the short-lived band Hourglass together. Duane was a particularly big influence on Pete’s playing, but he admired a range of other guitarists from Clapton to Chet Atkins.

After Hourglass, he moved to Alabama to take a job at Muscle Shoals as a session musician. There was no shortage of work for him! Soon after getting there, he was playing on and producing Sailcat’s hit “Motorcycle Mama.” It was nowhere but up for him through the decade, with him playing on almost every recording done at Muscle Shoals in the ’70s (he did at least 500) including Skynyrd, Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, Paul Anka, and Mary McGregor. He played the guitar on Rod Stewart’s sexy smash “Tonight’s the Night,” but was especially close to a couple of other superstars – Bob Seger and Paul Simon. He worked on some seven Seger albums, including the standout guitar work on his hit “Main Street.” But Simon was his fave.

“I always thought Paul Simon was fantastic – in the same league as the Beatles. So when he walked in the studio, it was an awe-inspiring moment for me.” He played on several Simon records including the hit “Kodachrome” and apparently made an impact on Paul. When Simon & Garfunkel reunited in 1981 for the massive Central Park concert, they brought Carr in to play behind them.

Unlike Atlanta’s Rhythm Section, Muscle Shoals didn’t do much recording of their own, but Pete was a brief exception. He paired up with Lenny LeBlanc in 1978 for the album Midnight Light, which gave them the top 20 soft rock hit “Falling”, a song which has remained popular enough to win a BMI Award for radio airplay in 2005.

Carr’s work slowed down in the 21st Century and sadly he passed away last year at age 70 after an undisclosed but lengthy illness. Curiously, Carr wasn’t even the most famous guitarist named “Pete” born on April 22, 1950. Because, we wish a happy 71st birthday today to Peter Frampton!

14 thoughts on “April 22 – Carr Drove Sound Of Many A ’70s Hit

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    I didn’t know anyone played on Skynyrd sessions except Al Kooper wow… Have you heard much from Hourglass? Some things are really good…they were forced though to play some pop stuff by the record company and Duane left…they had some good songs and opened for the Doors and other big bands.

    I remember something about Carr in a Paul Simon interview…yea to play with Simon you have to be excellent. Muscle Shoals had to be a fun job back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I’d never even heard of Hourglass until prepping this piece… I like the sound of the one clip I included though, and it didn’t sound like I expected . He did a lot of incredible works but his name is virtually unknown, much like majority of the Wrecking Crew.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. me too….I find it fascinating how they, the Wrecking Crew , maybe the Funk Bros etc really shaped so much of our music of the 60s and 70s yet are so very unknown. There was a lot of talent in those studios and I figure a lot of interesting individuals

        Liked by 1 person

  2. He is in the great documentary, Muscle Shoals. It’s on Netflix and Amazon if you can give it a look. What’s crazy is, these studio cats were young, clean cut, penny loafer wearing white kids that played soul music like no one else. They were the Wrecking Crew of the south.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. badfinger20 (Max)

      Phil I’ve seen the preview of it and I am going to watch it. I read about them also in a Duane Allman book…he was the one hippie of the bunch. Great musicians.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. another one I need to see, as well as the movie on the Wrecking Crew. I read most people assumed the Muscle Shoals crew were all black R&B guys and were surprised to find out,like you say, seemingly White, office worker types instead. But they sure had the talent!

      Like

    1. thank you, and yes, seems like he was. I’m not the world’s biggest Seger fan – kind of take him or leave ‘im overall – but that guitar on ‘Main Street’ always stood out to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with you on Bob Seeger- I kinda like him in small doses. I could happily pick up a Greatest Hits package, but I’d be more tempted by the EP edition than the full LP. Sorry, all those Bob fans!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: July 15 – Easy-listening Rider? – A Sound Day

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