Bass & Drums: Muscle Shoals on The Staple Singers’ “Name The Missing Word”

David Hood and Roger Hawkins, bassist and drummer of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section lay down some of the tightest funk there is on the “more than 75 gold and platinum hits” recorded at their former studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I’ve been glued to their playing on several records, including Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude, Etta James’ Tell Mama and The Staple SingersBe Altitude: Respect Yourself.

Muscle Shoals Sound - "The Swampers"

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section: (from left) Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson

Here’s a nugget from the latter, the album cut “Name The Missing Word”. These guys give and take, pulsing and let the groove breath. Check out how in the verse, they link up on the kick pattern and on the “push” on beat 2+; but then Hood cuts off his sustained note right on beat 4+, leaving a gap for Hawkins’ tom fill.

They’re incredibly restrained and unshakingly consistent, even down to the drum fill that Hawkins plays at the end of each 4-bar phrase in the verses. His consistency allows Hood to double him leading up the V chord in mm.14.

David Hood & Roger Hawkins/Staple Singers - "Name The Missing Word"

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Some other goodies to look out for:

Check out the rhythm guitar in the right channel. Not even notes, just muted chunks in the verses, and a buried rhythmic counterpoint to the drums in the intro.

When Hawkins finally starts to open up on the drums in the outro at 3:32, he wastes no notes. He creatively begins to combine the verse groove of mm.6 with the [B] groove of mm.14 with the snare on all 4 beats, still catching the motif he previously established on the toms that has now been taken up by horn stabs.

Note: The download link to the left will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free.

Watch them at work in the studio in this great video:

And check them out in this interview talking about Duane Allman’s disdain for studio work.

You can hear Duane dish it right back in this video.

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