Jimmy Hughes: The Best Of

When Jimmy Hughes decided he wanted to sing rather than working in a Leighton, Alabama rubber factory, he went to Rick Hall down the road in Muscle Shoals.

Together they cut a single but, unfortunately, it went nowhere.

Two years later, after Hughes penned a new song based on the gospel spiritual Steal Away to Jesus, as Hall was completing construction of his brand-new Fame Recording Studio on Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, the two of them decided to give recording one more try.

Hall called a few local musicians and decided that they should test the new equipment in a live setting. The first ever recording by Fame Records would be that of Jimmy Hughes singing Steal Away.

Hughes went on to sing for Stax/Volt while Hall secured his reputation through his involvement with Percy Sledge’s 1966 hit When a Man Loves a Woman. While punching Aretha Franklin’s husband in 1967 didn’t help, it also did not hurt enough to preclude Hall as being named Billboard’s 1971 Producer of the Year.

Hall recalled in the documentary Hell Bent for FAME that, “Hughes was the one singer who never hit the illustrious heights that he deserved” and that “his talent was much greater than the length of his career might indicate”.  Indeed, Jimmy’s voice is powerful and worthy of being played at top volume on your home stereo, yet despite his vocal skill, Hughes retired from professional singing in 1970.

However, you needn’t despair if you live in the South, despite returning to factory work, Hughes can still be heard every Sunday: singing for his local congregation back home in Leighton.

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