The Alabama Shakes: A Story of Soul and Success

Posted on March 27, 2015


1425086241By Ashley Dill

More than a month out from their show at Minglewood Hall in Memphis, Tennessee, the Alabama Shakes have sold out their show twice. Tickets had been on sale for just three days before eager fans snatched all of the tickets. Due to this immense popular demand, Minglewood added additional tickets that have, as you probably guessed it, sold out again.

Five years before this back in 2009, Brittany Howard, singer and guitarist, met Zac Cokrell, bassist, in their high school psychology class in Athens, Alabama. Knowing he played the bass, Howard asked him if he wanted to try making music together. They approached Steve Johnson, who worked at the only record store in town, because he played the drums. This simple story is the beginning of the three-time Grammy-nominated band called the Alabama Shakes.
The roots trio went to Clearwave Recording Studio in Decatur, Alabama, to record a few original songs. Heath Frog, upon hearing their demo, joined the trio as a second guitarist. Originally calling themselves The Shakes, the band played at a Nashville record store and completely electrified their audience. Their performance was posted on a blog the next day and immediately the band was flooded with emails from record labels, manager, and publishing companies.

In order to differentiate themselves from another band called The Shakes, they added Alabama to the name, honoring their home state. With an established identity and exciting sound, they began to record in Nashville, releasing their Alabama Shakes EP in September of 2011. This EP was recognized nationally, earning them a spot in the CMJ Music Marathon industry showcase in New York and led them to receive a note-worthy review from the New York Times.

After this review in October of 2011, The Alabama Shakes quickly moved into the national spotlight with appearances on Conan, Late Show with David Letterman, and Jimmey Kimmel Live in 2012. During these appearances, they released their first full-studio album called Boys & Girls in April of 2012, which peaked at No. 6 six on the US Billboard and No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart. This same year, they also received the notorious Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

They didn’t slow down during 2012 and 2013, continuing to receive some of the most coveted concert spots for artists, including Austin City Limits, Bonaroo Music & Arts Festival, Newport Folk Festival, the Ryman Auditorium, the Troubadour, Saturday Night Live, and two more Grammy nominations. The band took the year of 2014 to write and record their highly anticipated sophomore album Sound & Color, to be released on April 21, 2015, while touring the country throughout its release.

The Alabama Shakes play with an irresistibly nostalgic Memphis sound. With influences from Muscle Shoals’ Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Lynard Skynard, added to their experience in Nashville, the band plays an intense Southern rock and soul sound with passion and electricity. They try to record with the same simple, honest, and vintage sounds of these admired artists as they achieve a nostalgic sound with a modern twist. Howard, the mixed-race powerhouse front woman of the band, grew up with parents who had a deep love for Elvis and Motown that influences her soul and musical tone. These sounds should be close to the hearts of Memphis as The Alabama Shakes bring their deep passion and soulful energy to Minglewood Hall.

Posted in: Music