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muscle shoals sweet home alabama lyrics

Sweet Home Alabama Lyrics: What Does “Muscle Shoals Has Got the Swampers” Mean?

chairman meowDear Chairman Meow,

“I can’t understand the lyrics of Sweet Home Alabama. Something about muscle shoals and the swampers? Please enlighten me.” – Gary, Pyongyang, N.K.

“Now Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers,
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two, (yes they do)
Lord they get me off so much,
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue, now how bout you?” – Sweet Home Alabama

Well, Gary, like Chairman Meow, you may have listened to Sweet Home Alabama wondering what the hell they are singing about when they mention “Muscle Shoals,” and “The Swampers.”

You probably just hummed that part of the song, or quickly took a bite of a sandwich so that your friends wouldn’t realize that you didn’t know the lyrics.

Well, lucky for you, there is no need to be ignorant anymore.

Chairman Meow is an omniscient, all-knowing kitteh, (To prove that fact, I haz just used the vocabulary word, “omniscient”) and now he will fumigate his wisdom upon you.

So, what do the lyrics, “Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers” mean?

I must warn you that the explanation involves: the mighty Tennessee River, mollusks, a group of  scruffy white guys, and Aretha Franklin. Here we go…

The City of Muscle Shoals

city of muscle schoals

If you aren’t from Alabama, you may not know that Muscle Shoals is a city on the banks of the Tennessee River in Colbert County, Alabama.

The city got its name from the shallow area in the Tennessee River where mussels gathered.

So, why don’t mussels live there anymore?

The mussels are no longer there because humans ate them all. It’s what humans do. They kill things that they love, and then name towns and sports teams after them.

Anyway, back to Muscle Schoals. The humans of Alabama missed the deceased mussels so much that they named a city in their honor, misspelling the word, “Mussel” in the process.

Would you expect anything less from a state that nationally ranks 5th worst in obesity and 47th best in education

chairman meowOops, I’m sorry to offend Alabamans. Perhaps those shameful statistics are just fake news. You may even accuse Chairman Meow of being an arrogant Narcissist, but that is untrue.

In fact, Chairman Meow is just a furry, benevolent kitteh who dreams of world-domination, and jails anyone who dissents with his radical, populist ideology.

Yes, Chairman Meow enjoys a good tummy rub, but remember, he will burn your cities to the ground! 

Sorry, I digress.

So, Who Are the Muscle Shoals Swampers?

Anyway,The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were a group of studio musicians based out of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

You’ve definitely heard them, as they are featured in songs like Aretha Franklin‘s “Respect,” and Percy Sledge’s, “When a Man Loves a Woman.” They also recorded albums with bands like: The Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, and Etta James.

muscle shoals swampers

The Muscle Shoals, “Swampers”

In fact, they appeared on over 500 recordings, including 75 gold and platinum hits, and developed what people began calling, “The Muscle Shoals Sound.”

Due to their funky, soulful, Southern “swamp” sound, they got the nickname, The Swampers.” This nickname stuck for good after Lynyrd Skynyrd, (a band they recorded with) gave them a shout-out in their 1974 hit, Sweet Home Alabama.”

“Now Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers,
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two, (yes they do)
Lord they get me off so much,
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue, now how bout you?” – Sweet Home, Alabama

Cher even put The Swampers on the cover of her 1969 album, “3614 Jackson Highway,” which is also the address of their recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama!

Muscle shoals swampers

Look, it’s The Swampers!… and Sonny!


Live “Sweet Home Alabama” Performance (1974)

 

More About the Lyrics of Sweet Home Alabama

  • I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around, anyhow.” This is in response to Neil Young’s song, “Southern Man,” which bashes the South as being racist. If you listen closely, immediately after this line you can hear Lynyrd Skynyrd producer, Al Kooper, faintly singing the song, “Southern Man.”
  • In Birmingham they love the governor.” When the song was released in 1974, the Governor of Alabama was the infamous, George Wallace, best known for standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent African Americans from entering white schools. (integration) This line is often interpreted as support for the governor, but is immediately followed by the words, boo, boo, boo! and we all did what we could do,” which seems to infer they were among the minority of Alabamans who tried to vote Wallace out of office.
  • The, Now Watergate does not bother me, Does your conscience bother you? lyric seems to mean that the band isn’t judging Northerners on the acts of their president, (Nixon) so they shouldn’t judge Southerners on the actions of their governor (Wallace)  
  • The Montgomery’s got the answer,” lyric at the end of the song also seems to be contradict the idea that the song is racist, as Montgomery, (home of Rosa Parks) is considered to be the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement in America.

Fun fact: Further support of the idea that Lynyrd Skynyrd was not racist and didn’t hate Neil Young is the fact that Lynyrd Skynyrd founder and lead singer, Ronnie Van Zandt wears a Neil Young t-shirt on the cover of the band’s last album, Street Survivors, in 1977.

Sweet Home Alabama: Turn It Up!

Ah hah, so now you understand what, Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers means!

Next time you hear Sweet Home Alabama on the radio, you can impress your friends by explaining the lyrics, and taking credit for Great Teacher, Chairman Meow’s perfect knowledge.

You can also pour out some of your Alabama Slammer for lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, who was tragically killed in a plane crash 40 years ago today along with guitarist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines.

Full Sweet Home Alabama Lyrics

Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the Southland
I miss Alabama once again
And I think it’s a sin, yes

Well I heard mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

In Birmingham they love the governor (boo, boo, boo!)
Now we all did what we could do.
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Here I come Alabama

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue
Now how about you?

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

Sweet home Alabama
Oh sweet home baby
Where the skies are so blue
And the guv’nor’s true
Sweet Home Alabama
Lordy
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Yea, yea Montgomery’s got the answer

More: *Top 20 sounds recorded in Muscle Shoals – al.com

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