Success at Atlantic
Down To Alabama
Jerry Wexler had very different ideas about the musicians who should perform with Aretha. Wexler frequently worked with a recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. In Muscle Shoals, Wexler had developed relationships with many white musicians who came from a unique background of country music and blues. The skill of these musicians added greatly to the recordings of Atlantic's African American artists. For Aretha's first Atlantic album, Jerry Wexler took her to Muscle Shoals in January 1967.
In Alabama, Aretha clicked immediately with the white studio musicians. They were all professionals and were able to understand what Aretha had in mind for her first song, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You).” Aretha played acoustic piano in the recording sessions.
Aretha's first day of recording in Alabama was remarkable. “Everybody stopped in their tracks,” when they heard Aretha sing, remembered one of the engineers. The other musicians were inspired by Aretha's earthy, bluesy delivery of the first song. “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” was about a woman who couldn't bring herself to leave a man even though he abused her. That song was finished during the first day of recording, and that same day they began work on a second track, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.”
Following the first day's recordings, Aretha and Ted White spent the night at a nearby motel with the other musicians. White had been drinking during the day, and he began to argue with one of the white musicians. Producer Jerry Wexler was awakened by the noise of the argument, which soon became more violent. After the fight, a drunken Ted blamed Jerry for bringing Aretha to work with “rednecks.” By morning, Aretha and Ted were gone. Aretha's new album was incomplete.