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Rick Hall Honored by Legislature

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Music legend Rick Hall was in Montgomery on Wednesday, March 19 where he spoke to legislators immediately prior to the start of the legislative session.

The Muscle Shoals musician and record producer was the guest of Representative Johnny Mack Morrow (D) from Red Bay.

Hall said, “Thank you so much. Thank the Alabama legislature. Thank all my Friends, Johnny Mack Morrow, my dear friend for all these years and his father before him.  Thank all of you people for being here.

Rep. Morrow asked Hall, “Did you and Aretha Franklin’s husband get in a fight?”

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Hall said, “Yes”, Aretha and her tutor and mentor, Ted White, who was then her husband, came to Hall’s studio to record.  “If we get recordings with Aretha we knew we were in like Flynn with Atlantic Records.” Ted began to drink quite heavily during the recording session and they began to get tipsy. Then, Ted came to Hall and demanded that the trumpet player be fired.  Hall asked Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler what to do.  Wexler said to fire the trumpet player.  “I went out and fired him. He kept drinking and began passing the bottle around with the band. Ted came back to Hall and Wexler and demanded that the saxophone player be fired.  I asked why?  Ted said “He is making eyes at my wife.’” Wexler said to fire the saxophone player so Hall did.  Afterwards Hall said that he would go to the hotel to straighten things out with Aretha and Ted.  Jerry Wexler said don’t go.  Hall went and had a real fight with the angry Ted.  “That ended me with Atlantic Records. Wexler vowed to put me out of business.”  Despite the disaster, on that one day of recording Aretha Franklin recorded her first two hits.

Rick Hall is a long time member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and just received a 2014 Grammy Trustees Award for his significant contribution to the field of recording.

Rep. Phil Williams (R) from Huntsville asked, “Did you know what you were doing at the time?”

Hall said, “Yes. I knew everything about the (recording) business before I went in to the business.”

In the 1950s Hall met saxophonist Billy Sherrill.  The pair began writing songs together, and formed an R&B band, The Fairlanes, fronted by singer Dan Penn.  Hall played bass.

Hall said as a performer, “I got tired of playing in front of drunk women because they were always hitting on me.”

According to Wikipedia, Hall achieved success as a songwriter in the late 1950s when George Jones recorded his song “Aching Breaking Heart.”  Brenda Lee recorded “She’ll Never Know” and Roy Orbison recorded “Sweet and Innocent”

Hall and Sherrill then got into the recording studio business when Tom Stafford in 1959 offered them partnerships in a new music publishing company in the town of Florence, which came to be known as Florence Alabama Music Enterprises or FAME.  Their recording studio was in the offices above City Drug Store in Florence, which was owned by Stafford’s father.

Working with Hall was too difficult for Sherrill and Stafford who dissolved the partnership in 1960, leaving Hall with rights to the studio name.  Hall said, “When we broke up they said I was too hard, too tough, and worked too hard.”  “They fired me.” Hall said, “Rejection is something that I thrived on.  I thought that they were not as smart as I was.”

Hall then set up his own studio at Muscle Shoals which was followed a few years later by a newer studio.
In the 1960s Hall and FAME became heavily involved in recording for Black artists.

Rep. Morrow asked Hall (who is White), “What made you relate to Black artists?”

Hall answered, “Poverty and we were always aware of each other.”  “They were like my brothers.  I would not be where I am today without them.”  “We were color blind.  We didn’t worry about the color.  They needed a white boy to take their work to the big labels like Columbia and CBS records.”

In the 1960s, the studio produced hits for Tommy Roe, Joe Tex, The Tams, Jimmy Hughes, and Hall helped license Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.”  Wilson Pickett, James and Bobby Purify, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding and Arthur Conley came to Muscle Shoals to work with Hall.  Hall also produced recordings for Etta James.

On running a successful recording studio in Muscle Shoals Hall said, “It is very hard to compete with Los Angeles, New York City, Miami with just 8000 people, what we had in Muscle Shoals at the time.”  At one point, there were 12 recording studios in the Muscle Shoals area.

Hall suffered a lot from circumstances.  He was born in Mississippi to sharecroppers.  His young brother fell in boiling water and was killed. His Mom left family to become a prostitute.  His first wife was killed in a car wreck.

Hall said that when Atlantic sent Wilson Pickett to record with him, Pickett was leery of Muscle Shoals.  He was concerned about his welfare as this was during segregation and George Wallace standing in the school house door.  Pickett said he thought that all of the people of Alabama were peckerwoods.  Pickett was shocked to see people picking cotton by hand right by the studio.  Hall said of meeting Pickett, “I thought he looked like a dangerous man.”  Pickett would record “Land of a Thousand Dances” and “Mustang Sally” with Hall.

Duane Allman wanted to work with Rick Hall.  Hall did not want to work with the young Allman because he did not like the young wannabe performer’s “hippy look.”  Allman pitched a tent in Hall’s parking lot and eventually Hall took Allman to lunch with him and Wilson Pickett.  Allman recorded with Hall and became a southern rock success.

In the 1970s the Osmonds (a group from Utah) were living with the Halls and made their breakout hits with Hall. Hall’s collaboration with the Osmonds and the hit “One Bad Apple” helped Hall to be awarded “Producer of the Year” in 1971.  Hall also worked with Paul Anka and Tom Jones in this period.

Hall said, “My theory was that if you are a great record producer you will find an act nobody knows and you will find a #1 record.”  Hall said however that it is easier to get a label like CBS or RCA to put up $5 million for an established name than it is for a new act.

Hall’s wife said that he was completely dedicated to his work.  He did take time away from the studio to attend his son’s birth but still managed to find time to record  ‘Mustang Sally’ on that same day.

In the late 1970s and 1980s Hall moved into country music, where he worked with Bobbie Gentry, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed, Gus Hardin, T.G. Sheppard, and had a smash album with Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers.  Hall later discovered the local country band, Shenandoah and worked with them on a number of hits in the 1980s and 1990s.

Hall’s publishing company, with its in-house song writers has written hit songs for a number of artists including John Michael Montgomery and the Dixie Chicks.

Hall’s life and career are profiled in the 2013 documentary film: ‘Muscle Shoals.’

FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios are located at 603 East Avalon in Muscle Shoals.  The studio was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on December 15, 1997.

Both Houses of the Legislature honored Mr. Rick Hall with a resolution honoring his vast contributions to American Music.

 

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Prosecutor Matt Hart has been fired by Steve Marshall

Josh Moon

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The most feared man in Alabama politics has been fired.

Alabama prosecutor Matt Hart, who until Monday headed up the special prosecutions unit at the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, was unceremoniously fired by AG Steve Marshall. A brief statement from Marshall’s office said Hart resigned and refused to comment otherwise.

However, a source told APR on Monday that Hart was informed of the decision on Monday morning and given the option of resigning instead of being fired. He was then escorted out of the building by security.

The firing of Hart was not necessarily surprising to anyone who paid attention to the recent election and Marshall’s run for AG. As APR reported in numerous stories, Marshall accepted campaign donations from several sources with interests in weakening ethics laws and seeing Hart removed.

There is also little political downside for firing Hart. Most state lawmakers will be happy to see him go, since it removes a barrier to the quid pro quo style of governance that turned Alabama’s government into one of the most corrupt in the nation. Additionally, Alabama voters have proven to be far more concerned with party politics than rule of law and ethics.

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Hart’s career spans decades in the state and includes high-profile prosecutions of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

He was a particular thorn in the side of politicians who skirted the ethics laws. He prosecuted and earned a 12-count conviction of former GOP Speaker Mike Hubbard. He negotiated a guilty plea and resignation from former Gov. Robert Bentley. And his special grand jury in Jefferson County was digging through the scheme to undermine an EPA superfund site.

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Elections

More than $100,000 campaign finance penalties collected during 2018 election season

Chip Brownlee

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More than $100,000 in campaign finance fines and fees have been collected during the 2018 campaign season in Alabama.

The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office said Friday that $197,657.84 in Fair Campaign Practices Act penalties have been issued, and $102,249.05 of those fees have been paid by political action committees and principal campaign committees.

The Secretary of State is required to issue penalties to PACs and PCCs when they do not file their monthly, weekly or daily campaign finance reports on time or at all.

The office said money that hasn’t been paid of the $197,000 total have either been waived by the Alabama Ethics Commission or the Secretary of State’s Office is still waiting to collect the funds from the committees. There were a total 1,166 penalties or warnings this campaign season.

The requirements are part of act 2015-495, which was passed by the legislature in 2015, and went into effect with the start of the 2018 Election Cycle.

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Committees are required to file their campaign finance report by midnight on the date the report is due. Most reports are due by 12:00 p.m. on the second day of each month. Committees are required to report all contributions and expenditures incurred by their campaign during the previous month.

The first report a candidate files late — if it’s within 48 hours of the date the report is due — leads to a warning, which does not count against them or require a fine be paid. Further, the code specifically states that warnings are not violations of the law.

Penalties amounts increase as the number of late reports increases from the candidate.

Committees also have the ability to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission, which has been lenient in overturning violations for a number of reasons.

Of the 1,166 penalties and warnings, 166 have been overturned.

Fines paid by committees are deposited directly into the state general fund.

 

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Bill Britt

Opinion | The political genius in film: William Goldman

Bill Britt

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Last Friday, Oscar-winning writer William Goldman died at the age of 87. Movie-goers and Hollywood enjoyed his wry wit and sardonic wisdom, but investigative reporters worldwide are forever in his debt for giving us the single best lead for tracking down public corruption and nefarious politicos.

Goldman wrote the screenplay for the movie adapted from Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s book, “All the Presidents Men,” which follows the downfall of President Richard M. Nixon after the Watergate break-in.

During a pivotal scene in the 1976 movie, Woodward’s character, played by Robert Redford, is told by his anonymous government source known as Deep Throat to, “Follow the money.”

Nowhere is the line, “Follow the money” found in Woodward and Bernstein’s book. It is Goldman’s invention and pure reporting genius.

But tracking a money trail can be used in a broader context to understand why things happen the way they do in government.

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Let’s put aside, for now, the notion of public service and admit that a majority of what happens in politics is tied to the wants of one particular group or another. These groups or individuals, commonly referred to in the pejorative as special interests, are not necessarily evil. They just want what’s best for themselves and their interests.

During her first State of the State address nearly a year ago, Gov. Kay Ivey staked her ground with workforce development, job creation and an education proposal under her, “Strong Start, Strong Finish: from pre-K to workforce,” plan. Gov. Ivey has a detailed strategy for success, but her goals will be challenged by those who prosper under a system that is burdened with an entrenched bureaucracy, as well as those who dine off the Education Trust Fund without actually being a part of educating Alabamians.

Likewise, Alabama’s Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon lists infrastructure, improving public schools, school security and stronger ethics laws as a priority. To enumerate the special interests that will line up to pick away at his goals would be a nearly impossible task.

Neither Ivey or McCutcheon will be swayed by personal gain as was their predecessors, but they will need a well-placed group of watchers to see who will work to undermine their best efforts. To do so means following the money.

Goldman wrote many other novels and screenplays, most notably, “The Princess Bride,” “Marathon Man” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the pair’s only hope of escaping a rapidly approaching posse is to cliff dive hundreds of feet into a raging river. During the tense moment, Sundance reveals he can’t swim to which Butch chuckles, “Are you crazy, the fall will probably kill you.”

Butch and Sundance were not winners, but they rarely doubted as an exchange between the pair shows.

The Sundance Kid: “You just keep thinking Butch, that’s what you’re good at.”

Butch Cassidy: “I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

Goldman’s characters displayed ironic humor in the face of defeat and generally find a way, at least for a moment, to turn a loss into a victory. Sometimes leadership is simply the ability to make it from one failure to the next.

An enduring line from the Princess Bride is, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” However, any wise practitioner of the political arts knows as Goldman points out, there’s not much money in the revenge business.

Another phrase from the Princess Bride which is a mainstay of the movie’s fans is, “Inconceivable,” repeatedly uttered by the stooge mastermind, Vizzini. Every action in government is conceivable because it is human nature at work.

In Goldman’s “Marathon Man,” Dustin Hoffman plays an oblivious long-distance runner who becomes entangled in a case of stolen gems and sadistic henchmen.  During the film, Huffman’s character encounters a Nazi-dentist who drills Hoffman’s healthy teeth without painkillers, torturing him for the correct answer to the eternal question, “Is it safe?”

It’s politics, and it’s never safe. That is why there must be journalists who ask the tough question, dig for facts and report without fear or prejudice. We don’t see this as often as we should in state politics because there is a cost to truth-telling. But the price of not reporting is a price too high to measure.

Goldman was a genius who not only entertained us but made us think. In politics, we don’t all have to think alike, but it would be good to know that everyone is thinking.

With Butch and Sundance, he gave us a lesson in how hope springs eternal. In “Marathon Man,” we see that things are not always what they seem. “The Princess Bride” let us see how true love can conquer all, but in politics, follow the money if you want to know what’s really happening.

In the end Goldman summed up the human condition, “Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something.” –The Princess Bride

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Mazda-Toyota auto plant breaks ground in Limestone County

Brandon Moseley

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via Governor's Office

Friday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) joined Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. to break ground on their new $1.6 billion plant in the City of Huntsville. The jointly owned-and-operated automotive production plant is expected to create 4,000 new jobs. The Limestone County automobile plant is the largest economic development project landed by the state of Alabama in the last decade.

“Not only is Mazda Toyota Manufacturing providing high-paying jobs, they are investing heavily in our future workforce,” Gov. Ivey said. “This will not only benefit them, but also other manufacturers in the area. One thing I’ve learned with Toyota being in our state is that they care for the communities where they do business – it is, after all, their home, too. And they prove it every day. We are lucky to have Mazda Toyota expanding in Alabama.”

The massive new plant will have the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles. The plant will build both Toyota’s Corolla, whose all-new 2020 model was unveiled last week in California, and Mazda’s yet-to-be revealed crossover model.

“We are proud to be here with Toyota, with whom we share the bond of pride in manufacturing,” said Mazda’s senior managing executive officer Kiyotaka Shobuda. “We are proud to be breaking ground on a new ‘home’ here in Huntsville – a city that believes in the possibilities of technology and manufacturing, and has striven to realize mankind’s greatest dream.”
Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Much has progressed with site prep since we sat in Montgomery for the official unveiling of the Mazda-Toyota joint venture manufacturing plant ten months ago. Folks are excited about the 4,000 job opportunities that await with global companies that consistently invest in their workforce and communities.”

The alliance will assure competitiveness in manufacturing, allowing both automakers to respond quickly to market changes and helping to ensure sustainable growth toward the future of mobility.

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“It is extremely special to have a partner like Mazda to team up with not only to make the highest-quality cars, but also to create a plant that team members are proud to call their own,” said chief executive officer of Toyota Motor North America Jim Lentz. “As we’ve seen at our Huntsville engine plant, Alabamians are a proud, talented, hard-working group. We are excited to continue our deep investment in the U.S. and Alabama and see nothing but a bright future.”

Nicole Jones said, “Thank you to Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Corporation, and Masamichi Kogai, President of Mazda, for investing in our state. Mazda and Toyota’s search was intense and included visits to 20 states within six weeks in 2017. Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Commerce, members of the local delegation, and many people from the public and private sector collaborated to make ‘Project New World’ happen. And we all can recognize how monumental a project is when the President of the United States mentions it in his State of the Union Address!”

Also with the groundbreaking, MTMUS donated $750,000 to support STEM-related programs that will encourage and motivate students to pursue a career in the advanced manufacturing field. MTMUS has 4,000 jobs to fill and is committed to investing in developing its future workforce in collaboration with local educators and economic development partners.

Those donations include $500,000 to the Huntsville Madison County Chamber Foundation to launch a new career exploration online platform highlighting careers in manufacturing to students. The goal is to work with local school systems and promote this tool as a resource for career coaches and teachers.

The company also donated $250,000 to be split between: the Huntsville City Schools, the Madison County Schools, Madison City Schools, Limestone County Schools, the Decatur City Schools, and the Morgan County Schools

In addition, the Mazda Foundation (USA), Inc. also donated: $50,000 to Boys & Girls Club of North Alabama; $50,000 to Food Bank of North Alabama; and $20,000 to Greater Huntsville Humane Society.

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Rick Hall Honored by Legislature

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 6 min
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