Alabama Shakes
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Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes at the Mercedes Benz Evolution Tour.jpg
Alabama Shakes performing in Santa Monica in 2014
Background information
Origin Athens, Alabama, United States
2009 (2009)-present
Labels ATO
The Revivalists

Alabama Shakes is a blues rock band from USA formed in Athens, Alabama in 2009. The band currently consists of lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson. The group rose to prominence in the early 2010s with their distinctive and soulful roots rock sound.

The band began their career touring and performing at bars and clubs around the Southeast for two years while honing their sound and writing music. They recorded their debut album, Boys & Girls, with producer Andrija Tokic in Nashville while still unsigned. Online acclaim led ATO Records to sign the band, which released Boys & Girls in 2012 to acclaim. The album had a hit single, "Hold On," and was nominated for three Grammy Awards. After a long touring cycle, the band recorded their second record, Sound & Color, which was released in 2015 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and won four Grammy Awards.


Early years (2004-09)

Brittany Howard grew up interested in music, filling notebooks with lyrics and teaching herself to play drums, bass, and guitar.[1] Howard, from East Limestone High School, played in multiple bands growing up that helped to formulate and craft her taste in music. Her most serious band in her early years was Kerosene Swim Team, a rock band that consisted of Owen Whitehurst and Jonathan Passero. They went on to have a single titled "Coffins and Cadillacs" featured on a compilation track from now defunct indie label Volital Records. They would practice daily after school in Passero's garage, Whitehurst's garage, and Howard's house. They mainly played house parties, and their songs consisted of a mix of covers and originals penned by Howard. Both Whitehurst and Passero went on to continue playing backup for Howard, with Whitehurst playing with Howard and Shakes' bassist Zac Cockrell in what would eventually become The Shakes. Whitehurst would play drums and piano, with Howard and Cockrell playing their current respective instruments.[2]

Formation (2009-11)

Howard met upperclassman Heath Fogg in junior high when he played guitar at house parties.[1] She met classmate and bassist Zac Cockrell in a psychology class some time later, and they soon began to spend time listening to their favorite music together and writing their own.[3] After graduation, Howard hosted twice-weekly jam sessions at her great-grandparents' former home. Drummer Steve Johnson, who had heard Howard singing at a party years prior, began attending the jam sessions at the suggestion of Cockrell.[4] They began making music together and recording homemade demos[4] having little else to do in the small town.[1]

The group made its live debut in May 2009 under the name "The Shakes".[4] Fogg, by this point a guitarist in the Tuscaloosa-based Tuco's Pistol, invited the group to open for his band at Brick Deli & Tavern in Decatur.[3] The band was nervous to perform for an audience, as they felt "vulnerable." Their set included covers of Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Otis Redding, and AC/DC.[4] The show went over well, and Fogg soon joined the group.[1] During this time the band members held other day jobs: Howard as a fry cook and then a postal worker, Johnson at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant, Cockrell at an animal clinic, and Fogg painting houses.[5] For much of their early years, the Shakes performed shows on weekends at "sports bars and country dives."[6] They also began recording their debut album at Tokic's Bomb Shelter--the home of producer Andrija Tokic--in Nashville, funding the recordings themselves.[1] The band chose Tokic's over other studios because they record mostly live to tape, and they believed it would spur a livelier performance. The band would complete arrangements in their hometown and drive an hour and a half north to Nashville to record in intervals over the course of 2011.[7]

Their first breakthrough came when Justin Gage, a Los Angeles music blogger and SiriusXM host, found a photo of Howard performing online. After contacting the band, he posted an MP3 of their song "You Ain't Alone" on his music blog, Aquarium Drunkard, in July 2011.[1][8] By the next morning, the group was awash in offers from record labels and management companies.[1] Gage also contacted Patterson Hood, vocalist of the band Drive-By Truckers, who attended a show not long after. He arranged to set the band up with his managers, Christine Stauder and Kevin Morris.[9] Alabama Shakes released the four-song EP Alabama Shakes in September 2011, which gained media attention (including NPR)[10] and earned them an invitation to play at the CMJ Music Marathon industry showcase in New York.[11] The band began negotiating a record deal with ATO Records and added "Alabama" to their name after Joseph Hicks, of Halo Stereo, noticed how many groups shared the name "The Shakes".[1][12] They began to open for the Drive-By Truckers.[13] The group considered their ambitions met, but soon, Fogg later recalled, "everything kept going--at, like, a super-fast rate."[9]

Boys & Girls and mainstream success (2012-14)

The band performing three months prior to the release of Boys & Girls (2012).

The band's first full-length album, Boys & Girls, was released in April 2012.[14] It debuted at number 16 on the national charts as a digital-only release,[14] but climbed to number eight as physical releases were distributed.[4] The album received near-universal acclaim.[1] After a European tour, they opened for Jack White over a summer tour and performed at several major music festivals, including Sasquatch, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.[4] The album's lead single, "Hold On" was a radio hit (peaking at number one on Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs chart)[15] and was dubbed the best song of the year by Rolling Stone.[16]

The New York Times credited their "rapid ascent" to "Howard's singular stage presence."[1] The group received three nominations for the 2013 Grammy Awards: Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance for "Hold On", and Best Recording Package for their debut album, Boys & Girls.[17][18] After the Grammy's performance, Boys & Girls returned to the top ten, peaking at number six a year after its release.[15]Boys & Girls was certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of over 500,000 in the United States on March 13, 2013.[19] It has since sold over 744,000 copies in the US.[15]

Sound & Color (2015-present)

The band began recording their second album in late 2013. The group listened to anything and everything for influence, without regard for its public reception in the end.[5] They spent over a year in the studio, with no clear end-goal, as they had not written any new songs due to their exhaustive touring schedule.[5]

The group's second studio album, Sound & Color, was released on April 21, 2015.[20][21][22] It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in the US, making it the band's first number one album.[15] The record's lead single, "Don't Wanna Fight", was a number two hit on the Adult Alternative Songs chart.[15] The album eventually earned three Grammy Awards, including Best Alternative Music Album.[23][24]

The band played for the VMworld 2015 Party at ATT park in San Francisco on September 2, 2015 and Barclays British Summer Time in Hyde Park, London on July 8, 2016.

In 2018 the band won a Grammy for their performance of "Killer Diller Blues" in the multi award-winning film The American Epic Sessions directed by Bernard MacMahon.[25] They recorded the song live on the restored first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s.[26]

Musical style

Early critical reviews of their debut, Boys & Girls (2012), noted that the band borrowed from mid-20th century rhythm and blues.[27][28] Alongside Howard's voice, the songs were compared to artists such as Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin.[6] Howard herself took inspiration from Bon Scott of AC/DC in her vocal style, praising his "soulful" way of singing.[4] As the acclaim mounted, "reviewers speculated" that their sound was in homage to the music produced in Muscle Shoals, Alabama nearly five decades prior. Cockrell and Fogg were aware of the Shoals legacy,[16] but Howard was more influenced by bands such as Led Zeppelin and artists like David Bowie. The success of debut single "Hold On" led some to believe the group "[was] trying to pass themselves off as revivalists, something they never aspired to be."[1]

Their second record, Sound & Color (2015), is steeped in several different genres, and touches on everything from shoegaze to bands such as MC5.[27]


Alabama Shakes has been cited as an influence for artists such as Drake, Childish Gambino and Beyonce;.[29][30][31]

Band members

Full members

  • Brittany Howard - lead vocals, guitar
  • Zac Cockrell - bass
  • Heath Fogg - guitar, backing vocals
  • Steve Johnson - drums, percussion, backing vocals

Touring members

  • Ben Tanner - keyboards[32]
  • Paul Horton - keyboards [33]


Studio albums

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2013 N/A Best New Artist Nominated
"Hold On" Best Rock Performance Nominated
2014 "Always Alright" Nominated
2016 "Don't Wanna Fight" Won
Best Rock Song Won
Sound & Color Album of the Year Nominated
Best Alternative Music Album Won
2017 "Joe" (Live from Austin City Limits) Best Rock Performance Nominated
2018 "Killer Diller Blues" Best American Roots Performance Won

Other awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2012 Alabama Shakes Q Award for Best New Act Nominated
Americana Music Honors & Award for Emerging Artist of the Year Won
2013 BRIT Award for International Group Nominated
NME Awards for Best New Band Nominated
2015 NME Awards for Best International Band Nominated
2016 BRIT Award for International Group Nominated
Sound & Color Billboard Music Awards for Top Rock Album Nominated


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rhodes, Joe (March 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes's Soul-Stirring, Shape-Shifting New Sound". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015. 
  2. ^ Whitehouse, David (7 April 2012). "Boys & Girls, meet the Alabama Shakes". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Crawford, Jan (May 3, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: Fearless and free". CBS News. Retrieved 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Mansfield, Brian (April 27, 2012). "Meet the Alabama Shakes". USA Today. Retrieved 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Browne, David (March 25, 2015). "How Alabama Shakes Gambled Big on Wild Second Album 'Sound & Color'". Rolling Stone. No. 1232. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Alabama Shakes: Full Of 'Southern Soul'". All Things Considered. NPR. April 11, 2012. Retrieved 2015. 
  7. ^ Frost, Matt (July 2012). "Andrija Tokic: Recording Alabama Shakes' Boys & Girls". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2015. 
  8. ^ Gage, Justin (July 25, 2011). "The Shakes: You Ain't Alone". Aquarium Drunkard. Retrieved 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Lamont, Tom (March 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: from small-town bar band to titans of rock". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015. 
  10. ^ Powers, Ann (14 October 2011). "How To Keep It Real When Making New Soul: Three Attempts". The Record: Music News from NPR. Retrieved 2012. 
  11. ^ Ramsey, Jan (January 18, 2012). "The Alabama Shakes: Right At Home with Newfound Fame". OffBeat. Retrieved 2012. 
  12. ^ Mongillo, Peter (February 8, 2012). "Once a cover act, Alabama Shakes rock and soul band draws notice". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2012. 
  13. ^ Peisner, David (February 2, 2012). "Muscle Shoals Revival: Alabama Shakes Take Off". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Thompson, Stephen (April 1, 2012). "First Listen: Alabama Shakes, 'Boys And Girls'". NPR Music. NPR. Retrieved 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Claufield, Keith (April 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes Scores Its First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 Chart". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Hermes, Will (February 28, 2013). "Alabama Shakes' Unlikely Triumph". Rolling Stone. No. 1178. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 2015. 
  17. ^ "55th Annual Grammy Awards Nominees". The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on December 1, 2011. Retrieved 2012. 
  18. ^ Colurso, Mary (February 11, 2013). "Alabama ties: 2013 Grammy nods for Alabama Shakes, Casting Crowns, Civil Wars, more". The Birmingham News. Retrieved 2012. 
  19. ^ "RIAA News Room - Nine Acts Spring Forward With New Multi-Platinum Awards". Recording Industry Association of America. March 13, 2013. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved 2015. 
  20. ^ Stern, Claire (July 30, 2014). "Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes Shares Her Tour Must-Haves". InStyle. Retrieved 2015. 
  21. ^ Terry, Josh (February 10, 2015). "Alabama Shakes announce new album, Sound & Color, premiere "Don't Wanna Fight" -- listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2015. 
  22. ^ Coughlan, Jamie (February 11, 2015). "Alabama Shakes Share 'Don't Wanna Fight', Announce New Album". Retrieved 2015. 
  23. ^ Gibsone, Harriet (February 15, 2016). "Alabama Shakes win best alternative music album Grammy for Sound & Color". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016. 
  24. ^ Young, Alex (February 15, 2016). "2016 Grammy Winners: Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, David Bowie". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2016. 
  25. ^ "60th GRAMMY Awards: Winners & Nominees (2017)". Retrieved . 
  26. ^ "Watch Alabama Shakes Travel Back In Time With Cover Of 'Killer Diller'". Retrieved . 
  27. ^ a b Charlton, Lauretta (June 12, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: 'There's No Way to Be Original'". Vulture. Retrieved 2015. 
  28. ^ Dolan, Jon (April 10, 2012). "The Alabama Shakes - 'Boys & Girls'". Rolling Stone. No. 1155. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 2015. 
  29. ^ Dionne, Zach (April 29, 2016). "Drake Doesn't Talk to Nicki Minaj, Loves Alabama Shakes & Taylor Swift". Retrieved 2017. 
  30. ^ Ramos, Adam (November 30, 2016). "The welcomed evolution of Donald Glover". The Observer. University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 2017. 
  31. ^ Spanos, Brittany (April 26, 2016). "How Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Reclaims Rock's Black Female Legacy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017. 
  32. ^ Wake, Matt (January 21, 2014). "Ben Tanner: In-demand keyboardist talks Belle Adair's Huntsville show, touring and recording with Alabama Shakes". The Birmingham News. Retrieved 2017. 
  33. ^ "Alabama Shakes: Live from the Artists Den". The Artists Den. Retrieved 2017. 

External links

Preceded by
Justin Bieber
Saturday Night Live musical guest
February 16, 2013
Succeeded by
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Preceded by
Saturday Night Live musical guest
February 28, 2015
Succeeded by
Zac Brown Band

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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