The Whole-Hearted You

We have put a lot of thought into the concept that underlies the gym wanting to focus on the whole person and just not the physical aspect. There is no better reflection of our thinking than the logo. It is, after all, like our shop window and it provides an idea of ‘what’s inside the tin’. Indeed it’s on our shop window!

Build Fitness 090216v1

The logo draws on our CTC colour-bar which is part of our corporate look. Fortuitously the colours on our colour-bar lend themselves easily to broader interpretation. We didn’t just want it to be about physical fitness. We recognise what the research tells us that if you want to be fully healthy there are five elements to this: mind, body, soul, self and heart. When all five are satisfied there is the prospect of wholeheartedness. Whole heartedness has a couple of meanings. It means to go at something with gusto in a sincere and complete way, as well as a sense of well-being. Both apply equally to what we are about.  When researching the colours we found that they aligned to the under-pinning philosophy of our fitness centre.

Colour mean picture

Dealing with each in turn.

  • Body

Physical well-being is a logical place to start. Many of us on the CTC Precinct live sedentary lives. Worse than this our out of work activities have also taken on a distinctly sedentary flavour e.g. sitting and watching Foxtel and Netflix. Our weekend of sport these days might well be watching it on telly.

With a 24/7 gym available at work employers will be able to say that their employees were given the opportunity to avail themselves of facilities that are recognised as being the perfect antidote to an unhealthy work environment. At CTC we provide a collaborative leasing model and enable our tenants to feel part of a bigger whole. In the same way as the Café can be regarded as a facility that they our tenants make available to their staff so too is the gym a facility for all CTC Precinct employees. Harvard School of Public Health now believes that healthier people are happier and as a result are healthier. It is a continual feedback mechanism.  Happier people will suffer fewer colds and less heart disease as a result. What better gift to give your workforce than fewer colds and less chronic heart disease!

  • Heart

When we think of fitness the heart is often what we think of first and it is true that Build Fitness does have a good range of cardio equipment to get the heart racing. We are also including other aids to assist in getting a good view of your heart health like charts and a blood pressure monitor. A heart rate monitor will be available in the centre for those who wish to monitor their heart during some of their exercise program.

Heart, of course, has other meanings including the centre and courage, determination or hope. Each has an applicable meaning for what we are trying to do with Build Fitness. The gym is likely to become somewhat of a hub or centre within the Precinct with those involved with it showing determination (and in my case at least) hope in improving our physical and mental well-being. Heart is lastly about love and love of self and self-image are all issues that are important with respect to physical and mental wellness.

  • Mind

Mental health is a very important concern for those running organisations. Under workplace health and safety legislation employers have a statutory duty to ensure that their workplaces do not cause mental health issues. Employee Assistance schemes are one thing, but in terms of duty of care, employers will be asked to demonstrate that they had a culture that encouraged both physical and mental well-being. The gym has a role to play here as well. There is a now a great body of research that says that exercise is good for mental health.

Long-term chronic stress affects the brain. If your staff is suffering stress there is a duty of care to know about it and to have in place a range of measures that can help the employee confront it and get it under control. The old adage of ‘suck it up’ is no longer defensible.

There is another consideration to stress in the workplace and that it is contagious. There is a belief in neuroscience that says ‘I stress, you stress, we stress.’ This sheets itself straight back to efficiency and productivity. A recent study by St Louis University found that ‘second-hand’ stress is very real and can be passed on through things like tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and even odour.

  • Spirit/Soul

This can be a problematic one because it gets confused with religion and that is not what we are talking about in terms of spirit. Here we can ascribe two meanings. Spirit is about the way in which you do things e.g. in a positive spirit. A positive spirit comes from a positive mind-frame and this is definitely made easier by being physically healthy. Spirit is also that inner feeling of peace or calmness. It is the inner yearning and quite often what makes us want to improve or transform in terms of our careers, our abundance and our relationships our lives.

Supporting our Build Fitness approach is an initiative we are calling Alert@Work. This will require all CTC staff undergoing mindfulness training with the aim of ensuring we can be in the moment, less distracted by the ever increasing distractions of the modern workplace e.g. open plan offices, endless emails, texts, tweets on Twitter etc. Being situationally aware which is one of the key aims of our mindfulness training  arising from meditation will improve the delivery of services to our customers and make the Precinct a safer place. Build Fitness, especially through the website ( will explore some of the traditional and emerging philosophies that might create a pathway for those interested in exploring the transformational possibilities of such modalities.

  • Self

Self-image is a very critical component of our mental health. Our self-worth is often linked to self- image and this can be recalibrated through seeing improvements in one’s physical appearance. It’s no surprise that we looked hard to find ‘friendly’ mirrors to help those in training feel good about the journey they are on. Self is the whole package and it is where the mind body and soul reside as one. Some say people glow when they feel good about themselves and pregnant women are a prime example of this. Others see auras around people. This is merely the physical energy given off by people who have fabulous self-esteem who are self-assured and selfless. Without doubt the focus on self is the opposite of narcissism and more about improvement. The narcissists love themselves because of their faults. The self-assured love themselves despite their faults.

The Whole-hearted You

Where the ‘You’ fits in is how all this gets integrated to be of value and to provide the potential for wholeheartedness. It’s true that regular or semi-regular attendance at Build Fitness will not, of itself, create a self-actualising person. There is much more needed to create the transformation that is often required to make this happen. But the environment we are looking to create where ideas beyond just the physical are promoted does give those looking for more some sense of where they might go to develop the other components inn their life. The first of this is integrative health. This is more likely to be found in complimentary medicine, or alternative therapies e.g. acupuncture, kinesiology, naturopathy, massage, reflexology, reiki etc.

We are looking to partner with a range of local providers including the obvious mainstream allied health providers e.g. physiotherapist, dietitian etc. to provide a portal to a more complete and integrated approach to your physical and mental well-being. The details of these partners will be made available in the Build Fitness Gym and on the website.

If you just want to exercise for fitness and fun then Build Fitness is a great place to come. It is safe and non-judgemental. It involves many different people from our community. If you are seeking more then just maybe the thread you follow will be stimulated through joining build fitness and you can truly become who hearted.

Read our Annual Report

On behalf of the Board and Management of The Construction Training Centre, I am pleased to present the Annual Report for 2014/2015.

A $498,000 profit was returned which is an increase of 83% over the previous financial year.

This result reflects the good governance of our Board and executive management team. The general economic climate is still challenging and the industrial leasing sector continues to face head winds as excess capacity and sluggish demand continues to depress rental yields.

That said, CTC’s move to a more collaborative approach is proving its worth as we have maintained and renewed the vast majority of tenants by being flexible to meet their changing needs.

Despite being a not for profit company, it is important that we maintain profitability so we can meet our capital replacement needs and build the sinking fund for the long-term replacement of the built assets.

CTC can attribute a good deal of its success to strong governance from the Board of Directors and a stable and effective leadership team which places a premium on setting a strong foundation of quality, safety, sustainability, corporate social responsibility and creativity. It is this passion that creates the special “feel” that is CTC and continues to be recognised as a vibrant industry hub.

We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and this year for the first time we will not be printing the annual report, distributing it in digital format instead. Recognising there is still a carbon cost in producing this report, we will plant a tree for each of the reports we might otherwise have printed.

Peter Lyons, Chairman

Click on the link to read the report on line.


Narrative about the Story

 185055_resizedAt CTC we have a long and proud association with the Story Bridge – the beloved structure very much an iconic symbol for Brisbane. I was reminded the other day about blogging and Facebook etc. where the key thing to get across is your narrative. We are all story-tellers, I read, so I thought I might tell a bit of a story about the Story (as it were).

I do this on the eve of the opening of the Legacy Way, a multi-million dollar toll tunnel in Brisbane; the last of three significant infrastructure projects to ease traffic congestion in our beautiful city. The Story Bridge of course was every bit as big a piece of infrastructure in its day so there is a nice confluence going on here. There will be those detractors who will look at the traffic volume of the new tunnel and scoff at the lack of buy-in by road users. This will be on the back of low volume vehicle use for our two existing (but fairly recent tunnels) Clem Jones and Airport Link tunnels. The tolls, it would appear, are a bit too costly for most so they continue to use the congested motorways and keep the change in their pockets. You don’t have to be a soothsayer to predict that this is the very probable fate for the Legacy Way. To give our civic leaders hope, I would like to point out some things I have learnt from our long involvement with the Story Bridge.

  1. The Bridge is a quintessentially Australian Bridge with the steel coming from Queensland. Its older and better known sister, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a ‘British Bridge’ in just about everything but location;
  2. When it first opened Brisbane city was divided along religious lines. The choice was to connect two Catholic or two Protestant Communities. The Catholics prevailed. This is no longer the case for a city that has finally grown up where meritocracy has replaced old school ties and religious affiliation;
  3. When the Story Bridge was fabricated and erected, three men died (all from falls from the Bridge). Roughly the same number died on recent infrastructure projects. What is different is that the level of industrial sickness and ill health on the modern projects has improved in leaps and bounds from the days of zero PPE when the Story Bridge was made;
  4. When it first opened, the Bridge was not regarded a the thing of beauty it is today;
  5. The Bridge originally had a toll set at 6d (twice the cost of a newspaper of the time. The Courier Mail today costs $1.40). Surprise surprise not many people used it and the toll was removed in 1947 when the Brisbane City Council purchased it for $1.5m, less than half its build cost. Sounds similar to recent tunnel sales!
  6. The bridge has a near identical twin (beat that Sydney Harbour Bridge!) Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge is practically identical.
  7. The Story Bridge also spoke to local identity. Original thoughts were to call it the Jubilee Bridge or the King George V Memorial Bridge recognising our strong links to ‘mother country’. Common sense and a certain independence of thinking prevailed and it was named after long-serving public servant John Douglas Story.

So as we celebrate 75 years of our great bridge, it is worth reflecting it wasn’t always so close to our hearts and was embroiled in controversies. And yet it has stood resolute and been taken into our hearts. So will our tunnels. In time we will grow to love them too and indeed start using them to reduce congestion and improve the environment. Like good wine, age and maturity are required to bring the best out of us. This applies to us as individuals, us as community and us at work. At CTC we are proud that we use the buildings in which the Story Bridge was made and we continue to draw inspiration from the thought that sometimes it’s not about being the best, but standing the test of time.


Healthy Employees, Healthy Business

Today CTC conducted free flu vaccinations as a part of the company’s Worker Well-Being Program. The Worker Well-Being Program, called Healthy Inside and Out was initiated to improve the health and well-being of all employees on the CTC site.

Today a nurse set up in the campus first aid room and provided employees from across the precinct with their free flu vaccinations. Although it is very rare for people to actually enjoy needles, workers seem to be walking out with smiles on their faces – although that might have something to do with the free lollipop at the end!IMGP2019

The flu shots are provided by Wesley Health Promotion, who also conducted routine skin checks for us last month. According to Wesley, the influenza virus causes 3 to 7 sick days on average, at a cost of $160 – $240 per day. CTC is taking an active role in trying to reduce this number by offering this free service to our tenants’ staff.

Not only does this initiative benefit the organisation by reducing the level of lost productivity and cost of sick pay, it also benefits the employees by encouraging a happier, healthier lifestyle. It could also stop CTC CEO Phil Diver from coming down with another case of the ‘man flu’!

The team at CTC are constantly coming up with new ideas to improve the health of employees. In fact, just over lunch today Phil mentioned his plan to add more greenery to the office in order to enhance the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). It is a simple truth that a high IEQ will improve the health, comfort, and productivity of employees.

It is important for an organisation to make a conscious effort to keep its employees healthy. Healthy employees mean a healthy business; the lower the number of sick days that employees have to take, the higher the level of productivity in the business.

CTC’s Healthy Inside and Out Initiative encourages employees to accept care that they may not normally make the effort to do so outside of the workplace. After the skin checks that were conducted last month, it turned out that two tenant staff needed to seek immediate follow-up attention by their GP in order to prevent anything more serious from developing. It is a relieving thought that CTC provides such services that can make a significant improvement to the health of employees across the precinct.

In starting the Health and Well-being Program and encouraging its growth, CTC will continue to be a healthy and happy place to work.

For more information on the Healthy Inside and Out Initiative, please visit


Asbestos training remains a high priority

AsbestosInAustralia_InfographicAustralia has one of the highest rates of asbestos related diseases in the world and with Asbestos Awareness Month looming, the Construction Training Centre (CTC) is committed to minimising the risks involved with its removal.

CTC chief executive officer Phil Diver said asbestos remains a hazard not only to residents but also to construction and other workers involved in removal so it’s vital that all Australians can recognise it and are aware of the associated danger.

“There is a median gap of 40 years between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis, so it’s important that homeowners are aware of these dangers and they can trust that workers have been properly trained when removing the material,” Mr Diver said.

Mr Diver says workers must undergo proper training before they are sent to site to inspect or remove asbestos.

“Removing asbestos is extremely dangerous so it’s essential that this training is carried out in the best facilities available, and our Hot Leasing asbestos removal simulator is the best one out there,” Mr Diver said.

“Anyone who undertakes training in Hot Leasing is guaranteed the best facilities for what is extremely important training,” Mr Diver said.

The President of the Queensland Asbestos Related Disease Support Society Inc. Helen Colbert congratulated CTC on the initiative when the facilities launched in April.

November marks the start of Asbestos Awareness Month and aims to educate Australians on the dangers of asbestos and how to best manage it in and around the home with the ‘Get to kNOw asbestos this November’ campaign.

The campaign has identified that many Australians wrongly believe that only fibro homes contain asbestos, however asbestos products can most likely be found in any home built or renovated before 1987.

For more information on Asbestos Awareness Month or how you can get involved visit

To learn more on Hot Leasing and its asbestos removal simulator visit


Hot Leasing Special Offer – Terms & Conditions

These Terms & Conditions apply to the Hot Leasing Special Offer for November and December 2014

  1. Not available with any other offer.
  2. No further discounts apply.
  3. Only for new bookings made after 10 October 2014.
  4. Only available during November and December 2014.
  5. Only available for new Hot Leasing bookings.
  6. Must be a registered Hot Leasing customer – i.e. must have signed a Hot Leasing Agreement
  7. If you are not already a Hot Leasing customer, you will be required to sign a Hot Leasing Agreement before access will be allowed to the facility.
  8. On signing a Hot Leasing Agreement and prior to using the Hot Leasing area, the RTO and/or training and assessment staff will be required to undertake a site induction which takes about 45 minutes. RTOs will then be responsible for providing the site induction to their staff and students.
  9. For each and every booking, a Booking Request is required from the RTO to establish a booking in the Hot Leasing area. The Booking Request will include the RTO’s business details and contacts as well as such information as ABN; National RTO registration number; and licenses held by staff and/or contractors relevant to the training being undertaken. If the Request is accepted, a booking confirmation will be sent to the RTO. CTC, at its sole discretion, will determine whether an RTO can operate from the Hot Leasing facility. The RTO is not permitted to transfer or assign their booking to another RTO, person or entity.

Making a pitch for the Building 1 workshop

IMG_0849aa resizedOn the job training has many advantages, but registered training organisations are often faced with the challenge of ensuring their students are exposed to all the training requirements of the trade in which they work.

Pitched roof  construction for carpenters is a case in point.  As a mandatory unit of competency from the Certificate III in Carpentry, it is often difficult for apprentices to have exposure to this type of construction with the predominance of trussed roofs and also with many apprentices working on commercial construction sites.

Australian Consolidated Training, who specialise in on-the-job training, contacted us recently to enquire about CTC’s innovative new Hot Leasing initiative for their working at heights training.

When they toured the facility, not only were they impressed with Hot Leasing, Australian Consolidated Training saw the workshop space available in Building 1 would be perfect to train their carpentry apprentices in pitched roof construction.  With 680 sq m of space available and classrooms located within the same building, students could erect a 30sq metre L-shaped structure that would comply with the requirements of the training package and undertake theory work all in the same area.

And so last week, 7 apprentices, 3 RPL students and 2 students from the Registered Trade Skills Pathways* program undertook the week long Pitched Roof course at CTC.

IMG_0845aa resizeJudging from the feedback, the facilities were very well received by students and trainers alike.

“The facilities at CTC were great. There was plenty of space for practical training and the classroom facilities were excellent. The staff at CTC were very helpful. The students thought the café and other amenities were great.” said carpentry trainer Trent Cowie.

So delighted were they with the facility, Australian Consolidated Training plan to deliver the course in the Building 1 workshop every six months.  They’re also considering the area for their plastering and tiling training as well.

Contact us to find out more about using our workshop space in Building 1 for your next training program, or phone our Training Enterprise Manager Peter Walker on 3216 6711 or email him at

*The Registered Trade Skills Pathway program provides a pathway for participants registered with the Department of Education, Training and Employment to have their existing skills recognised and provide gap training to achieve some qualifications within the Building and Construction Industry in Queensland. Eligible participants complete a skills assessment and then at least 9 units of gap training. This pathway is suitable for those who have some experience in their trade, yet have extensive gaps in their skills and knowledge. 

For more information about the Registered Trade Skills Pathway Construction Pilot Program contact Construction Skills Queensland on 1800 798 488 or Australian Consolidated Training on 07 3372 3974.

CTC recertified as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace

BFFW2_col_for_websitesCTC recognises that many women need to return to work when their child is still breastfeeding or receiving breast milk, but are unsure what their workplace can do to achieve this.  For this reason we established a dedicated breastfeeding room that enables workers and students at the precinct to express breast milk for their babies in privacy and comfort in a room that meets the requirements of the Australian Breastfeeding Association.  That was more than 12 months ago.

We’re pleased to advise that CTC has just received reaccreditation by the Australian Breastfeeding Association as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace.  The reaccreditation confirms our continued commitment to providing resources to support breastfeeding workers returning to work.

For more information about the Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces program, visit their website.

Counting the Costco

CostcoAs my team will attest, I am a huge fan of Costco. Have been since I started shopping there 20 years ago when in UK. Since the Queensland store at North Lakes opened a few weeks ago I have been twice. It has been heaving. We queued for well over an hour to actually get into the car park then perhaps another hour to get our membership card ($60 thank you very much) before we finally got inside the store. If I was at Coles or Woolworths I would had had steam coming out my ears by this stage. Sure my heart rate was raised – but from anticipation, not frustration. Once inside you could barely navigate the infamously proportioned Costco trolley (about the size of one and half normal supermarket trolleys) due to the throng of excited shoppers. Looking about I realised that it was exactly the same as every Costco I have ever been in before. What a relief.

As our household had had its regular shop done on that Wednesday we were more just ‘tourists’ than anything else. We didn’t need any groceries. Our shopping trolley was merely to help us navigate the thronging masses. We left happy and pushed our over-flowing trolley back to the car some 20Kg heavier and $516 lighter! Should Australia get attacked and we are blockaded by an enemy Navy please feel free to come to our place for supplies of toilet paper, kitchen paper towels, Head and Shoulders shampoo, dishwashing liquid, beer nuts and Berocca tablets. We have enough to withstand I reckon about a 6 month siege.

On reflection I asked myself why I would come away having spent so much, and yet feel so contented. I would spend less than this each week at Coles or Woolworths and feel annoyed both with the total spend and the shopping experience. Well therein lies the answer … the shopping experience. Let me run down what I think constitutes the USPs (unique selling points) that makes Costco such an attractive destination for shoppers.

  1. You have some skin in the game. It is a warehouse club and you pay an annual fee ($60). While some might baulk at this, you do feel like it’s your shop and this reflects in your attitude when shopping. The fact that your card is checked going in and your trolley going out, feels right because it’s kind of ‘exclusive’. The fact is the losses (from theft) at Costco are much lower than industry standards as a result;
  2. The initial experience of getting a car park is a good one. What Costco do well is create generous sized car park spaces, much larger than what you might see at our two main supermarket companies. There is little to no chance of some young person thrusting their vehicle door open onto the side of your car as Costco have designed their parks with about an extra 1.5m space. By comparison the weekly shop at your local supermarket is a panel-beaters dream;
  3. Once in the door with your over-sized trolley, you simultaneously hit the ‘man and woman’ zone. Shopping is made stressful by what I refer to as the ‘split couple manoeuvre’. I am not the only one, I am sure, when shopping finding myself drawn to the ‘man’ shop while my partner goes to the shoe shop or Lorna Jane for example. This then results in a potential person lost situation and difficulty in re-connecting. Time and a number of mobile phone calls later (turn your damn phone on) are required to get you re-united and back on track. Costco have this down to a tee. When you first enter its TVs and stereos (for the blokes) but just alongside this is jewellery for the women. Trying not to be sexist here of course, but at a meta-level I am sure it probably holds true. Because Costco’s man and woman zone are in line of sight of each other, the couple can reconnect easily to commence the remainder of their journey through the store. No raised blood pressure, no partner left fuming;
  4. Hunger on a big shop is a recognised hazard. What Costco do well is having in-store ‘try before you buy’ areas where a range of food, savoury and sweet, can be tasted. We are not talking the traditional supermarket nano-sized samples here. This is an American company. The punnets are well proportioned and the morsels generous. So much so that if you try something at each station you won’t need lunch. Cleverly, if you take the typical route through the store, you can commence with a starter, have a main and finish off with a nice gelato or sorbet;
  5. Costco works because things are in bulk. To shop successfully you need a good handle on unit pricing. What amazed me on my first two experiences here is the amount of unit pricing information shoppers seem to carry in their head. Everywhere in the store I could see and hear people working out how much cheaper x or y was compared to Coles or Woolies. This despite the fact that it might take twice as long to get through a 1 kg tub of Feta Cheese when 500g might be the optimal size anyway;
  6. The check-outs are always manned and always busy. There are no closed lanes ‘I’m off on a break’ experiences at Costco. While the queue is at first daunting, it moves quickly and you are confronted with the ‘restaurant’. I will use the word restaurant loosely because it is a simple affair selling hotdogs and pizza slices the size of a small principality, at prices that will astound. Clearly Costco knock these belly-fillers out at below cost. It does mean though you can leave satisfied on a full stomach, muttering about just how cheap the prices were, as you push your trolley with over $700 worth of goods to your car;
  7. When you get home you feel good because you have bought goods cheaper than at your local supermarket, no thought to the cash-flow implications however. Very little satisfies more than the smug shopper;
  8. The goods are top quality. Most are established brands, but for those not familiar with the Kirkland brand, it is a value for money robust product line ranging from shirts to bin liners. Believe me when I say that a Kirkland bin liner is twice the thickness of one from your local supermarket at a much cheaper price;
  9. Every month or so Costco bring in their new ‘enticers’ which draws you back into the shop for a look at these specials. This frequency roughly coincides with your next visit having got substantially through some of the bulk items previously purchased. And so the cycle continues. Simple. Obvious, Brilliant.

What can we learn from this at CTC? Well lots I think. Firstly we need to think about the customer experience before the actual engagement. What can we do to make the period before arriving at CTC a good one? We have commenced on-line booking of facilities (Hot Leasing and room hire) and are well on the way to a fully automated system.

We can delight with our pricing and we believe we are already kicking some goals here. We can boost a sense of engagement with CTC and create that ‘skin in the game’ feeling. Hot Leasing with the Hot Leasing Agreement is an example of this.

Our soon to be announced Hot Office will be another example we hope as well. When with us, we can optimise the experience by our friendly ‘no problem too great’ approach.

The recently re-signed exterior to the CTC office, more clearly identifying us as the Precinct Reception, is an endeavour in this direction. Improved way-finding we hope will also assist so those coming for training (our customers) such that their experience here is a happy one. And why shouldn’t it be? Most will leave the CTC Precinct better qualified than when they arrived.

All we need to do now is work out a way to sell Hot Dogs for $1.50 and we will have cracked it! We could well become the Costco of Training Precincts. Now that’s an accolade worth aspiring to.


I was in J B Hifi last night and was in the ‘indie’ music isle. Rightly so, given my demographic, I was challenged by the musical savant yuf (shop assistant) who asked if he could help me. It wasn’t the usual how may I help you and secure further commission type of challenge, but more of a ‘Are you lost in here?’ sneer. I asked politely if he had the Muscle Shoals DVD and he looked blankly at me and asked whether it was a fitness video! I tried hard to disguise my bemusement and incredulity as the music-savvy young man clearly had some big gaps in his musical heritage. Fair play to him though as he displayed a bit more respect as he handed over the DVD from the documentary section having searched the store database. Glancing at the cover and he must have realised that he had a bit more homework to do.
Not letting the grass (non Woodstock variety) grow under my feet, I watched the DVD last night in great admiration. In short Muscle Shoals is the name of a small town in Alabama that has two recording studios. Something special happens when records are made there and some of the greatest popular music of all time has been made in the very modest studios. Coupled with this the small band of homeboy players who were the resident studio band (affectionately known as the Swampers) were the backing band on some of the greatest albums ever made. How such a turn of events came about is a great story in its own right.
Everyone knows of Aretha Franklin. For any who don’t –click below for a taster.
What I hadn’t realised is that while everyone recognised Aretha’s talent it hadn’t turned itself into record sales at the beginning of her career. It was only after a visit to Fame studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama did it take off with hit after hit. A certain punchiness replaced the earlier lush sound under Columbia. That punchy sound was the result of a rag tag group of players known as the Swampers who helped define a soulful black sound. A sound that has stood the test of time. A sound created by a band of white men playing behind black singers in the highly segregated State in the 1960s. Another great voice of the time, on the Chess label, was Etta James. For me the sound of Muscle Shoals is at its prime on the Etta James recordings.
The talent that cycled through Muscle Shoals is phenomenal . Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger, Wilson Pickett, Alicia Keys, Boz Scaggs, and so many more.
Ever a list- maker, this prompted me to choose my favourite female singers of all time. Never an easy task but if you want to hear true voices that would have the Voice judges turning each and every time, check out:
1) Dusty Springfield. For me the best of all time. Check out Dusty in Memphis – one of the best recordings of all time! Even Tarintino agrees.
2) Etta James. Check out the album Peaches The track here is the Muscle Shoals recording
3) Patti Labelle. Just a great set of pipes. The real reason to become POTUS
4) Gladys Knight. Such depth and tone
5) Mavis Staples Part of a talented family but the standout voice.
6) Miriam Makeba. South African singer who when on tour criticised the South African regime and they banned her from returning home. Amazing story, amazing voice.
7) Aretha Franklin. Of course. Oft copied never better. That’s the Swampers rhythm section
8) Nina Simone
9) Ella Fitzgerald.– incomparable. Check this Nelson Riddle arrangement against number 12 below
10) Doris Day. Yes Doris Day. Don’t be the best be the longest!
11) Carol King. Singer-songwriter par excellence.
12) Billie Holiday. Lady Day O’Connor.
13) Susan Tedeschi – From Tedeschi Trucks band. Obama agrees
14) Amy Winehouse. Legendary voice – almost of another time. Tragic loss. A voice up there with Peggy Lee
15) Grace Slick The voice of a generation Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship
16) Lisa Fischer – sure a backing singer but wow what a voice. Favourite of the Rolling Stones. See her on tour here later this year hopefully.
17) Mariza – Portuguese Fado music. Not to everyone’s taste but what a voice.
18) Megan Washington – hugely talented and Aussie to boot.
19) Phoebe Cockburn – part of the sadly defunct Snakadaktal and another Aussie
20) Chrissie Hynde The angst of adolescence made easier
21) Dolores O’Riordan ex Cranberries just brilliant
22) Mary Coughlan – tough life but gives her voice that extra soul that makes her such a great jazz voice.
23) Joni Mitchell Indie music in the 1960s/70s
24) Donna Summer – Made disco almost tolerable .
25) Annie Lennox – had to have someone from Scotland on the list.
What can we learn from this? Well it strikes me that what these singers and Muscle Shoals have in common is a very clear sense of purpose and are genuine. They don’t over-promise they just deliver consistently well. At CTC we can learn a lot from this. With new services about to be announced to complement our Hot Leasing initiative we need to keep consistent and genuine. Muscle Shoals is still around today. We hope to be around a long time too.