Alabama Shakes was formed in Athens, Alabama, in 2009. Before the band existed, lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and Zac Cockrell who both attended East Limestone High School near Athens in Limestone County, Alabama used to meet after school to write songs. They later asked Steve Johnson, who was working at a local music store, to join the band. As a trio, they went to Clearwave Recording Studio with producer Jeremy Stephens in Decatur, Alabama to record some of the songs they'd written. Guitarist Heath Fogg joined the group after hearing their demo.
Though they had been focusing on original material, as the band began playing out, they added more cover songs. Under the name of The Shakes, they played classics by James Brown, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. "We had to find music we could all agree on and figure out how to play together," said Howard, "and that had a lot of influence on how we play now."
The band later added Alabama to their name to differentiate themselves from other bands called The Shakes. They then released the four-song EP "Alabama Shakes" in September 2011, which gained media attention and earned them an invitation to play at the CMJ Music Marathon industry showcase in New York. Their performance there received rave reviews from the New York Times.
As word of mouth spread, more offers to tour came in, and the band members were finally able to quit their day jobs. In November 2011, the band was signed by Rough Trade Records in the United Kingdom and ATO Records in the United States. Their first full-length album, "Boys & Girls", was made available in its entirety for live streaming on April 1, 2012. The album went on getting certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of over 500,000 in the United States on March 13, 2013.
Later in April 2015, the band released their sophomore set titled "Sound & Color". The album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard 200 in late April with more than 90,000 copies sold.