Musical Heritage in Alabama
The UK premier of the Muscle Shoals Documentary Film is taking place at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival at the O2 in April 2013. Read more and view the trailer on our blog...
Visit Alabama and you will find a state with it’s roots deep in music and one that has played a central role in the development of Blues and Country music worldwide. The footsteps of some great music legends can be followed here - Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, W.C Handy, Jimmy Buffett and Tammy Wynette to name but a few.
Where can one go to find the home of two of the most influential recording centres in America? The answer is Muscle Shoals in northern Alabama renowned for it’s huge contribution to rock, country and R&B music throughout the 1960s and 70s. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and FAME Studios were used frequently by superstars like Aretha Franklin, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Otis Redding who all made classic recordings there.
Ever heard of the American term ‘Swamper’? It usually means a helper like a truck driver’s assistant or waitress but in Alabama it refers to ‘studio musicians’ - the ‘hired guns’ of the music world! When American songwriter Paul Simon arrived in Muscle Shoals to work with The Swampers,also known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, he was surprised to find a line up of white musicians. Thinking that they were office workers, he asked to ‘meet the band’! Many expected the band to be made up of black musicians because of the long association with R&B classics.
Down the road in nearby Florence, legendary figure W.C.Handy the ‘Father of the Blues’ was born in a simple log cabin which is now a museum. He composed famous tunes like the ‘St Louis Blues’ and ‘Memphis Blues’ and is honoured in the annual W.C.Handy Music Festival, a great celebration of Blues and Jazz, held every July in the Shoals area of Florence.
You’d expect Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city to add it’s own stamp to the music world and it doesn’t disappoint. Jazz enthusiasts head downtown to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame located in the historic Carver Theatre for the Performing Arts, this museum pays tribute to great jazz artists with ties to Alabama like Nat King Cole, Sun Ra,uke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins.
Moving South of Birmingham to Montgomery, Alabama’s State Capital, is where Hank Williams lived from 1937 to 1948. The Hank Williams Museum on Commerce Street documents the life of this Country Music pioneer famous for such classics as ‘Hey Good Lookin’ and ‘Cold Cold Heart’. Follow The Hank Williams Trail south to Mount Olive where he was born and to Georgiana his boyhood home as well as Andalusia where he married Audrey Sheppard, the influence for many of his songs.
Jimmy Buffett grew up along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay in the south of the state. He is famous for his combination of country, folk and pop music with coastal and tropical lyrical themes sometimes called ‘gulf and western’.
Thought that New Orleans was the only place for the Mardi Gras? Well the Mobile Mardi Gras dating back to 1703 claims to be the first and organisers take pride in this ‘family friendly’ celebration of art and music. The two week event culminates every year on ‘Fat Tuesday’, the day before Lent.