A History of Music in Muscle Shoals, Alabama

When most people think about music production and recording, they think L.A., New York City, Atlanta, or maybe even Nashville. Of course there’s no denying these places have certainly had their fair share of hit and star output, but one little known fact is most of the popular music during the 60’s and 70’s was recorded in the Shoals area of Alabama. (“Shoals” is short for Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, and Sheffield, Alabama)

Formally known as the “Hit recording capitol of the world,” Muscle Shoals has played host to some of the best and most famous artists and bands through out some of the most important and historical eras of music. Most people do not know the rich musical heritage the area has. For instance, born in Florence in 1873, W.C. Handy, “the father of the blues,” could be considered the pioneer of the Shoals long and vast musical tradition. Following Handy, in 1923, Sam Phillips, “the father of rock-n-roll,” was also born in Florence. Phillips later went on to record songs sung by some of the biggest names in rock-n-roll such as Elvis and Johnny Cash.

Today, the Quad-cities are still full of recording studios ranging from little in-home set ups to some of the more renowned studios such as FAME. There are over twenty recording studios still in use today in the area. FAME is probably the most famous of these. Located in Muscle Shoals, FAME has had many famous faces within its walls. A few of these faces include Aretha Franklin, Donny Osmond, Little Richard, and The BackStreet Boys. Another very famous recording studio in the area is New Cyprus Moon Studio located in Sheffield right on the river. Formally known as Muscle Shoals Sound, it is also located in Sheffield. Famous musicians who have recorded there include Cher, The Rolling Stones, Lynard Skynard and Willie Nelson.

Though the Muscle Shoals is not longer the recording capitol of the world, the area is still packed with a huge variety of talent. Musicians of all ages coming from countless different background can be heard and seen quite often. There are always local musicians playing live at various events and venues all around the Shoals. So when in town or near by, be sure to check out some of the local music and see for yourself just how musical the area really is.

-One of the best time periods to catch live acts in the area is during Handy Fest which lasts from late June into early August. Handy Fest is a fun spirited and eventful celebration in which the entire Shoals area honors W.C. Handy by having up to two weeks of back to back, night after night live music scattered all over the area.