Gotta Love The Music of Muscle Shoals Alabama

The recording studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Muscle Shoals AlabamaThe little non-descript building in front of me looked like a good strong wind would blow it over. Really, it is kind of an eye-sore on busy Jackson Highway that runs through Sheffield, Alabama.

But there’s a good reason this cinder block building stands. Look closely at the address:  3614 Jackson Highway.  Anybody who knows anything about music in the United States knows this address.

The cover of Cher's first solo album recorded in Muscle Shoals Alabama

This is where the Rolling Stones recorded Brown Sugar.

This is where Cher recorded her first solo album, incidentally named 3614 Jackson Highway.

Boz Scaggs recorded here. Duane Allman. Paul Simon. Rod Stewart. Bob Seger. Cat Stevens. Lynrd Skynyrd. Bob Dylan.

They all recorded in this cracker-box building when it was better known as The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Now you know why the building looks like it could fall down. Imagine the Stones rocking these little walls.

What Is The Muscle Shoals Sound

The interior of a recording studio in Muscle Shoals AlabamaSheffield is located in northern Alabama not far from Muscle Shoals. From 1970 to 1983, the region was recognized as the hit recording center of the world. In 1977, 40 percent of the Billboard Top 100 in all genres was recorded in these studios. You name it, it was recorded here.  Gospel, rock and roll, blues, country, pop – they all came to northern Alabama.

Music producers liked this area for two reasons:  1) Lauderdale County was a dry county, so with no alcohol, the musicians were able to focus entirely on their work and not get in any trouble; 2) it was out in the middle of nowhere and big names could come here and not be recognized or disturbed as they worked.

W.C. Handy Music Festival in Florence

The little log cabin where W.C. Handy was born in Florence AlabamaBut music history was being made in northern Alabama long before the Rolling Stones rocked along this highway. In 1873 in nearby Florence Alabama, a Methodist minister and his wife gave birth to a son they name William Christopher, who is better known today as W.C. Handy. For those who don’t know, he’s the Father of the Blues, a genre he described as  “the sound of a sinner on revival day.”

A crowd gathers for a performance at the W.C. Handy Music Festival in Florence AlabamaThe W.C. Handy Music Festival, held each year from mid to late July, takes over Florence with parades, lectures, special church services and of course, music. From children’s piano recitals to all-night jam sessions, music literally fills the streets and the air of northern Alabama for a week, and much of it is presented free of charge.

Go. The music and the history will blow you away.

Listen and Learn about Muscle Shoals