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The New Nashville: North Alabama fosters music industry growth and tourism

Over the past several years, North Alabama has seen an incredible amount of growth. With a long and fascinating past, places like Florence and Muscle Shoals have brought an impressive degree of historical significance and depth to the North Alabama region. With a recent renaissance, its ongoing transformation bears a striking resemblance to that of Nashville’s path to national recognition and record rates of tourism.

William Christopher Handy (Visit the Shoals/Facebook)

The Shoals, specifically, is home to a rich musical history. A number of important musical figures are from the area with many playing their first gigs in North Alabama bars and small venues. Florence is the birthplace of the Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy, as well as the Fathers of Rock and Roll, Buddy Killen and Sam Philips. John Paul White of The Civil Wars, David Hood of The Swampers, Norbert Putnam, and more are among modern players in the music scene that hail from the area. North Alabama is a breeding ground for noteworthy musical talent.

Muscle Shoals specifically has gained national recognition and served as the basis for the Grammy-nominated film Muscle Shoals. The documentary follows Rick Hall, founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. It chronicles Hall’s development of a unique new sound that is captured best in songs such as “I’ll Take You There” and “When A Man Loves a Woman.” Well-known figures such as Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, and Alicia Keys feature in the film. The documentary also holds a special significance as Aretha Franklin’s final film appearance. The Shoals offers fans and music lovers a music history tour that takes attendees to a handful of significant spots throughout the area from places like FAME Recording Studios to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

(Visit the Shoals/Facebook)

In addition to Florence and Muscle Shoals, Huntsville is another North Alabama city making a name for itself in the music industry. Huntsville is part of the Americana Music Triangle, home to a wide variety of award-winning music. The Americana Music Triangle is a hot spot for rock’n’roll, soul, and blues specifically.

“The Americana Music Triangle is a comprehensive guide to Southeastern U.S. music history and attractions. If you map a route from Nashville to Memphis and New Orleans, the triangle of land in the middle encompasses a hotbed of music history. As indigenous people, European, and African cultures collided and shared musical traditions, the region generated many distinct new musical genres like the Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock, Soul, R&B, and more.”

The Orion Ampitheater, a distinctive venue in Huntsville, seeks to keep this legacy alive and serve as a space to enjoy what the region has to offer. Holding 8,000 concertgoers, The Orion is “built by the people of Huntsville, for the people of Huntsville.” It was included as a key part of Mayor Battle’s “State of the City” address, and the amphitheater hopes to be responsible for bringing thousands together in the city to honor the musical legacy established over the course of decades.

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