From the tribal flute sounds and handmade instruments of Native Americans and the early settlers to the booming years of the Muscle Shoals recording studios in the 1960s and 1970s, the Muscle Shoals region has created a rich music heritage that has helped shape today's music world. The region was home to W.C. Handy, known as the "Father of the Blues" and to legendary producers Sam Phillips and Buddy Killen.
The Early Roots of Music in the Shoals
Throughout the early years of settlement in the Muscle Shoals region, a variety of musical styles was introduced into the area and a melting pot of sounds was developed. These styles included Native American ceremonial songs, the spiritual songs of the slaves, and the Celtic-influences of the Scots-Irish immigrants. Later, the region became known for its contributions to the blues, when Florence-native William Christopher "W.C." Handy became the first musician to identify, arrange, publish, and popularize the basic blues sound. The region was also the hometown for producer Sam Phillips, who would later discover Elvis Pressley and earn fame with his other Sun Records' artists. It was also the hometown of Tree Publishing owner Buddy Killen, whose company was one of the largest music publishing companies in the nation.
The Birth of the "Hit Recording Capital of the World"
In the 1950s, the Muscle Shoals was home to the first record company in Alabama, Tune Records, which led to more than a dozen other recording studios to open within the region. The most famous of these studios were the FAME Studio and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, which were among the top R&B recording studios in the nation. These studios produced hits for such artists as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, The Osmonds, and Rolling Stones. In the late 1970s, the region was dubbed the "Hit Recording Capital of the World" because it was producing more hit singles per capita than New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Miami, and other music cities.
The Music Continues
Today, the Muscle Shoals region is still making an impact on the music industry through its songwriters and artists. FAME Music continues to be a favorite recording studio in the industry, and actively produces artists and publishes music. Additionally, each year the W.C. Handy Music Festival and Songfest celebrates both the historical roots of the Muscle Shoals Sound and its future. The annual festival is attended by an estimated 150,000 people and includes more than 200 events in four counties. Another favorite annual music festival in the region is the Tennessee Valley Fiddlers Convention held in Athens. This event celebrates old time music with a competition for the best fiddlers, guitarists, banjo players, dulcimer, and more.