Florence–Muscle Shoals metropolitan area
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The Shoals is a metropolitan area in northwestern Alabama, officially known as the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Area, including the cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, and Sheffield, and the counties of Lauderdale and Colbert. The population is around 200,000 and an additional 410,000 commute to the Shoals daily for work, school, shopping, and more according to a recent Shoals publication called "Four Cities, Four Cultures".
The area is home to University of North Alabama, located in Florence, and the birthplace of Helen Keller (Tuscumbia). It is also home to a fairly large community college, Northwest Shoals Community College located in Muscle Shoals. Every summer the play "The Miracle Worker" is produced for the public to view on the original Keller homesite. The water pump at which Helen rediscovered language is used as a prop in the play. Other area attractions include the Zodiac Theater located in downtown Florence.
The Shoals is also noted for its rich music traditions and is sometimes referred to as the birthplace of the blues. W. C. Handy, credited by some as the father of the Blues was born there. In addition it is the literal birthplace of three members of the contemporary southern rock band Drive-By Truckers. In the 1970s and 80s, and to some extent even today, The Shoals was home to a thriving recording industry, particularly based on FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.In the FAME Studios, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldum, Chips Morman, and Rick Hall made soul music. The most famous hit song is "When a man loves a woman" by Percy Sledge. Rock groups and musicians including The Rolling Stones, Julian Lennon and Lynyrd Skynyrd have recorded there.
In the summer, late July and early August, the area hosts the famed Handy Music and Helen Keller Festivals.
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