Music of Alabama
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|Music of the United States|
Alabama has played a central role in the development of both blues and country music, plus Appalachian folk music, fiddle music, gospel, spirituals, and polka have had local scenes in parts of Alabama. The Tuskegee Institute's School of Music (established 1931), especially the Tuskegee Choir, is an internationally renowned institution. There are three major modern orchestras, the Mobile Symphony, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra; the last is the oldest continuously operating professional orchestra in the state, giving its first performance in 1955.
- 1 State song
- 2 Recording studios
- 3 Halls of fame
- 4 Styles of music
- 5 Musicians from Alabama
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
A State Senate bill (SB-458) was passed 32-1 in 2000 to move "Alabama" to the status of State Anthem, with "Stars Fell On Alabama", a song written in 1933 whose most popular release was by Jimmy Buffett in 1972 becoming the new State Song, and "My Home's In Alabama" (1980) by the Country group Alabama would become the State Ballad, but the bill failed in the State House.
Other grass roots efforts to make "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974) by Lynyrd Skynyrd the State Song have also failed, but the song's potential official status made a comeback when the State Tourism Agency chose the song as the centerpiece of its 2008 marketing campaign.
Muscle Shoals, Alabama is renowned worldwide as one of the epicenters of the music industry, having been the birthplace of a number of classic recordings. The studios of the Muscle Shoals area (Florence, Sheffield, Muscle Shoals, and Tuscumbia) figure prominently in the history of rock, country and R&B through the 1960s and 1970s. FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Quinvy Studios, East Avalon Recorders/ClearDay Studio, Wishbone Studios, and others have recorded local musicians and international superstars alike. Notable artists have included Aretha Franklin, Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson and countless others have recorded there. The notable studio house bands include The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, The Swampers, The Muscle Shoals Horns and The Fame Gang. One broke out on their own to become major stars, known as the Country band Shenandoah.
Though not as popular a recording center as before, Muscle Shoals continues to be an important contributor to American popular music and is home to a number of the world's most successful songwriters, musicians and producers.
Halls of fame
Styles of music
Many artists in the realms of Rock, Country, Rhythm and Blues and pop have emerged from Alabama over the past 50 years, including Wilson Pickett, Toni Tennille, Percy Sledge, Tommy Shaw of Styx, Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas, the Southern Rock/Pop/R&B band Wet Willie, the Rock band Brother Cane, the Power Pop band Hotel of Birmingham, Bill McCorvey of the Country band Pirates of the Mississippi, and songwriter/producer Walt Aldridge. The Commodores and their former front man Lionel Richie both hail from Tuskegee. Rick Hall, founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals is a well-known producer of classic R&B, Pop & Country music from the 1960s through the 1980s. The Birmingham area has had more than its fair share of American Idol contestants do well, including second season winner Ruben Studdard, fourth season runner-up Bo Bice, and fifth season winner Taylor Hicks.
Blues and Jazz
WC Handy, often referred to as the "father of the blues", was born and raised in Florence, Alabama, which since 1982 holds an annual WC Handy Music Festival "to preserve, present, and promote the musical heritage of Northwest Alabama". The festival is usually held in the summer, and cake and other foods are typically served.
Though born in Frayser, a community in North Memphis, Tennessee, Johnny Shines, Blues singer and guitarist, moved to Holt, Alabama, in Tuscaloosa County, in 1969, where he lived until he died. Shines died on April 20, 1992, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame later the same year.
Alabama has a rich jazz heritage, being the birthplace of such greats as Lionel Hampton, Erskine Hawkins, Nat King Cole, Cleveland Eaton, Cootie Williams, Urbie Green, Ward Swingle, members of Take 6 and many more. Tubist Howard Johnson of the Saturday Night Live band hails from Montgomery. The museum of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame honors many of these fine musicians. In the 1930s and 40s, college dance bands, such as the Alabama Cavaliers, the Auburn Knights and the Bama State Collegians played an important role in the history of jazz in the South. Birmingham, Alabama boasts several active big bands, including the SuperJazz Big Band, the Joe Giattina Orchestra, the Night Flight Big Band and the Magic City Jazz Orchestra, founded and directed by Ray Reach. In addition, there is a world-class horn section, the Tuscaloosa Horns , comprising some of Alabama's finest jazz/soul/funk instrumentalists. Also the Newest/Youngest break out big band in Alabama which incorporates everything from Duke Ellington to Bob Marley; the New South Jazz Orchestra  which prominently features the Tuscaloosa Horns and the composing/arranging skills of members of the Tuscaloosa Horns.
Ward Swingle, world famous multiple Grammy Award winning jazz vocal composer and pianist, hails from Mobile, Alabama.
Birmingham, Alabama contributed prominently to the history of jazz in America. It is the hometown of numerous influential jazz musicians, including bassist Cleveland Eaton, pianist and vocalist Ray Reach, guitarist Johnny Smith, trumpeter and bandleader Erskine Hawkins, trumpeter and arranger Tommy Stewart, composer Hugh Martin, arranger Sammy Lowe, bandleader Sun Ra, vibraphonist and bandleader Lionel Hampton, John Propst (pianist for Pete Fountain and Boots Randolph) and many more. Historical areas such as Tuxedo Junction and the Fourth Avenue Historic District played an important role in the evolution of jazz in Birmingham and the United States.
Gospel music has an especially long tradition in the state, among both the white and black populations. Given the strongly religious coloring of Alabama's population historically, the genre is one example of many shared phenomena between the historically segregated cultures of the state. It should be noted that the two traditions are, however, distinct, and entail key distinctions, with Southern gospel incorporating elements of bluegrass and country music more strongly than "black" gospel.
The state also has a Celtic music scene, which has produced bands like Henri's Notions, After Class, and the Birmingham-based harpist Cynthia Douglass, as well as a number of piping bands and promotional Celtic organizations.
Alabama is the leading state for Sacred Harp singing. More annual singings are held in Alabama than in any other state. The The Sacred Harp: Revised Cooper Edition, a version of The Sacred Harp used across the southern parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, is published by the Sacred Harp Book Company of Samson, Alabama. The Sacred Harp/Shape Note Music and Cultural Center is located in Bessemer, Alabama.
Country, Bluegrass and Old Time Music
The State of Alabama has a rich history in Country, Bluegrass and Old Time music. The influence of Mississippi Delta Blues to the west and the ancient sounds of Appalachian Folk Music to the north blend with native Jazz sounds to form a brand of country music with a unique Alabama flavor. "Country music may be recorded in Nashville, but it was born in the Heart of Dixie." (Will Vincent, Tall Pines Bluegrass).
North Alabama’s contribution to bluegrass music over the years has been exceptional. From former “Bluegrass Boys” Rual Yarbrough and Jake Landers, mandolin virtuoso Hershel Sizemore, fiddling legend Al Lester and the incomparable Claire Lynch, to modern day country-star-turned-bluegrasser Marty Raybon, the list goes on and on.
Probably one of the most well-known musicians to ever hail from Alabama is Hank Williams Sr., born in Georgiana. Hank's hits include "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", "Lost Highway" and "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" Hank and his wife Audrey are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, where the Hank Williams Museum resides downtown. A section of Interstate 65 between Georgiana and Montgomery was commemorated the "Lost Highway" in memory of Williams in 1997. In addition, downtown Montgomery houses the Hank Williams Museum, where Williams' music can be heard around the clock.
Other notable residents include Jimmy Buffett, though born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, grew up in the Mobile area. Country star Tammy Wynette was born on the Mississippi/Alabama line. The Louvin Brothers were pioneers of tight harmony country and bluegrass vocalizations. Vern Gosdin is another influential Country Music legend who came from the state of Alabama.
The group Alabama (band) from Fort Payne is often credited with bringing country music groups (as opposed to solo vocalists) into the mainstream, paving the way for the success of today's top country groups.
Musicians from Alabama
Members of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame
- Alabama (band) - Country superstar band, based in Fort Payne
- Ernest Ashworth- Country Star and a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 44 years. Known for his hit "Talk Back Trembling Lips" from Huntsville, Alabama
- Nat King Cole - Jazz and R&B musician/songwriter, born in Montgomery
- The Commodores - Soul/funk group formed in Tuskegee
- William Levi Dawson - composer, organizer of the Tuskegee School of Music, from Anniston, Alabama
- Delmore Brothers - from Elkmont, Alabama
- Cleveland Eaton - jazz bassist, veteran of the Count Basie Orchestra and the Ramsey Lewis Trio, from Birmingham, Alabama
- Joe L. Frank - country music promoter from Mt. Rozell
- Rick Hall - record producer from Franklin County
- W.C. Handy - father of the blues, Born in Florence
- Erskine Hawkins - big band leader
- Sonny James - Early country star, born in Hacklebug
- James Joiner - founder of Tune Recording Studio, songwriter, from Florence
- Jake Hess - gospel singer from Limestone County
- Buddy Killen - record producer and founder of Dial Records, executive at Tree Publishing
- Louvin Brothers - influential close harmony group, from Section
- Chuck Leavell - Keyboardist, former member of the Allman Brothers Band, sideman for Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones
- Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section - renowned studio band, consisting of Jimmy Johnson, guitar, Roger Hawkins, drums, David Hood, bass, and Barry Beckett, keyboards
- Dan Penn - singer, songwriter & record producer, from Vernon
- Sam Phillips - founder of Sun Records, born in Florence
- Curly Putman - songwriter from Princeton
- Martha Reeves - Motown lead singer, Born in Eufaula
- Jimmie Rodgers - Early country star, born in Geiger
- Billy Sherrill - Country producer, with 74 top 10 hits, born in Phil Campbell
- Percy Sledge - 1960s soul star, born in Leighton
- Dinah Washington - Jazz and blues singer, born in Tuscaloosa
- Jerry Wexler - New Yorker with Atlantic Records, responsible for the rise of Muscle Shoals
- John T. "Fess" Whatley - music educator, worked with the Jazz Demons, the first jazz band in Birmingham
- Hank Williams - Country music pioneer, born in Georgiana
- Tammy Wynette - Country singer - Lived in Red Bay
Other notable musicians from Alabama
- Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - An Americana band from Muscle Shoals, Alabama
- Scufflegrit - Alternative Country band based out of Guin, Alabama
- Maylene and the Sons of Disaster - Southern Metal band based out of Birmingham
- Jonathan Alverson - Singer/Songwroter, guitarist, country music artist born in Gadsden, Alabama
- Hank Ballard - R&B performer and songwriter, wrote "The Twist", lived in Bessemer
- Bo Bice - Runner-up, American Idol Season 4
- Bibi Black - Trumpeter from Huntsville
- Blind Boys of Alabama - Gospel group, based in Talladega
- Brother Cane - Alternative musicians, based in Birmingham
- Tommy Stewart (trumpeter)- Composer, Arranger, Pianist and Trumpeter based in Birmingham
- Jimmy Buffett - Popular singer/songwriter, from Mobile
- Tony Brook - Songwriter, from Luverne
- Adam Brown - Singer/Songwriter originally from Hartselle
- Oteil Burbridge - Jazz bassist, member of the Allman Brothers Band, from Birmingham
- Larry Byrom - Rock guitarist, from Huntsville
- Clarence Carter - R&B musician and songwriter, Born in Montgomery
- Nell Carter - Broadway and TV, Born in Birmingham
- Seaborn McDaniel Denson - Sacred Harp teacher and composer
- Thomas Jackson Denson - Sacred Harp teacher and composer
- Drive-By Truckers - Alternative Rock band of Shoals-area natives
- Cleveland Eaton - jazz musician from Birmingham
- Will Vincent - Bluegrass singer and musician, Talladega, Alabama
- Ronnie Eades - "Fame Gang", Muscle Shoals Horn,Saxophone, raised in Tarrant, Alabama
- Eddie Floyd - R&B singer, born in Montgomery
- Lionel Hampton - Jazz vibes pioneer, lived in Birmingham
- Emmylou Harris - Country singer/songwriter, Born in Birmingham
- Ty Herndon - Country singer, lives in Butler
- Taylor Hicks - winner, American Idol Season 5
- Charlie Hodge - Musician for Elvis Presley, member of the "Memphis Mafia", born in Decatur
- Adam Hood - Singer/Songwriter from Opelika
- Hotel - Pop-rock band from Birmingham from 1973–1982, recorded 2 albums with MCA Records, some chart success; very popular regional act in their day.
- Merle Kilgore - Country musician, lived in Cullman
- Nicolette Larson - 1970s songwriter, lived in Birmingham
- Eddie Levert - Founding member of The O'Jays, born in Birmingham
- Marty Lott, a.k.a. "The Phantom" - "Love Me", the first rockabilly record-Born in Prichard, Alabama
- Lot Lizard - Psychedelic doom metal group from Marshall Co.
- Shelby Lynne - Country music artist, lives in [Jackson, Alabama] singer-songwriter from St Stephens AL.
- Maddox Brothers and Rose - Influential early country group, from Boaz
- Man or Astro-man? - Surf rock revivalists, Auburn
- Brian McKnight - R&B singer and producer, Born in Huntsville
- Jim Nabors - Actor and singer of standards and gospel, born in Sylacauga
- Rex Oggs - Singer/songwriter, born in Elba
- Spooner Oldham - songwriter & keyboardist, born in Centre
- Wayne Perkins - Guitarist, singer, songwriter, Muscle Shoals studio musician, played on Rolling Stones album, from Birmingham
- Wilson Pickett - R&B star, born in Prattville
- Susanna Phillips - Soprano, winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2010 Beverly Sills Artist Award, born in Huntsville
- Shane Porter - Founder of the New South Jazz Orchestra , Published composer/arranger , Free-lance Trumpet player, Pianist, Proud member of the Tuscaloosa Horns , from Tuscaloosa
- Ray Reach - Jazz pianist, from Birmingham
- Rich Boy - Rapper, real name Maurice Richards, born 1985 in Mobile, Alabama
- Lionel Richie - Singer/songwriter, see also Commodores, born in Tuskegee
- Sex Clark Five - Strum and drum, alternative rock from Huntsville
- State Line Mob - Southern Rock, Country duo group, Florence & Muscle Shoals natives, 2008 Winners of 2 Muscle Shoals music awards for Best new artist & Best new country album of the year. 
- Tommy Shaw - guitarist, singer & songwriter from Montgomery with the popular 1970s-1980s rock band Styx, will be inducted in Alabama Music Hall of Fame in February, 2008.
- The Skeeters - alt.country band from Ft. Payne
- The Tuscaloosa Horns - Mart Avant (Trumpet), Chris Gordon (Trumpet), Shane Porter (Trumpet), Jim Moeller (Trombone), Demondrae Thurman (Trombone), Chad Fisher (Trombone), Steve Black (Saxophone), Kelley ONeal (Saxophone), Mace Hibbard (Saxophone), Jerry Ball (Saxophone), Jimmy Bowland (Saxophone), Steven Collins (Saxophone), Jon Noffsinger (Saxophone)
- Ruben Studdard - Winner of American Idol, Born in Birmingham
- Sun Ra - Jazz musician and composer, born in Birmingham
- Take 6 - Contemporary Gospel group, from Huntsville
- The Temptations - four members: Eddie Kendricks (Union Springs), Paul Williams (Birmingham), Melvin Franklin (Montgomery), and Dennis Edwards (Birmingham)
- Toni Tennille - Half of '70s hitmakers Captain & Tennille, born in Montgomery
- Willie Mae "Big Momma" Thornton - Blues and R&B artist, born in Ariton
- Thrasher Brothers - Seminal gospel group, based in Birmingham
- Gary Wheat - Saxophonist residing in Birmingham
- Hank Williams Jr. - Country music star, lived in Gadsden
- Will Kimbrough - Singer/Songwriter, Producer, Guitarist, Multi-Instrumentalist, lived in Mobile, Alabama
- Trust Company - Rock band from Montgomery, Alabama
- Candi Staton - R&B, disco and gospel singer from Hanceville, Alabama
- Allison Moorer - Academy Award nominated country folk musician from Frankville, Alabama
- Yelawolf -(Michael Wayne Atha) Rapper and singer-songwriter from Gadsden, Alabama
- The Dexateens - rock band, originated out of Tuscaloosa, AL
- Act of Congress - Band from Helena, AL
- Maria Taylor - Singer from Birmingham
- The Pierces - Catherine & Allison Pierce, singers from Birmingham
- The Bridges - Band from Oxford, AL
- Some Dark Holler - Band from Birmingham, AL
- Alabama Shakes - Band from Athens, AL
- The Band Perry
- Doe B - Rapper from Montgomery, Al
- Gucci Mane - Rapper from Bessemer, al
- List of songs about Alabama
- Muscle Shoals, Alabama
- WLAY (AM)
- Muscle Shoals Music
- Birmingham, Alabama
- 2000 State Senate bill SR 458 to change State Song
- State chooses Sweet Home Alabama to promote itself in 2008
- "Annual Sacred Harp Singings: 2014 Directory," ed. Annie Grieshop, accessed April 29, 2014, http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~mudws/annual.html.
- James B. Wallace, "Stormy Banks and Sweet Rivers: A Sacred Harp Geography," Southern Spaces, June 4, 2007, accessed April 29, 2014, http://southernspaces.org/2007/stormy-banks-and-sweet-rivers-sacred-harp-geography.
- "Tunebooks, Music Books, and Hymnals," Sacred Harp and Related Shape Note Music: Resources, ed. Steven Sabol, accessed April 29, 2014, http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~mudws/resource/chap01.html.
- Alabama Music Hall of Fame
- Download traditional music
- Alabama Symphony Orchestra
- The Tuscaloosa Horns
- Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
- Birmingham Live Music
- New South Jazz Orchestra