Muscle Shoals, Alabama
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|Muscle Shoals, Alabama|
Location of Muscle Shoals in Colbert County, Alabama
|Established||April 23, 1923|
|Incorporated||April 24, 1923|
|• Mayor||David Bradford|
|• City||16.55 sq mi (42.86 km2)|
|• Land||16.53 sq mi (42.81 km2)|
|• Water||0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)|
|Elevation||499 ft (152 m)|
|• Estimate (2016)||13,831|
|• Density||836.72/sq mi (323.07/km2)|
|• Metro||147,317 (US: 281st)|
|Time zone||Central Time Zone (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|ZIP codes||35660(obsolete), 35661, 35662|
|Area code(s)||256, 938|
|GNIS feature ID||0152574|
Both the city and the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Area (including four cities in Colbert and Lauderdale counties) are commonly called "the Shoals". Northwest Alabama Regional Airport serves the Shoals region, located in the northwest section of the state.
Since the 1960s, the city has been known for music – developing the "Muscle Shoals Sound", as local recording studios (including FAME Studios in the late 1950s and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969) produced hit records that shaped the history of popular music.
Due to its strategic location along the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals played a key role in historic land disputes between Native Americans and Anglo-American settlers in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Muscle Shoals was the site of an attempted community development project by Henry Ford in 1922. The original streets of Muscle Shoals were named after streets in Detroit, Michigan due to Henry Ford's influence in the area. Just like Detroit, Woodward Avenue is the name of the main road through the city. Henry Ford's inability to acquire land from the Tennessee Valley Authority foiled his desire to create a 75-mile industrial megalopolis from Decatur to the tri-state border of Pickwick Lake. The Ford Motor Company operated a plant in the Listerhill community, three miles east of Muscle Shoals, for many years before closing in 1982.
There are several explanations on how the city got its name. One is that the city gets its name from a former natural feature of the Tennessee River, namely Muscle Shoals, a shallow zone where mussels were gathered. When the area was first settled, the distinct spelling "mussel" to refer to a shellfish had not yet been fully adopted.
Muscle Shoals was a part of the Cherokee hunting grounds dating to at least the early eighteenth century, if not earlier. After the American Revolution, the Cherokees were divided over attitudes toward the new U.S. republic. An anti-American faction, dubbed the Chickamauga, separated from more conciliatory Cherokees, and moved into present-day south-central and southeastern Tennessee, most of them settling along the Chickamauga River. They claimed Muscle Shoals as part of their domain, and when Anglo-Americans attempted to settle the region in the 1780s and 1790s, the Chickamaugas bitterly resisted them. Upper Creeks, residing in what is now north and central Alabama, also resented any European or Euro-American presence in the region. A major incident occurred in 1790, when U.S. President George Washington sent an expedition under Major John Doughty in an attempt to establish a fort and trading post at Muscle Shoals. This expedition was nearly annihilated by a Chickamauga and Creek party sent to destroy it, and the project was abandoned by Doughty and the administration.
Anglo-American settlers in Tennessee continued to agitate for control of the region. The site was particularly desirable, as it controlled access to fine cotton-producing land immediately to its south. In 1797, John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, complained to Andrew Jackson that "The prevention of a settlement at or near the Muscle Shoals is a manifest injury done the whole western country." At Sevier's behest, Jackson attempted to persuade Congress and President John Adams to fund a new expedition to take control of the site, but to no avail. U.S. officials finally took control of the region in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Creek country during the War of 1812. Jackson and General John Coffee obtained cession of the land from both the Cherokee and Creek (who had continued to dispute possession) by treaty, without permission to do so from the federal government. Secretary of War William H. Crawford refused to recognize the cession, and reconfirmed Cherokee ownership, leading to personal enmity between him and Jackson, and causing a political struggle over the lands which Jackson and his backers eventually won. When Jackson, as President, implemented the policy of Indian Removal, Muscle Shoals was used as a site from which to ship Upper Creeks out to Oklahoma (then Indian Territory).
During World War I President Wilson authorized a dam just downstream of Muscle Shoals to help power nitrate plants for munitions. The first plant started producing nitrates two weeks after the armistice, but the dam was not completed until 1924. Meanwhile, in 1922 Henry Ford tried to buy the nitrate works and the unfinished dam. Congress rejected Ford's offer as too low. The project languished until the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration created the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933.
Muscle Shoals is known for recording many hit songs from the 1960s to today at two studios: FAME Studios, founded by Rick Hall, where Arthur Alexander, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and numerous others recorded; and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, founded by the musicians known as The Swampers, which developed work for Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones and others. While the music from the area is often referred to as the "Muscle Shoals Sound", all four of the Quad Cities have significantly contributed to the area's musical history.
In addition to being home to country music band Shenandoah, a number of artists have visited Muscle Shoals to write and record. Both FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio are still in operation in the city. While famous for classic recordings from Rod Stewart, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Rolling Stones, and The Allman Brothers, recent hit songs such as "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood and "I Loved Her First" by Heartland continue the city's musical legacy. George Michael recorded an early, unreleased version of "Careless Whisper" with Jerry Wexler in Muscle Shoals in 1983. Bettye Lavette recorded her Grammy nominated album "Scene of the Crime" at FAME in 1972.
Fans of Muscle Shoals music visit the local landmarks. While most of the city's recording studios are still active, the majority will allow tours with an appointment. Further, a number of rock, R&B and country music celebrities have homes in the area surrounding Muscle Shoals (Tuscumbia), or riverside estates along the Tennessee River, and often perform in area nightclubs, typically rehearsing new material.
Unusual was the cross-pollination of musical styles that originated in Muscle Shoals. Black artists from the area such as Arthur Alexander and James Carr used white country music styles in their work, and white artists from the Shoals frequently borrowed from the blues/gospel influences of their black contemporaries, creating a distinct sound.
Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, lived in the area and stated in his autobiography that Muscle Shoals (primarily radio station WLAY (AM), which had both "white" and "black" music on its playlist) influenced his merging of these sounds at Sun Records with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
Rolling Stone editor David Fricke wrote that if one wanted to play a single recording that would "epitomize and encapsulate the famed Muscle Shoals Sound", that record would be "I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers in 1972. After hearing that very song, American songwriter Paul Simon phoned his manager and asked him to arrange a recording session with the musicians who had performed it. Simon was surprised to be told that he would have to travel to Muscle Shoals to work with the artists. After arriving in the small town, he was introduced to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section ("The Swampers") who had recorded this song with Mavis Staples. Expecting black musicians (the original Rhythm Section consisted only of white musicians), and assuming that he had been introduced to the office staff, Simon politely asked to "meet the band". Once things were sorted out, Simon recorded a number of tracks with the group, including "Loves Me Like a Rock", "Kodachrome" and "Still Crazy After All These Years" in 1973.
When Bob Dylan told his record label that he intended to record Christian music, the initially dismayed label executives insisted that if he planned to pursue the project, he must, at least, record the work in Muscle Shoals, as they felt it would provide the work "some much-needed credibility". (Dylan was not previously known for his overtly religious pronouncements, and some were worried that his efforts would be taken as satirical; recording in the Bible Belt, it was thought, might avert a disaster.) Dylan subsequently recorded two Christian albums in The Shoals. The resulting albums, Slow Train Coming (1979) and Saved (1980), were recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.
More recently, Florence native Patterson Hood, son of "Swamper" David Hood, has found fame in his own right as a member of the alternative rock group Drive-By Truckers. The top two finishing finalists on the 2007 season of country-music singing competition Nashville Star, siblings Zac Hacker (second place) and Angela Hacker (winner), are from Muscle Shoals. In 2008, State Line Mob, a Southern rock duo group formed by singer and songwriters Phillip Crunk (Florence native) and Dana Crunk (Rogersville native), released their first CD, Ruckus, and won two Muscle Shoals Music Awards for 2008 for (Best New Artist) and Best New Country Album) of the year. Band of Horses recorded a portion of their massive hit album "Infinite Arms" at Muscle Shoals. Artists which are signed to the label in 2017 are: Holli Mosley, Dylan LeBlanc, Jason Isbell, Angela Hacker, Gary Nichols, and James LeBlanc.
Although Muscle Shoals has receded somewhat from its 1960s and 1970s status as "Hit Recording Capital of the World" (as a sign near the airport once read), there is a group of young, local musicians that are making waves again in the musical world. These include Drive-By Truckers, The Civil Wars, Dylan LeBlanc, Gary Nichols, Jason Isbell, State Line Mob, Eric "Red Mouth" Gebhardt, Fiddleworms, and BoomBox.
The original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios were located at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield but that site was closed when the business relocated to 1000 Alabama Avenue in Sheffield. The studio in that building closed in 2005 and now houses a movie production company.
Muscle Shoals is where The Black Keys filmed their music video for "Lonely Boy". It was recorded just outside a motel, and stars a security guard named Derrick T. Tuggle, who is dancing and lip-syncing the song. He says he knew the band personally, and had a BBQ restaurant across the street from their recording studio.
Sister city Florence, Alabama, is frequently referred to as "the birthplace of the Blues". W. C. Handy was born in Florence and is generally regarded as the "Father of the Blues". Every year since 1982, the W. C. Handy Music Festival is held in the Florence/Sheffield/Muscle Shoals area, featuring blues, jazz, country, gospel, rock music and R&B. The roster of jazz musicians known as the "Festival All-Stars", or as the W. C. Handy Jazz All-Stars, includes noted musicians from all over the United States, such as guitarist Mundell Lowe, drummer Bill Goodwin, pianist/vocalist Johnny O'Neal, vibraphone player Chuck Redd, pianist/vocalist Ray Reach, and flutist Holly Hofmann.
After FAME studio founder Rick Hall died in early 2018, The New Yorker concluded its coverage of his career with this comment: "Muscle Shoals remains remarkable not just for the music made there but for its unlikeliness as an epicenter of anything; that a tiny town in a quiet corner of Alabama became a hotbed of progressive, integrated rhythm and blues still feels inexplicable. Whatever Hall conjured there—whatever he dreamt, and made real—is essential to any recounting of American ingenuity. It is a testament to a certain kind of hope." An Alabama publication commented that Hall is survived by his family "and a Muscle Shoals music legacy like no other". An editorial in the Anniston Star (Alabama) concludes with this epitaph, "If the world wants to know about Alabama — a state seldom publicized for anything but college football and embarrassing politics — the late Rick Hall and his legacy are worthy models to uphold".
3614 Jackson Highway Studio
The original location of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since June 2006. From the early 2000s to 2013, it had been partly restored and open for tours. In 2013, the documentary Muscle Shoals raised public interest in a major restoration of the original studio. In the same year, the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation was formed to raise funds to purchase the building and to complete major renovations. In June 2013, Noel Webster who was then the owner of 3614 Jackson Highway (since 1999), sold the property, without the historic recording equipment, to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. The foundation praised the contribution made to the project by Sheffield resident, attorney Gene Hambey.
A large grant from Beats Electronics, a manufacturer of headphones and similar devices (owned by Apple inc.) founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, provided an essential $1 million. State tourism director Lee Sentell told the media in August 2015 that the 2013 film Muscle Shoals had significant influence. "The financial support from Beats is a direct result of their film." Additional donations were made by other groups and individuals. In 2015, Rodney Hall, a foundation Board member, reminded fans of the value of the additional donations. "The foundation was able to purchase the building through the generosity of private investors like Gene Hamby, who understand the importance of preserving the legacy of Muscle Shoals music."
As recently as August 2015, tours were visiting the partly-restored studio on Jackson Highway. It was closed when major restoration work started in September 2015. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio reopened as a finished tourist attraction on January 9, 2017. Owned and operated by the foundation, the interior is reminiscent of the 1970s, with relevant recording equipment and paraphernalia. There are plans for allowing artists to record music again.
Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers.
And they've been known to pick a song or two.They pick me up when I'm feelin' blue.
Lord, they get me off so much,
Now, how 'bout you?
Affectionately called The Swampers, The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was a local group of first-call studio musicians (initially working at FAME and then at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios) who were available for back-up. They were given the nickname The Swampers by music producer Denny Cordell during the Leon Russell sessions because of their "funky, soulful Southern 'swamp' sound".
When Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios once early in their career, they saw the various gold and platinum records on the walls bearing the words "To The Swampers", and later included it in the song as a tribute.
|U.S. Decennial Census
As of the census of 2010, there were 13,146 people, 5,321 households, and 3,769 families residing in the city. The population density was 845.4 per square mile (326.4/km²). There were 5,653 housing units at an average density of 363.5 per square mile (140.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 80.6% White, 15.3% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 1.3% from other races, and 1.6% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.7% of the population.
There were 5,321 households out of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.4% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.2% were non-families. 26.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the city, the population was spread out with 23.6% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.1 years. For every 100 females there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $48,134, and the median income for a family was $60,875. Males had a median income of $41,061 versus $37,576 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,237. About 8.3% of families and 10.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.9% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,924 people, 4,710 households and 3,452 families residing in the city. The population density was 979.7 per square mile (378.3/km²). There were 5,010 housing units at an average density of 411.6 per square mile (158.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 83.88% White, 14.16% Black or African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.56% Asian, 0.31% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.16% of the population.
There were 4,710 households out of which 34.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.4% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.7% were non-families. 23.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city, the population was spread out with 24.8% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 23.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $40,210, and the median income for a family was $48,113. Males had a median income of $38,063 versus $21,933 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,113. About 5.4% of families and 7.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.1% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
The Muscle Shoals City School District is currently led by Superintendent Dr. Brian Lindsey. There are seven schools in the district:
- Muscle Shoals High School
- Muscle Shoals Center for Technology
- Muscle Shoals Middle School
- McBride Elementary School
- Highland Park Elementary School
- Webster Elementary School
- Howell Graves Preschool
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- Jason Allen, former University of Tennessee and former NFL player
- Boyd Bennett, rockabilly singer
- Levi Colbert, Chickasaw Bench Chief
- Rece Davis, ESPN commentator (QB for the Trojans' football squad)
- Alecia Elliott, country music singer
- Al Gamble, musician, St. Paul and The Broken Bones
- Dennis Homan, Alabama All-America wide receiver and Dallas Cowboys' player
- David Hood, musician
- Patterson Hood, singer-songwriter, co-founder of the Drive-By Truckers
- Jason Isbell, singer-songwriter, formerly of the Drive-By Truckers
- Ozzie Newsome, American football player, general manager & executive VP for the Baltimore Ravens
- Gary Nichols, country music singer
- Leigh Tiffin, American football placekicker
- Chris Tompkins, songwriter
- Steve Trash, magician, environmental activist, children's entertainer
- Kim Tribble, country music songwriter
- John Paul White, musician, The Civil Wars
- John Wyker, musician
- Steven Kropper and three companions were removed from a railroad box car in the freight train yard in Mussel Shoals at gun point by railroad police in 1979 while riding the rails across the South.
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Reference number 06000437
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- The Associated Press (December 31, 2016). "Alabama's top tourist attraction 2017: Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". AL.com. Alabama Media Group. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
has been revamped with a 1970s feel that includes bright colors, retro chairs and a metal ashtray; the sign over the front door is once again bright blue. Vintage recording equipment fills the production booth.
- Scharf, Lauren (January 9, 2017). "Recording, tours resume at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio". Fox 10 TV. WALA, Mobile. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
When we were closed down during renovations, people would just show up from all over the world.
- Jay Reeves, The Associated Press (January 3, 2017). "Fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio named top Alabama tourist attraction of 2017". National Post. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
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- Article about Muscle Shoals written by Ernest Hemingway
- City of Muscle Shoals official website
- Muscle Shoals City Schools
- Shoals Music Magazine, publication dedicated to covering the Muscle Shoals Sound