A tale of two cities: Florence vs. Florence

Florence, Ala., is the largest quadrant of the four-city nexus known as The Shoals  a nickname derived from Muscle Shoals, the given name of one of the remaining three towns and one that’s familiar to anyone who cares deeply about 1960s-era R&B and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll.

Back in the day, two area recording studios  FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio  produced hundreds of recordings from greats like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Paul Simon, Etta James, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers and dozens of other bold-faced names in the annals of 20th century American music.

Though they didn’t record it at either studio, the Lynyrd Skynrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama”  the unofficial state anthem  namedrops not only Muscle Shoals, but also The Swampers, the nickname for the group of musicians who made up the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, several of whom still perform and live in the area.