It’s In The Water
The Native Americans were the first to acknowledge the musical vibe emanating from the waters that flow through Northwest Alabama. In a profound foretelling, they deemed their magical waters the “Singing River,” setting the stage for a rich and diverse musical heritage that is unmatched by any in the world.
Born in a small cabin in Florence in 1873, William Christopher Handy was the first local music pioneer to achieve international fame. As a songwriter, musician and composer, Handy earned the title “Father of the Blues” and his influence elevated a regional music style to one of the most dominant forces in American music.
Sam Phillips, also known as “The Father of Rock and Roll,” was born in Florence in 1923. As owner of Sun Studios and Sun Records, Phillips emerged as one of the most influential forces in American music culture and was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is credited with launching the careers of several legendary artists including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King.
Raised in rural Franklin County, Rick Hall overcame humble beginnings and substantial personal tragedies to become a studio owner, world-renowned producer and the catalyst for making Muscle Shoals the “Hit Recording Capital of the World.” Obsessed with perfection and driven to succeed, Hall moved FAME studios to Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals in 1962 and quickly gained a reputation as one of the most demanding and astute producers of his era. FAME provided the backdrop for hit records by hundreds of artists including Arthur Alexander, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Bobby Gentry, the Osmonds, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed, Paul Anka and many more.
In 1969 Rick Hall’s house band, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, left FAME and partnered with Jerry Wexler to found Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield. The studio, owned by Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett, cranked out hits on the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Traffic, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens, the Staple Singers, Levon Helm, Joe Cocker and many more. The rhythm section was eventually immortalized as “The Swampers” by Lynyrd Skynyrd in the lyrics to “Sweet Home Alabama.” In 1978 the Swampers moved their studio to the banks of the Singing River on Alabama Avenue in Sheffield.
At its peak in the mid-70s, the music business was thriving to the point that several other studios opened here to support the growing demand for our unique brand of music. Artists from all over the world still travel here to record – and the Singing River continues to inspire.