My Blog

Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in Consideration for National Heritage Designation

Music Fell on Alabama author C. S. Fuqua comments on the recent move to name Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a national heritage area:

In its heyday of the 1960s and ’70s, the area became known as the Hit Capital of the World, thanks to a few renegade recording studios that enhanced the area’s already rich musical heritage by bringing in some of the biggest names in music to record, names such as the Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker and many more. Because of that rich heritage, the Muscle Shoals region in north Alabama may soon be designated as a national heritage area under legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives. While the majority of the Alabama delegation realized the benefit of the designation, Alabama Republican Representatives Terry Everett and Robert Aderholt voted against it.

If the legislation clears the Senate and is signed into law, the Shoals area would receive as much as $1 million a year in matching money to local groups for up to 15 years to preserve and promote the region, to maintain the area’s character, and to draw visitors to the area. The Shoals, whose notoriety includes being home to Helen Keller, W. C. Handy, Sam Phillips, the Alabama Renaissance Fair, and recording studios such as Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound, could certainly benefit from increased promotion.

Since the first publication of Music Fell on Alabama, the Muscle Shoals music industry’s global influence has been detailed in various media, including television, print, and Internet, but the Shoals industry has been in decline over the last two decades and could eventually wither away completely as a result of technological advances and the ever-changing way people produce and get their music. The fame of its past won’t keep an industry alive or tourists flowing to a specific area forever.

Although the music industry is still present in the Shoals, it is certainly not as influential as it was in the ’60s and ’70s. In fact, most Shoals studios, including the Muscle Shoals Sound in 2006, have closed due to declining business. It would be a disgraceful loss to allow the national and international recognition of the Shoals region’s rich musical heritage to fade away as the industry itself fades. Designation as a national heritage area and the money provided for preservation and promotion could at least entice more tourists to the area to experience and learn more about the rich musical heritage and contributions that Alabama has made and continues to make even in times when the recording industry itself is going through major changes.

C. S. Fuqua’s history of the Muscle Shoals music industry, Music Fell on Alabama, is available at your favorite bookstore or directly from NewSouth Books. Search the full text of Music Fell on Alabama from Google Books.