Discover the Soul of the Shoals

Discover the Soul of the Shoals
FAME Recording Studio

The Artistic Side of the Shoals

A great way to spend the day in the Shoals is by touring the music studios responsible for creating the “Muscle Shoals sound,” which developed from the world-famous music that was made here. It all began with FAME Music (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) founded in 1959 in Florence, which owner Rick Hall later moved to Muscle Shoals. Still a working studio, FAME Recording Studios has worked with artists from Aretha Franklin and Etta James to the popular country band Alabama, the family music group The Osmonds, and many, many more.   

Session musicians who worked at FAME became known as The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or the Swampers. In 1969, the four primary members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section—keyboardist Barry Beckett, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Roger Hawkins, and bassist David Hood—left FAME to start a competing business, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The original location was at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama, and this unassuming building and its simple sign have become legendary in the music business, with artists such as The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, and Cher recording here. Cher even named an album she recorded here 3614 Jackson Highway.

Discover the Soul of the Shoals
The Rosenbaum House (Photo courtesy of Florence Arts and Museums)

The iconic studio is now open for tours after being authentically restored to how it was before the recording studios were moved to a larger facility, Cypress Moon Studios, which is also available for tours.

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia makes the perfect final stop on your tour of the area’s musical history, as it celebrates musical icons such as Hank Williams, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Buffett, Tammy Wynette, the Commodores, W.C. Handy, and more. On display are their chart-topping albums, hand-written lyrics, instruments, costumes, and even a full-size tour bus. 

The Rosenbaum House, designed in the Usonian style by revered 20th-century American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, shows another creative side of this artsy area. The architectural masterpiece is nestled right in the midst of a beautiful but unassuming neighborhood in Florence and is the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structure in Alabama. The gorgeous home was created for newlyweds Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum in 1939, and Wright designed an addition for their growing family that was built in 1948. The low ceilings and many windows draw the eye outside, and every room, complete with period-correct furnishing and accessories, is a sight to behold.

Photo of Victorian house is courtesy of Florence/Lauderdale Tourism.

This content was originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine. © 2017 Hoffman Media

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