Meet Muscle Shoals
On the banks of the Singing River, the cities of Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Florence and Muscle Shoals make up the region of North Alabama known both as “The Shoals” and ‘The Hit Recording Capital of The World’
During a visit to this truly remarkable area of the United States, you’ll meet local musicians, enjoy great food and be entertained with brilliant live music. You’ll also learn about the area’s history and how it became known as “The Hit Recording Capital of the World” and best of all…experience genuine, warm Southern Hospitality!
Stays in the Muscle Shoals area are featured in several of our escorted tours:
Music in Muscle Shoals and Alabama
Alabama’s Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia showcases Alabama’s rich musical history. The rich mix of cultures which settled in the south offered up diverse musical styles and influences, producing a wealth of talent. Native Alabama artists such as Nat King Cole, Lionel Richie, Emmylou Harris, Alabama, Hank Williams, Percy Sledge and countless songwriters and performers are celebrated here. During your visit to the museum be sure step in to the Recording Booth and record your own “hit’ song – proud to be the latest superstar recording artist out of Muscle Shoals!
Working Recording Studios
The popular musical legacy of the region begins with the Florence born WC Handy – world renowned composer and publisher known as the Father of the Blues. He was born in 1873. Another Florence native, Sam Phillips, was a disc jockey at a local radio station in the late 1940s, before leaving for Memphis Tennessee to set up his own recording studio and the legendary Sun Records, signing amongst others the Million Dollar Quartet – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis to his pioneering record label. The Shoals region remains home to over a dozen very successful ‘working’ recording studios including FAME, Muscle Shoals Sound, Wishbone, Cypress Moon, The NuttHouse, Single Lock, Noiseblock and more. No visit to Muscle Shoals is complete without taking the studio tours – where you can stand in the same spot as artists such as The Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Cher, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Jimmy Buffet, Bob Dylan, Vince Gill, Tom Jones, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, The Osmonds, Lionel Richie, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Billy Ray Cyrus, Hank Williams Jr and dozens more. All of whom recorded the music that made “The Shoals” The Hit Recording Capital of the World!
More than the music
Historic Tuscumbia is one of Alabama’s oldest towns and lies in an area originally explored by French traders. Between 1815 and 1817 non-Indian settlers arrived to join the native Chickasaw tribal people and It soon became North Alabama’s agricultural and commercial centre. Today, antique stores, boutiques, cafes and a new “pocket park” make downtown Tuscumbia a delightful shopping area.
19th Century Architecture
Tuscumbia also boasts one of the state’s best collections of 19th century architecture from the antebellum period. The town is centred around the Colbert County Courthouse. The six blocks along Main Street hold some of Alabama’s earliest commercial buildings, many dating from the late 19th century. Preservation and restoration of historic homes and commercial buildings has made Tuscumbia a popular destination for visitors interested in history and antiquities. Belle Mont Mansion, a fine example of early 1800s antebellum architecture and The Colbert County Courthouse, built in 1881, are worth visiting, as are many of the historical downtown churches.
America’s First Lady of Courage
Ivy Green is an example of a 19th century home and it is where in 1880 Helen Keller was born. At the age of just 19 months an illness left Helen deaf and blind and her father was advised to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. With the help of her teacher, Miss Anne Sullivan, Helen overcame many of her disabilities – their story is portrayed in the 1962 film “The Miracle Worker” starring Anne Bancroft & Patty Duke.
Tuscumbia Railway Depot Museum
Found just off Main Street, the historic railway depot building built by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad is now a museum and has an original carriage which belonged to Helen Keller’s family and a vast collection of rail memorabilia.
Trail Of Tears
The railway line would also play an integral part in one of America’s monumental events: The Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was a series of forced removals of Native American nations from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to new Native Territory west of the Mississippi River. Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole people were removed from their lands and relocated to the west. For many, the journey along the Tennessee River from Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama would bring them to the Shoals area and then by train to Tuscumbia Landing where they would be transported by barges on the river to begin the long trek to Oklahoma. In scenic Spring Park in downtown Tuscumbia be sure to find the Sacred Tears bronze statue that memorialises the Trail of Tears and the friendship that the residents of Tuscumbia displayed to the Native Americans during those times.
Follow the Natchez Trace Parkway to the Parkway visitor’s centre and learn how a primitive trail became a national scenic treasure. Discover the parkway’s history and inhabitants, and how Native Americans travelled the 444 miles between Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee over 8,000 years ago. Then, by travelling just a little further you’ll come to Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Elvis Presley’s Birthplace, in Tupelo is probably the most, significant and is still attracting thousands of visitors from across the world. The city of Tupelo bought the home and surrounding property in 1957. Elvis wanted a park for the neighbourhood children, so donated all the proceeds from a 1957 concert to help further the cause. On the way back to ‘The Shoals’ drive the scenic route from Tupelo to the nearby historic Appalachian village of Red Bay. Step back in time when you visit the local museum which features a large number of exhibits related to the history of the city, including a soda fountain from an early drug store and loads of other memorabilia. The museum also features a large exhibit on country music star Tammy Wynette, who although born just over the Mississippi border, called Red Bay home. Tammy Wynette, one of country music’s best known artists and biggest selling female singers, was called the First Lady of Country Music. Her best known song, Stand By Your Man, is one of the best selling hit singles by a woman in the history of country music.
Just passing through? Don’t miss the area attractions – Download “Meet Muscle Shoals” from the app stores.
Special thanks to Colbert County Tourism for their support and assistance in making our visits to the Muscle Shoals Area, the best, most unique experiences possible for our guests!