Alabamians have contributed in many ways to make the music industry what it is today. Alabama's diverse musical genres have affected a wide range of people and performers world wide. Alabama has a rich musical history that has influenced past, present and future performers everywhere.
Everyone loves music. Regardless of the type of music you listen to, you may be surprised to know how significant a role the State of Alabama plays in the world of music.
Alabama has played a central role in the development of both blues and country music, plus Appalachian folk music, fiddle music, gospel, spirituals, and polka have had local scenes in parts of Alabama. The Tuskegee Institute's School of Music (established 1931), especially the Tuskegee Choir, is an internationally-renowned institution. There are three major modern orchestras, the Mobile Symphony, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra; the last is the oldest continuously operating professional orchestra in the state, giving its first performance in 1955.
Many artists in the realms of Rock, Country, Rhythm and Blues and pop have emerged from Alabama over the past 50 years, including Wilson Pickett, Toni Tennille, Percy Sledge, Tommy Shaw of Styx, Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas, the Southern Rock/Pop/R&B band Wet Willie, the Rock band Brother Cane, the Power Pop band Hotel of Birmingham, Bill McCorvey of the Country band Pirates of the Mississippi, and songwriter/producer Walt Aldridge. The Commodores and their former front man Lionel Richie both hail from Tuskegee. Rick Hall, founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals is a well-known producer of classic R&B, Pop & Country music from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Other notable residents include Jimmy Buffett, though born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, grew up in the Mobile area. Country star Tammy Wynette was born on the Mississippi/Alabama line.
Probably one of the most well-known musicians to ever hail from Alabama is Hank Williams Sr., born in Georgiana. Hank and his wife Audrey are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, where the Hank Williams Museum resides downtown.
The state song of Alabama is entitled "Alabama". It was written by Julia Tutwiler and composed by Edna Gockel Gussen. It was adopted as the state song in 1931.
A State Senate bill (SB-458) was passed 32-1 in 2000 to move "Alabama" to the status of State Anthem, with "Stars Fell On Alabama", a song written in 1933 whose most popular release was by Jimmy Buffett in 1972 becoming the new State Song, and "My Home's In Alabama" (1980) by the Country group Alabama would become the State Ballad, but the bill failed in the State
Other grass roots efforts to make "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974) by Lynyrd Skynyrd the State Song have also failed, but the song's potential official status made a comeback when the State Tourism Agency chose the song as the centerpiece of its 2008 marketing campaign.
Muscle Shoals, Alabama is renowned worldwide as one of the epicenters of the music industry, having been the birthplace of a number of classic recordings. The studios of the Muscle Shoals area (Florence, Sheffield, Muscle Shoals, and Tuscumbia) figure prominently in the history of rock, country and R&B through the 1960s and 1970s. FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Quinvy Studios, East Avalon Recorders/ClearDay Studio, Wishbone Studios, and others have recorded local musicians and international superstars alike. Notable artists have included Aretha Franklin, Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson and countless others have recorded there. The notable studio house bands include The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, The Swampers, The Muscle Shoals Horns and The Fame Gang. One broke out on their own to become major stars, known as the Country band Shenandoah.
Though not as popular a recording center as before, Muscle Shoals continues to be an important contributor to American popular music and is home to a number of the world's most successful songwriters, musicians and producers.
Halls of fame
The Alabama Music Hall of Fame was created by the Alabama state legislature as a state agency in 1980. A 12,500 square foot (1,200 m_) exhibit hall opened in Tuscumbia in 1990.
The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame (AJHoF) is located in Birmingham, housed in the historic Carver Theatre. It was founded in 1978 and opened a museum in 1993.
American Idol contestants
The Birmingham area has had more than its fair share of American Idol contestants do well, including second season winner Ruben Studdard, fourth season runner-up Bo Bice, and fifth season winner Taylor Hicks.
Jazz and Blues
Alabama has a rich jazz heritage, being the birthplace of such greats as Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, Cleveland Eaton, Cootie Williams, Urbie Green, Ward Swingle, members of Take 6 and many more. Tubist Howard Johnson of the Saturday Night Live band hails from Montgomery. The museum of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame honors many of these fine musicians. In the 1930s and 40s, college dance bands, such as the Alabama Cavaliers, the Auburn Knights and the Bama State Collegians played an important role in the history of jazz in the South. Birmingham, Alabama boasts several active big bands, including the SuperJazz Big Band, the Joe Giattina Orchestra, and the Night Flight Big Band. In addition, there is a world-class horn section, the Tuscaloosa Horns, comprising some of Alabama's finest jazz/soul/funk instrumentalists. Also the Newest/Youngest break out big band in Alabama which incorporates everything from Duke Ellington to Bob Marley; the New South Jazz Orchestra which prominently features the Tuscaloosa Horns and the composing/arranging skills of members of the Tuscaloosa Horns.
Ward Swingle world famous multiple Grammy Award winning jazz vocal composer and pianist, hails from Mobile, Alabama.
Birmingham, Alabama contributed prominently to the history of jazz in America. It is the hometown of numerous influential jazz musicians, including bassist Cleveland Eaton, pianist and vocalist Ray Reach, guitarist Johnny Smith, trumpeter and bandleader Erskine Hawkins, trumpeter and arranger Tommy Stewart, composer Hugh Martin, arranger Sammy Lowe, bandleader Sun Ra, vibraphonist and bandleader Lionel Hampton, John Propst (pianist for Pete Fountain and Boots Randolph) and many more. Historical areas such as Tuxedo Junction and the Fourth Avenue Historical District played an important role in the evolution of jazz in Birmingham and the United States.
Gospel music, especially the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, has been especially influential in the state (see also the Birmingham Sunlights). Integrity Media a leading producer of praise and worship music is based in Mobile, AL.
The state also has a Celtic music scene, which has produced bands like Henri's Notions, After Class, and the Birmingham-based harpist Cynthia Douglass, as well as a number of piping bands and promotional Celtic organizations.
Alabama is the leading state for Sacred Harp singing. The B. F. White Sacred Harp is published by the Sacred Harp Book Company of Samson, Alabama. The Sacred Harp/Shape Note Music and Cultural Center is located in Bessemer, Alabama.