Alabama Music Hall Of Fame
It’s no secret that music is a deeply ingrained element of the Billy Reid lifestyle. It’s a core part of our annual Shindig celebration in The Shoals, Alabama, as well as our Austin Shindig and pretty much every store event and gathering. Many followers of the brand know about FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and the documentary, Muscle Shoals, which helped bring the musical heritage of the area to recent national attention. But there’s another entity devoted to celebrating Alabama music that we hold close to our hearts. It’s the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia, Alabama, one of the four towns that make up The Shoals.
The Journal talked with AMHOF’s Board of Directors member Judy Hood about the Hall’s history and dedication to preserving and celebrating Alabama natives who’ve contributed to the state’s rich musical traditions. “People are blown away by the diversity of the music that comes from Alabama,” Hood says. “The museum represents classical, opera, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, bluegrass, gospel, blues and country. We get visitors from all over the world, and I think our international visitors are particularly impressed by that. You just don’t associate Alabama with opera or classical, but when you walk into the Hall of Fame, what you’re seeing is a body of work that was produced by Alabama.”
Last year, as part of Shindig No. 8, the AMHOF hosted several of our guests, including CFDA jewelry designer Pamela Love and Tony Award-winning actor Alex Sharp for dinner and a tour of the museum. “Billy has always been a great advocate for music in general, and particularly in the Shoals area,” Hood says. “He’s such an important part of everything that’s happening here musically.”
“It’s the folks behind the scenes are the most important people,” she says. “The team is led by Dixie Griffin, the heart and soul of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. She’s making some really great things happen out there. Lee Sentell (Alabama State Tourism Director and treasurer for the Hall of Fame Board) has been extremely supportive of the Hall of Fame, because he sees that it is a very important component of Alabama's tourism mix, particularly where music is concerned.”
The museum features permanent exhibits including the band Alabama’s Southern Star tour bus, which visitors can climb aboard, and original costumes and memorabilia from the Commodores, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole, Emmy Lou Harris, Donna Godchaux, Lionel Richie and more. One eye-catching installation is the Solid Gold Country Music Car, a 1960 Pontiac convertible adorned with more than 500 silver dollars and 12 silver guns. A pair of Texas Longhorns mount the vehicle’s hood. A popular feature of the museum is a small recording studio. “It’s Karaoke on steroids,” Hood jokes. Participants can choose from a selection of well known Alabama native song lyrics, sing their hearts out into the mic, and take home a CD recording of their performance.
“My favorite things are the song lyrics that we have on display,” Hood says. “The original documents are handwritten and show where someone crossed out a line. Some of them on the back of napkins or just a piece of notebook paper.”
A recent exhibit that is still on display, is an homage to Alabama Grammy Award winners, and upcoming events include an exhibit on Alabama Hip Hop and the annual AMHOF fundraiser and Hall of Fame inductee ceremony.
“Music should be fun and interactive,” Hood says. “We wish we had a gazillion dollars, just like all non-profits, because there's so much more we would love to have in the Hall of Fame, to expand it, to have a performance venue, but we're real excited with what we have. When people come in and see it with fresh eyes, it always reaffirms our notion that we've got something extremely special here.”
A special thank you to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and Alabama Tourism for all they do for the community and their ongoing partnership supporting Shindig.
Designer Pamela Love and actor Alex Sharp sit in the Solid Gold Country Music car at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame during Shindig No. 8. Photo by Sam Dietch