Historic Markers Across Alabama

The Singing River Sculpture, In Muscle Shoals, Alabama

Marker ID:  
Location: 1918 Avalon Ave, Muscle Shoals, AL
County: Colbert
Coordinates: N 34° 44.656    W 087° 38.732
  34.74426666    -87.64553333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


The Singing River Sculpture
In Muscle Shoals, Alabama

This sculpture is dedicated to the many individuals whose efforts made Muscle Shoals and the Muscle Shoals area the"Hit Recording Capital of the World,” and to those who continue that legacy.

Legend of the Singing River
The Yuchi and other early inhabitants living along the banks of the mighty Tennessee River held the legend of a Spirit Woman who lived in the river. She protected and sang to them. When the river was angry, she sang loudly. When the river was peaceful, she sang softly and sweetly, sometimes humming a comforting lullaby. Some say that all they heard was the high waters mighty rush and roar over the mussel shoals, or at other times, the calm low waters babbling through the river rocks. Other say she is real and can still be seen in the early morning mist, hovering over the waters, just as she did those many years ago. In her honor, they called it the Singing River , and in her honor, we named these sculptures the Singing River Sculptures.

The World-changing Muscle Shoals Music
From throughout the 20th century to the present, Muscle Shoals area artists, musicians, songwriters and music-industry professionals have helped shape the world's expansive music heritage. Few styles of music were untouched by Muscle Shoals, and local contributions have been made in all other areas of the complex industry: producers, recording engineers, songwriters, music publishers, and other positions in the music business.

Many of the world's greatest performers began their ascent to stardom in Muscle Shoals, and artists, such as Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, the Staple Singers, Bob Seger, along with many others, quickly created a legacy which earned the area the title,"Hit Recording Capitol of the World.”

The area grew as a music center by drawing together people of all races and religions. In the 1960s, despite the segregation of the races enforced outside the studios, great soul classics were being created in the studios with each musician contributing his innate musical talent. The collaborations created some of the most widely loved music of the 20th century, including Steal Away, Mustang Sally, Tell Mama, Patches, Respect Yourself, and many others.

The warning issued in Arthur Alexander's You Better Move On got the attention of the Rolling Stones. The Beatles heard Alexander's song, Anna and each band acknowledged their respect for Alexander and his writing by recording their version of his songs on their first albums.

The songwriting tradition continues as one of the strongest facets of Muscle Shoals music, with area songwriters penning songs such as, I Loved Her First, I Swear, Blown Away, Before He Cheats, and hundreds of other hits over the decades.

The heart and soul of Muscle Shoals music has always been the players and singers. Four members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were immortalized in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, Sweet Home Alabama. The lyric,"Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers, and they've been known to pick a song or two,” honors Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, David Hood,and Roger Hawkins, studio musicians who produced and played on hundreds of hits recorded at area studios from the late 1960s until the mid-1980s.

Muscle Shoals and Its Contribution to this Golden Era
Muscle Shoals bestowed much more than its name on the world-famous"Muscle Shoals sound.”

The city served as the birthplace for early breakthroughs in the local music industry and later provided a home base for some of the area's top studios. The first commercial recording to emerge from Muscle Shoals — the Bobby Denton single, A Fallen Star — was produced by James Joiner in the Second Street studios of WLAY Radio in 1957. Four years later in an old candy-and-tobacco warehouse on Wilson Dam Road, aspiring producer Rick Hall joined forces with bellhop-turned-singer Arthur Alexander to cut Muscle Shoals' first national hit, the Southern Soul anthem, You Better Move On. In the wake of that success, Hall built FAME Recording Studios on Avalon Avenue in 1962. Artists ranging from Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Etta James to Duane Allman, the Osmonds, and Bobby Gentry later recorded there. From 1970 to 1985, Muscle Shoals became known as"The Hit Recording Capital of the World” as FAME and Al Cartee's Music Mill, Steve Moore's East Avalon, and Terry Woodford and Clayton Ivey's Wishbone Studios generated hits by Clarence Carter, Hank Williams Jr., the group Hot, George Jones, the Forester Sisters, Mac McAnally, Shenandoah, and many others. In 2011 Hall received the American Music Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2014 he was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award for significant contribution to the recording industry.

The City of Muscle Shoals, Alabama
David Bradford, Mayor
Audwin Pierre McGee, Sculptor>
Historical commentary by Terry Pace, Dick Cooper, David Anderson, and Bill Matthews.

End of The Singing River Sculpture, In Muscle Shoals, Alabama