A lot of people do not know that the Northwest corner of the state of Alabama is rich in history about the music industry. It is a beautiful area along the banks of the Tennessee River and is known as the Quad Cities that includes the towns of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Sheffield. No one really knows where ‘Muscle Shoals’ got its name, but according to the city’s website, one theory is that it got its name from the piles of mussel shells that were one time found along the shoals in the Tennessee River. Another theory is that the shape of the river looks like the muscle in a man’s arm, therefore, Muscle Shoals. The last theory comes from several booklets that were published before Muscle Shoals incorporated. This theory states: “Muscle Shoals, the Niagara of the South, derives its name from the Indians, who, attempting to navigate upstream, found the task almost impossible because of the strong current.” Thus came the word muscle, symbolic of the strength required to “paddle a canoe up the rapids.”
The area also is home to the Tennessee Valley Authority a program that was formed to bring economic development to those in the Tennessee Valley that were suffering during the Great Depression.
In the 1960s the area began to become known as the ‘Hit Capital of the World’ because of the music industry legend Rick Hall of FAME studios and the Swampers the session musicians who played on the hit records. Many musicians travelled to this northwest corner of Alabama to make hit records, some names you may recognize like: The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, The Staple Singers, the Allman Brothers and the Osmonds.
The area also is the home of the now historical landmark, Tom Hendrix’s Wall, a memorial wall he built to honor his great-grandmother and her struggles during her journey to Oklahoma and back to Alabama. She was a member of the Yuchi Indian tribe. The wall is located off of County Road 8 near the Natchez Trace. It is very spiritual place and you will feel its importance while you take a journey through it.
If you plan to make a visit to the area make sure to watch the documentary ‘Muscle Shoals’ before going because it will explain a lot of what you hear in our discussion in the video below. My friend Dorothy Bloom Little and I visited the area last summer to take the ‘Swampette’ Tour and to visit Tom’s Wall. We hope you enjoy our discussion about our wonderful and meaningful road trip to the Quad Cities area.