RM and I are planning a trip to Florence, Alabama, over the 4th of July week-end. We fly into Huntsville and my brother, Mike, and his wife, Deb, will pick us up and take us to their home in Florence, near the Tennessee River. We are looking forward to exploring Alabama with them including a tour of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, as well as other local favorites. The Rolling Stones, Dylan, Cher, Paul Simon and The Black Keys to name a few recorded songs in this famous recording studio.The studio is named for the area called the Shoals which is located in the northwest corner of Alabama near the Tennessee and Mississippi borders. Sitting on the banks of the Tennessee River, the Shoals consists of 4 adjacent cities; Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia.
Original studio on Jackson Highway
Florence is known as Alabama’s Renaissance City so this is a destination just meant for Renaissance Man and me.. Florence has the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Alabama. Florence was surveyed for the Cypress Land Company in 1818 by Italian surveyer Ferdinand Sannoner, who named it after Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy. RM and I had grand time visiting the original Florence several years ago and expect a patriotic week-end with lots of fireworks and fellowship with my oldest bro. Currently, there are about 40,000 people living in the Alabama sister city enough to support the University of Northern Alabama, Wilson Dam and several museums.
Rosenbaum House in Florence, Alabama
Before we travel we like to submerge ourselves in the culture of our next travel destination. My sister-in-law told me about the singing group Alabama Shakes that is popular in their region. I must have been living under a rock because this band has made it to the big leagues. Alabama Shakes is considered an American roots rock band that formed in Athens, Alabama, in 2009 and transitioned from singing in old folks’ homes to the big time.
Check out their latest release with the link above, Hold On. Brittany Howard can jam!
I love to read novels ahead of time that are set in the area we are visiting. So far, I have read three books all written by Alabama writers. The good reads are:
- A Walk through Fire by William Cobb written in 1992 but set ironically in 1961 (the year I was born) in the fictional town of Hammond, Alabama. It explores segregation in the south, the Klan and the civil rights movement.
- Train Whistle Guitar by Albert Murray and written in 1974. Set in 1920’s Gasoline Point, Alabama, a fictitious town based on author Albert Murray’s hometown of Magazine Point, Train Whistle Guitar is a coming of age story of Scooter, a young black boy. Murray captures the feel of African-American kinship within a small town in the South.
- Leaving Gee’s Bend by Irene Latham published in 2010 starring a young heroine, Ludelphia, who stole my heart and she will steal yours too.
Books I recommend and have already read set in Alabama are:
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
- Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
Still to read before we travel:
Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress
All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg (nonfiction)