Displays Keep Muscle Shoals Musical Memories Alive

John Glenn could be using the nearly 40 feet of wall space inside Discount Dan’s Home Center for more home improvement products, but he’s not.

Instead, the space is reserved for glass cases filled with Muscle Shoals music memorabilia, including signed guitars, rare photographs, album covers, gold records and other items related to the area’s rich musical heritage.

“We’re embracing the music culture,” Glenn said.

Discount Dan’s isn’t alone. A number of local businesses and public buildings have displays on the Shoals’ musical heritage that serve as unofficial tour stops for residents and visitors.

In Muscle Shoals City Hall there is a glass case filled with memorabilia, and the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport plans to build displays so that one of the first things visitors see involves Shoals music.

Ye Ole General Store, a downtown fixture since 1947 across from the Florence Post Office, is decorated with framed photos that owner Gordon Glasscock started putting up after becoming interested in the music scene a few years ago.

“I figured out there were people who live here that didn’t know about the people who recorded here,” Glasscock said. “I started reading as much as I could and researching on the Internet.”

There are several photos of The Rolling Stones taken by Swampers bassist David Hood when the Stones recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in 1969.

Glasscock’s favorite is a black-and-white shot of Linda Ronstadt when she recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound in the early 1970s.

He credited the “Muscle Shoals” documentary for helping spread the word about the area’s music heritage, where it came from and who was involved in it.

The photos on display at Ye Ole General Store have captions that identify the artists in the photos, the location and the date, if it is known.

Glasscock said many of the photos were provided by local music historian and photographer Dick Cooper and by Tommy Wright, who photographed many artists who recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound.

Glasscock, whose parents ran the store for 30 years before he took over after moving back from New Orleans in 2005, said he’s had many people from out of state and out of the country visit the store and check out the photos.

“Last week I had some people from Oregon and Washington state,” he said. He also had some recent visitors from Sweden.

“They were just here to tour the studios,” Glasscock said. “The people at FAME told them to come over here. It’s always good when people work together and refer people.”

At Discount Dan’s, Glenn said the idea to do something unique for the Sheffield store was discussed before the store opened about two years ago.

“We were trying to think of things that would embed us more in the community,” he said. “Look at the number of people who are tied to the music industry in our region. Every 20th customer that comes in is a musician.”

The display runs along a wall at the front of the store and includes photographs of local artists like Walt Aldridge and Travis Wammack, songwriters Billy Lawson and Chris Tompkins, a Shoals native who now resides in Nashville.

There are photos of the Osmonds, who recorded at FAME Recording Studios, and The Black Keys, whose Grammy-winning album Brothers was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

There is a Lynyrd Skynyrd road case covered in stickers and a red electric guitar signed by members of the band.

Glenn said local artists provided some of the items, as did Cooper. Songwriter Mark Narmore provided several items as did Peanutt and Charlene Montgomery, who co-authored a book about their relationship with the late country legend George Jones.

Peanutt Montgomery was a studio guitarist at FAME and wrote numerous songs for Jones. He and his wife own two businesses, Hobby Land and Charlene’s Variety, in downtown Sheffield that feature a variety of memorabilia from the early days of the local music scene.

Another large collection of photographs hangs in Swampers Bar & Grill at the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence.

Swampers has photos from the heyday of Muscle Shoals music throughout the restaurant and lounge. Nearly every available inch of wall space is filled with framed color and black-and-white photos.

There are also six acoustic guitars that are covered with signatures of Muscle Shoals artists and musicians with connections to the area.

On another wall behind a small stage where local musicians frequently play are several mounted T-shirts from FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound.

“From the get-go we were looking for a way to showcase that story and introduce the story of Muscle Shoals music to the 100,000 guests that go through the hotel each year,” General Manager Larry Bowser said. “To me, our music history and heritage is one of the greatest attractions the Shoals has.”

Another nod to the Shoals musical legacy are suites named after The Father of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Sam Phillips, and the Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy.

Phillips and Handy were both born in Florence.

In Sheffield, the Jameson Inn is building a collection of photos and memorabilia in the Singing River Bar & Grill. The lounge also features a weekly Shoals songwriters showcase hosted by local blues guitarist Max Russell.

On Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, The Trojan House began embracing the Shoals Music scene when it opened about five years ago.

“We’re just big music lovers,” co-owner Louisa Oswalt said of herself and her husband, Tommy. “There’s so much music history here.”

The sandwich shop also features live music, focusing heavily on young up-and-coming artists.

“We wanted to give the young kids a place to play,” she said.

Their collection reflects that.

Among photos of David Hood, Travis Wammack, Max Russell and Spooner Oldham are photos of artists that many people might not recognize, like McKenzie Lockhart and the Valley Roots.

Oswalt said the photos and memorabilia are educational because they help inform people who aren’t familiar with the area’s rich musical heritage.

Not to be left out, the Muscle Shoals City Hall has a large wood and glass display case featuring several pieces of Muscle Shoals music history, including several FAME label 45 rpm records, photographs of FAME founder Rick Hall with the late Duane Allman and the Osmonds. There are also several pieces of old WLAY radio memorabilia.

The North Alabama Regional Airport will soon have display cases that will feature Muscle Shoals music memorabilia.

“Our goal is to capture our musical heritage in conjunction with an aviation-based theme in our airport advertising promotional displays,” Airport Director Barry Griffith said.

Griffith said items will likely be displayed in the terminal area and inside the area where passengers arriving on private or commercial flights will enter the airport.

Griffith said the airport wants to be a part of the resurgence of Muscle Shoals music.

“We have formed a subcommittee that is an offshoot of the air services committee to look at how we want to decorate and advertise for the new terminal renovation,” Griffith said.

Griffith said at one time one of the “Hit Recording Capital of the World” signs was displayed in the terminal.

One photo he wants to display is The Rolling Stones getting off an airplane in 1969. The Stones were in town to record three tracks at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield.

There are also photos and other memorabilia at Champy’s Chicken in Muscle Shoals, Counts Brothers Music in Muscle Shoals and the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism office.