48 INVESTIGATES: Can music give the Shoals a sound economy? - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

48 INVESTIGATES: Can music give the Shoals a sound economy?

Since the 1960s, the area has been known for its "Muscle Shoals Sound." (Source: WAFF) Since the 1960s, the area has been known for its "Muscle Shoals Sound." (Source: WAFF)
(Source: WAFF) (Source: WAFF)

The resurgence of the music scene in the Shoals has put northwest Alabama back in the national spotlight.

But with the revitalization of the music industry, the manufacturing industry has lost hundreds of jobs over the last 24 months.

The question remains: Can the music industry fix the Shoals economy?

Since the 1960s, the area has been known for its "Muscle Shoals Sound," and it is home to some of the most iconic recording studios known for producing hit records that shaped the history of music.

READ MORE: FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, and Alabama Music Hall of Fame

“Some of the most timeless music you've ever heard was created in Muscle Shoals and that story wasn't told,” said Halley Phillips, industry-insider and granddaughter of Sam Phillips, the Father of Rock-N-Roll.

The story wasn't told until 2013, when Stephen Badger and Greg 'Freddy' Camalier re-introduced Muscle Shoals to the world, first with a documentary, and now with plans for a mini-series produced by Johnny Depp.

“There are so many people that I encountered here who are like, 'I had no idea that Muscle Shoals had this history,” explained Fletch Brown, another industry-insider. “Now granted, there are a lot of people who did, but what this has done now, it's made the world look at Muscle Shoals in a very, very serious way.“

MORE: WC Handy Music Festival: The Sound of The Shoals

The rejuvenation of the Muscle Shoals Sound has been on the forefront of the area’s tourism industry since late 2012, filling hotels and restaurants all while visitors take in the sights and sounds of the Shoals.

"I think the key thing to remember about Muscle Shoals is that it's still here and we look at other areas, pockets of music genres around the country, there is no more grunge rock coming out of Seattle, I mean there might be, Atlanta, Georgia is still fairly hot,” explained UNA Economics Professor David Black. "But in terms of the overall impact of the music industry, Muscle Shoals still has a strong, strong impact.”

While the music industry has seen a growth, the manufacturing industry in the Shoals has taken a hit losing hundreds of jobs with the closure of several plants including Hillshire and Hon.

Despite the loss, UNA Economics Professor David Black says the cultural variety in the Shoals has helped to pick up where those closures left off.

“I don't see we have totally declined, we've been somewhat stagnant I think that's true nationwide as well, but I also see a vibrancy a true real vitality out there,” said Black

With the renovations at 3614 Jackson Highway, 116 Mobile Plaza, new studios and new artists are moving in to the area and bringing jobs with them.

“Music is still music, but the way it's produced, distributed and consumed has changed drastically,” said Black.

“I think we're in a special window of time right now, I think people are discovering the things that have happened and people are getting interesting the quality of sound again and it excites me," explained Phillips. "Vinyl records are trending right now, I hope that means they care about the quality of sound and it's not just a fad."

Phillips is equally as passionate as her grandfather was about the area and the sound.

MORE: Flyin' Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips

Phillips has recently ventured more into her grandfather's footsteps managing a Shoals-born band "The Local Saints."

“I feel like history is being made now, there's still so much talent here there's so many new artists in this area,” she said.

“What has been done here is still happening here, it's not ancient history, it's today's history it's right now, the energy is still here, the talent is still here the desire is still here and now all you're seeing is the focus is back,” explained Brown.

Brown said the ship for success has done anything but drift away.

“The ship hasn't sailed, it's still boarding and it's still unloading," he said.

Phillips agrees and said, “I think we're in a position right now with the spot light that's been put on the area to hopefully expose something new and a new chapter for this area."

Hits like "When a Man Loves A Woman," "Respect," "Brown Sugar," and "Mustang Sally" keep visitors coming back for more.

“There are always market opportunities if another good song comes along, the industry, the market will change," explained Black. "The creativity, the excitement will drive itself."

Economists say the thrill of creating the next major hit to come from Muscle Shoals is enough to help keep the local economy afloat.

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