Situated on the celebrated Tennessee River—often called the Singing River—Florence, Alabama, exudes a quaint, unassuming feel despite its well-established prominence rooted in the arts—most notably, the musical arts. Legend has it that early Native American settlers said the running waters of the surrounding river sounded like song. Since then, the region’s musical heritage has been attributed to the river’s mythical influence.
“The Shoals,” a four-city area that encompasses Florence, was the music industry’s hailed recording hub in the 1960s, claiming artists such as Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, and many more. W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues, and Sam Phillips and Buddy Killen, the Fathers of Rock and Roll, were all born in Florence. Recording studios still permeate the area, and many musicians call the town home, making it a prime destination for great live music.
Music tours of The Shoals and sites like the W.C. Handy Birthplace, Museum & Library provide a broad introduction to the area’s musical roots. Still, the city has much more to offer, with a cultural scene that extends to remarkable architecture and artistry.