Sheffield in Colbert County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
The Singing River Sculpture
In Sheffield, Alabama
This sculpture is dedicated to the many individuals whose efforts made Sheffield and the Muscle Shoals area the “Hit Recording Capital of the World,” and to those who continue that legacy.
Legend of the Singing River
The Yuchi and other early inhabitants who lived along the banks of the mighty Tennessee River held the legend of the Spirit Woman who lived in the river, protected them, and sang to them. If the river was angry, She sang to them loudly; if the river was peaceful, She sang softly and sweetly, sometimes humming a comforting lullaby. Some say that all they heard was the high waters mighty rush and roar over the mussel shoals, or at other times, the calm low waters babbling through the river rocks. Other say She is real and can still be seen in the early morning mist, hovering over the waters, just as She did those many years ago. In her honor, they called it the Singing River , and in her honor, we named these sculptures the Singing River Sculptures.
The World-changing Muscle Shoals Music
From throughout the 20th Century to the present, Muscle Shoals area artist, musicians,
Many of the world’s greatest performers began their ascent to stardom in Muscle Shoals. Artist, such as Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, the Staples Singers, Bob Seger, along with many others, quickly created a legacy which earned the area the title, “Hit Recording Capitol of the World.”
The area grew as a music center by drawing together people of all races and religions. In the 1960s, despite the segregation of the races enforced outside the studios, great soul classic were being created in the studios with each musician contributions his innate musical talent. The collaborations created some of the most widely loved music of the 20th century, including Steal Away, Mustang Sally, Tell Mama, Patches, Respect Yourself, and many others.
The warning issued in Arthur Alexander’s You Better Move On got the attention of the Rolling Stones. The Beatles heard Alexander’s song, Anna, and each band acknowledged their respect for Alexander and his writing by recording their version of his
The songwriting tradition continues as one of the strongest facets of Muscle Shoals music, with area songwriters penning songs such as, I Loved Her First, I Swear, Blown Away, Before He Cheats, and hundreds of other hits over the decades.
v The heart and soul of Muscle Shoals music has always been the players and singers. Four members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were immortalized in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, Sweet Home Alabama. The lyric, “Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers” and “they’ve been known to pick a song or two,” honors Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, David Hood,and Roger Hawkins, studio musicians who produced and played on hundreds of hits recorded at area studios from the late 1960s until the mid-1980s.
Sheffield and Its Contributions to this Golden Era
Sheffield made major contributions to the area’s music heritage and to the creation of the Muscle Shoals sound. The first audio recording studio in the Muscle Shoals area was constructed in a Sheffield garage in 1950 by Dexter Johnson. His nephew, Jimmy Johnson, would go on to become one of the Swampers, immortalized in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, Sweet Home Alabama, Johnson, along with Swampers, David Hood, Roger Hawkins, and Barry Beckett, established Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield in 1969 and operated
The area’s first Number One record and first Gold Record, Percy Sledge’s When A Man Loves A Woman, was recorded by Quin Ivy and Marlin Greene at NorAla studio on 2nd Street. Proceeds from that hit allowed Ivy to construct Quinvy and South Camp labels. In 1973 Ivy sold the facility to his studio manager and recording engineer David Johnson, who renamed it Broadway Sound Studios and recorded artists into the 1980s.
Recording has continued to be a prolific industry in Sheffield over the last six decades.
The City of Sheffield, Alabama
Ian Sanford, Mayor
Audwin Pierre McGee Sculptor
Historical commentary by Dick Cooper, David Anderson and Bill Matthews
Fiscal Agent: Tennessee Valley Art Association
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the The Beatles series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 2012.
Location. 34° 45.764′ N, 87° 41.926′ W. Marker is in Sheffield, Alabama, in Colbert County. Marker is at the intersection of North Montgomery Avenue and Alabama Avenue, on the left when traveling north on Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Sheffield AL 35660, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. History of Sheffield (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Percy Sledge/Producer Quin Ivy (approx. 0.2 miles away); President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (approx. 0.3 miles away); In Memory of Our Comrades of Sheffield (approx. 0.4 miles away); Furnace Hill (approx. 0.6 miles away); Sheffield Colored School / Sterling High School (approx. 0.7 miles away); Nitrate Plant No. 1 (approx. 0.8 miles away); a different marker also named Nitrate Plant No. 1 (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sheffield.
Also see . . . Singing River Sculptures. Tennessee River Valley Tourism (Submitted on June 10, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
Credits. This page was last revised on February 21, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 10, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. This page has been viewed 740 times since then and 134 times this year. Last updated on February 21, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on June 10, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.