• Alabama Music Hall of Fame reopens Friday in the Shoals
  • Muscle Shoals, where everyone from Aretha to Mick came to record
  • Frank Stitt will be featured Sunday in The New York Times Magazine
  • Fifty years of cascading mums at Bellingrath Gardens and Home
  • Gulf Shores man kayaks entire Alabama Scenic River Trail
  • Love is in the air: CMT’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ at work on Season 4
  • Tuscaloosa and the U of A nominated in 10Best Readers Choice travel award contest
  • Thursday conference call about Travel South International Showcase
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events



Alabama Music Hall of Fame reopens Friday in the Shoals

The long-awaited reopening of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame will occur Friday at 10 a.m. in Tuscumbia with a number of musical stars. Producer Rick Hall, musicians David Hood, Spooner Oldham and Jimmy Johnson are among the veterans while the Secret Sisters and John Paul White of The Civil Wars are among current artists that will attend.

Later in the day, the widely acclaimed “Muscle Shoals” documentary will open in Birmingham and Florence. A 6 p.m. autograph party at the Carmike Regency 12 Theater in Florence will attract several stars.  The film, which received positive reviews in The New York Times and Boston Globe last week, will open at the Capri Theatre in Montgomery the following weekend.

Mike Goens wrote in The TimesDaily that a recent appearance of Muscle Shoals stars on the David Letterman Show generated lots of interest in the “Muscle Shoals” documentary.  “It indeed represented the legacy of Muscle Shoals music with the Swampers rhythm section members David Hood, Spooner Oldham and Jimmy Johnson along with talented lead-singer Candi Staton; and the present and future of Muscle Shoals music with one of hottest singers around in Jason Isbell as well as John Paul White of The Civil Wars.”


Muscle Shoals, where everyone from Aretha to Mick came to record

by Leah Sydney, Showbiz*411, Oct. 10

Actor Peter Fonda– still the hippest guy in town– and famed record producer Richard Perry (Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr, etc) hosted  a special screening of the music doc “Muscle Shoals” in LA Tuesday night. Peter’s wife Pinky was also a host. Fonda’s sister, Jane, who is also Perry’s significant other, was listed as a host but stuck in New York at a charity event.

The VIP event at the Landmark Theater also had guests the film’s director Greg Camalier as well as  Tommy Chong with his talented screenwriter daughter Robbi Chong, Peter Asher, Film and Television Composer John Swihart, Ex-Dire Straits Guitarist and Composer Hal Lindes, Composer Nicholas Pike and his musician son Alexander Pike, Actors Edward James Olmos and Gina Gershon.

Muscle Shoals is a small town in Alabama which is unknown to most Americans but certainly not to music lovers.  Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals is the breeding ground for some of American and as it turns out, British, creatively inspired music.  The River is called “Singing River” by Native Americans, that river is supposedly the source of its’ musical inspiration.  Director Greg Camalier and Producer Stephen Badger brilliantly bring the story of this unlikely musical oasis town to life.  Cameos by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Mick Jagger, Gregg Allman, Keith Richards, Bono (who didn’t record there but is a fan) and more, show what a vital part this tiny town had in shaping American music.

Richard Perry told me, “It’s a chronology of the story of the music business. It tells the story of a man, Rick Hall, who started from nothing in a little town in Alabama and turned it into one of the most important recording centers in the world.  It’s a story of triumph and tragedy. He had a lot of tragedy in his life and he prevailed. So it’s a very inspiring movie.”

Peter Fonda added, “Seeing how it all came together is a great history lesson.  While that lesson is being taught we’re being entertained by some of the greatest songs ever put down, all centered in the Blues.  All rock and roll comes from the Blues.  You wouldn’t get people like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to come to Muscle Shoals to record without them knowing that there was heavy metal there, I’m talking heavy water meaning the Tennessee River which is  radioactive musically.

“I don’t mind getting radioactive burns from this kind of film.  I want the whole world to see this movie.  It’s a national treasure.  It’s so good and at its’ heart, really pure American.  With Keith and Mick and even Stevie Winwood, all doing their thing.  The fact that all this footage is still around is unreal.  I’ve seen this film six times.  I’m going to keep on touting this movie, it’s just not hard to do.  I really dig this music.”

Director Greg Camalier told me how the film came about.  “We stumbled on this town.  My best friend and I who made the film together, Stephen Badger, were driving through and we quickly learned about it and were blown away.  We started to research it and discovered the luminous contribution to American music this town has made.  We knew we had to tell this story.”

Tommy Chong said: “I just finished a film where I played God called, ‘It’s Gawd,’ When I’m not playing God I’m touring with Cheech, which is kind of the same.”

‘Muscle Shoals’ is available on VOD and opens in LA at the Nuart on Oct 11.


Frank Stitt will be featured Sunday in The New York Times Magazine

The 30-year run of Highland’s Bar & Grill and legendary Birmingham chef Frank Stitt will be profiled in The New York Times Magazine this weekend. For the past five years, Highlands has been one of five finalists of the best restaurant in America, a major achievement for any chef. Stitt won previously for Best Chef in the South. He is considered the dean of Southern fine dining. His other Southside restaurants – Chez Fon Fon and the two Bottegas – are also destinations for foodies who travel to Alabama.

The Sunday newspaper is available in a number of Publix grocery stores.


Fifty years of cascading mums at Bellingrath Gardens and Home

In November 1963 Bellingrath Gardens and Home presented its first Cascading Mum display.  The special cascading mums were grown from cuttings taken at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  Each year the Cascading Mum display has become bigger and more creative.  Please come to Bellingrath this November to help us celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this horticultural creation.

Please see:


Gulf Shores man kayaks entire Alabama Scenic River Trail

by Jill Clair Gentry, editor Baldwin People,, Oct. 9

For Matt Reynolds, 18 days and 631 miles alone in a kayak was the most difficult and rewarding experience of his life.

“It took me three days to get to the starting point,” he says. “I kept thinking, ‘If it took that long going 80 mph, this is a ridiculous idea.”  But Matt did it anyway — he kayaked the entire Alabama Scenic River Trail, from near Rome, Ga. all the way to Fort Morgan.

During the 18-day trip, Matt says the hardest part was not the grueling 12- to 18-hour paddling days, the mosquitoes or even pulling his kayak for up to 7 miles on land to get around dams — it was being utterly alone for days at a time.

But when he did meet other people during the trip, he experienced generosity and friendliness like he never had before. People gave him food, drinks and encouraged him to keep going. “Everybody just wants to help,” he says. “They think you’re exhausted and you’re gonna die, and they want to help you push ahead to achieve your goal.”

Matt, a Gulf Shores native, University of Montevallo graduate and bartender at Lulu’s, started kayaking in college. He wanted to pursue an outdoor hobby, but he had broken his foot in a car accident and hiking wasn’t an option. Kayaking stuck, and Matt has been taking weeklong paddling trips for two years.

But the Alabama Scenic River Trail kept calling his name. So he decided over the summer he would do it in September.

Matt’s friend William Jones, who has kayaked with him from the beginning, says he never could have imagined the hobby could be taken to the level of an 18-day solo trip.

“I am so proud, and jealous, of what Matt accomplished on this trip,” Williams says. “He averaged about 35 miles a day. Physically, that was a very brutal schedule, and to paddle that distance on a solo trip is very impressive. He is a workhorse with a determination unmatched by anyone else I’ve ever met.”

To read the entire article, go to:

Love is in the air: CMT’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ at work on Season 4

 by Lawrence Specker,, Sept. 20

It’s official: The romantic reality show “Sweet Home Alabama” is back for a fourth season, and CMT plans to air it in November.

Production began in September, according to information released by CMT, and is again based in the Fairhope area.

The show premiered in July 2011 and drew such strong response that CMT aired three seasons virtually back to back. The show’s formula mixed dating with a country-versus-city dynamic: At the center of the action is one man or woman, working to find the right match from a crop of about 20 suitors. Those are divided between people with more rural, mostly Southern backgrounds and competitors with more cosmopolitan origins from elsewhere in the country. (There have been exceptions, such as Southerners from major cities and farmers from the Midwest.)

This time around, according to CMT, 11 city slickers and 11 country guys will vie for the affections of a Southern belle named Kelsey. According to a report at, that’s Kelsey Dee Smith of Tuscaloosa, who works as a model in California.

Many coastal Alabama locations were used as backdrops on the show, from Ladd-Peebles Stadium and Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile to the Flora-Bama and other sites throughout Baldwin County. Deep South Speedway has announced that the show’s production crew will be present this Saturday.

According to CMT, the fourth season of “Sweet Home Alabama” will premiere Nov. 8.

For the entire article and to see the contestants, go to:


Tuscaloosa and the U of A nominated in 10Best Readers Choice travel award contest

Remember to vote for Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama in the 10Best Readers Choice travel award contest as a contender for the “Best College Game Day Ambiance” category.  The contest is being promoted by USA TODAY, and will run for four weeks.  Voters can vote for the candidate of their choice at  Voters can vote once a day for the duration of the contest!

Voting ends on Oct. 21 and the winners will be announced on 10Best on Wednesday, Oct. 23, then later on USA TODAY.


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Oct. 28-30     Alabama-Mississippi Rural Tourism Conference, Guntersville

Nov. 17 – 19 Welcome Center Retreat, Gulf Shores

Dec. 3-6           International Showcase, Nashville

Dec. 12            Welcome Centers – Open House

Feb. 23-26, 2014     Travel South Domestic Showcase, Charleston, WV


The Alabama Tourism Department News is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry. The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

Alabama Tourism Department