• Beats Electronics backing Muscle Shoals upgrades
• Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours
• Hangout Festival injects $31 million into local economy
• Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q sauce makes Food Network magazine’s ’50 States, 50 Food Gifts’ list
• The Holy Ground 1813 Battle of Econochaca bicentennial
• Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
Beats Electronics backing Muscle Shoals upgrades
by AP,, Nov. 26
Jimmy Iovine and Luke Wood were so moved by the “Muscle Shoals” documentary, they’re putting up money to make sure the unique spirit of the Alabama music haven lives on.

The Beats Electronics officials are starting a program to refurbish and upgrade two historic studios in Muscle Shoals – FAME Recording Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio – then will install education programs to train a new generation of producers, audio engineers and musicians.

“We want to look back at another Muscle Shoals revival based on what was learned in these studios in the next five to 10 years,” said Wood, president of Beats.

Muscle Shoals, a quiet town in the northern part of the state, was a focal point of the music world for more than two decades. The town offered a wellspring of local talent that eventually got the attention of the biggest recording artists in the world. The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson and a surprisingly diverse group of artists made some of the best music of their careers working with FAME owner Rick Hall and the musicians he assembled in a long, prolific run.

North Alabama remains a fertile musical proving ground, with a thriving scene that includes Jason Isbell, Alabama Shakes and John Paul White, one-half of The Civil Wars. The Black Keys recently recorded their Grammy-winning album “Brothers” there in 2009. It was the first album recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 30 years. The building had fallen into disrepair, however, something Iovine and Wood discovered while doing more research on Muscle Shoals after watching Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s documentary.

Beats, in association with the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, will refurbish the building and install modern and vintage recording gear so future students can learn old and new techniques in the art of sound recording. Iovine, the Beats co-founder and Interscope Geffen A&M chairman who got his start as a producer, feels that art is being forgotten in the age of Pro Tools.

It’s not as much about the building. It’s the aesthetic and the culture we’re trying to maintain,” Iovine said. “It’s been passed down. That’s why it’s so good to have these places around the world because it’s a tribal thing, there’s a culture being passed down.”

Beats also will make upgrades to FAME where Hall, a protege of Sun Records’ Sam Phillips, housed a series of bands that helped write rock `n’ roll, soul and R&B history. One of those bands was The Swampers, whose members later opened the rival Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Beats will offer successful applicants the chance to work and learn in both studios when the restoration is complete. A portion of holiday sales of the company’s audio products will kick off the project.

“It’s a restoration project, but we don’t want it to be a museum,” Wood said. “We want it to be a living, breathing place where magic can happen again.”

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The Associated Press story has been picked up by more than 60 outlets including The Hollywood Reporter, Washington Post, Billboard, Bloomberg, Yahoo News and many other major local papers. Additionally, three other original stories have run –, The Celebrity Cafe and Quad Cities Daily.

Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours
Gov. and Mrs. Robert Bentley will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours on the first three Monday nights in December.

Designers from across the state have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours. More than 500 Christmas ornaments sent in by Alabama fourth-grade students will decorate displays around the mansion. “The Governor’s Mansion belongs to the people of Alabama and we want to share it with them during this wonderful season,” said Mrs. Bentley.

Alabama Tourism Department staff members will sign copies of their new book, Alabama Road Trips at the Governor’s Mansion gift shop on each of the nights. Grey Brennan will sign on Dec. 9, and state tourism director Lee Sentell will sign on Dec. 16. The hardcover book features stories on 100 cities across the state by geographic region, starting in North Alabama and ending with the Gulf Coast.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day. The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Avenue across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry Street in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951. The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

Each tour night will feature choirs from different areas of the state to entertain guests. The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Dec. 9 and 16.

More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion Candlelight Tours by going online to:

Hangout Festival injects $31 million into local economy
by Marc D. Anderson,, Dec. 2
Proving its worth, the three-day Hangout Music Festival has essentially extended the summer season on the Alabama Gulf Coast by infusing more than $31 million into the local economy during the traditional tourist “shoulder season” in May, according to results of an Auburn professor’s study.

M. Keivan Deravi, a professor of economics at Auburn University in Montgomery, revealed the city-funded study’s finding during Monday’s City Council meeting. “I just looked at the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area and the numbers are pretty impressive to be honest with you,” Deravi said.

Having done numerous economic impact studies across the state, including Airbus, Deravi said the Hangout Festival was a “unique event” that reaches well beyond the local economy.

Through the study it was reported that the festival reached an estimated 564 million people worldwide through social media, cable outlets and live-streaming video of the event. “It is more than dollars and cents,” Deravi said. But the dollars speak volumes.

In direct spending attributed to the day-to-day operations alone, the festival had an impact of $18.4 million, which is made up of entertainment sales, accommodation expenditures and food and other services, and it also created the equivalent of 418 full-time jobs.

The secondary spending caused by the increased demand from festival-goers outside normal business in the local economy boosted the total impact to an estimate $31.2 million, which Deravi called “super, super conservative,” and added another 106 full-time jobs.

An interesting piece to the study is that attendance was down in 2013 study year. In the previous two years about 35,000 people attended the event while this year’s attendance was estimated at 27,000, which was partially attributed to higher fees for condo and other accommodation rentals.
Deravi said the festival has effectively pushed the traditional summer season — Memorial Day weekend to early August — back a week by increasing the pre-event occupancy rate for that third weekend in May from 30 percent to 90 percent. The festival also targets a tourism market not usually tapped by Alabama’s Gulf beaches, including Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas. Of the 27,000 concertgoers, 80 percent reported that they were from out of state.

In order to pull off the event that businessman Shaul Zislin founded and organizes, the report estimated that roughly $13 million was spent on the 2013 festival. Of that total, an estimated $9 million was spent locally, including reimbursing the city $132,000 for its services.

Mayor Robert Craft said the festival helped the area rebound from the 2010 oil spill as the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded the month before the inaugural festival kicked off. The concert spawned performances later that summer by superstar Jimmy Buffett, rocker Jon Bon Jovi and award-winning country artist Brad Paisley in support of the Gulf Coast and funded by BP.

“It was truly an extraordinary opportunity for us and continues to be an economic opportunity because the world knows we’re open for business now,” Craft said. “The economic impact it has on the community is pretty significant and our opportunity to have another weekend that is comparable to the Fourth of July as being one of our major weekends of the year that was typically a 30 percent occupancy preseason weekend has been an incredible economic boost to the community.”

The mayor said the city continues to work closely with Zislin to protect the city’s family-friendly image and reviews the festival’s plans each year. Reports of undesirable people attending the event are overstated, according to Deravi, as demographics reveal most of the concertgoers are from higher income brackets. “I didn’t see anything in the study that can validate the concern,” Deravi said.

During the oil spill, Deravi said he stood in the same spot in Gulf Shores’ council chambers as he started to analyze the impact of the disaster. “When oil spill happened (then) Gov. (Bob) Riley dispatched me to this area,” Deravi said. “I can really truly share with you that the exposure that we received as a result of the oil spill was so negative in terms of tourism … and that the positive exposure that we have here is tremendous positive news for me, personally speaking.”

With one more year of a five-year city commitment left, Zislin’s fourth installment of the Hangout Festival is slated for May 16-18 at and around the public beach in Gulf Shores.

To see the entire article, go to:

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q sauce makes Food Network magazine’s ’50 States, 50 Food Gifts’ list
by Matt Wake,, Nov. 25
Decatur’s Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q Original White Sauce has gone from being a signature North Alabama condiment to nationwide stocking stuffer.

Food Network Magazine includes the Gibson sauce in its “50 States, 50 Food Gifts” list, featured in the publication’s new holiday issue, hitting newsstands Nov. 26. The magazine’s editors, correspondents and reporters selected the list, which spotlights one food item gift from each state.

Here’s what Food Network Magazine scribes have to say about Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q Original White Sauce, which dates back to 1925: “Local legend Bob Gibson invented this favorite ‘Bama sauce, and his family restaurant still slathers it on chicken, pork and more.”

Bottles of the sauce are available for $4.75 (plus $5 and up for shipping) via
“This is the first year for this particular list, but we’ve done ’50 States’ lists for the past few years, including ’50 States, 50 Sandwiches’ and ’50 States, 50 Pizzas,’ among others,” Food Network Magazine spokesperson Carrie Morris says via e-mail.

You can check out Food Network Magazine’s entire list here:

The Holy Ground 1813 Battle of Econochaca
The War of 1812/Creek War Bicentennial

The Battle of the Holy Ground will be reenacted at Holy Ground Battlefield Park
in Lowndes County, Dec. 7 and 8. Camps will, once again, be erected along the cliffs of the Alabama River for the Creek village of Econochaca, the Territorial Militia, the Choctaw Alliance and the 3rd US Infantry to help re-tell one of the brave stories of the Creek War that burned through the soon-to-be state 200 years ago.

Period camps and displays will be open to the public both days, with battle reenactments at 1:30 p.m., Sat. and 12:30 p.m., Sun. Park visitors may observe the battle from the overlook boardwalk in the park, as the warriors and soldiers fight in the woods beneath you. There is no admission charge. Gates open at 10 a.m. each day and close at 4 p.m.

For more information contact: US Army Corps of Engineers, Alabama River Lakes Site Office, (334) 872-9554

For detailed directions & park info, go to: /

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
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: