Tourism Tuesdays March 1, 2016

Alabama Music Hall of Fame Banquet another success

·Alabama Tourism Department to conduct live broadcasts on Periscope

·Year 10: Buy Alabama’s Best campaign kicks off

·Alabama Tourism Partnership German website launched

·Altitude acquires Jesse Owens biopic ‘Race’ for UK

·Two Alabama cities among Southern Living’s 2016 Best Small Towns in the South

·Black Belt’s bamboo bike boom

·Alabama outdoor destinations a hit with Canadians

·Music star eats at Saw’s BBQ, Birmingham

·Alabama Tourism Workshop date change

·Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama Music Hall of Fame Banquet another success
By Russ Corey,, Feb. 29

A star-studded evening brought out a wide array of musicians, elected officials and passionate fans for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Induction Banquet.

The 2016 class of inductees includes keyboardist Chuck Leavell, singer Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay, the band Wet Willie, the Muscle Shoals Horns, and producer/engineer Johnny Sandlin.

Leavell, who is on tour in South America with the Rolling Stones, could not attend. But as a special treat, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts congratulated Leavell in a video.

“Hello, everybody,” Mick Jagger said. “How fantastic that you are inducting Chuck into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. We want to say that Chuck is just the most amazing keyboard player. He’s really worthy of this great honor that you’ve given to him.”

“Sorry he couldn’t be with you tonight,” Keith Richards said.

“It’s our fault, really,” Ronnie Wood added.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame board chairman Bill Newton said in a prepare statement that having the Rolling Stones induct a new member via international video ranks as one of the more exciting episodes in the museum’s 25 years of honoring the state’s music legends.

“This was really exciting for all who attended tonight,” Newton said. “Everybody will remember this video.”

Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Office, which helped stage the banquet and show, said the banquet is “an invaluable event because the people of the Muscle Shoals community are celebrating the great talent that comes from this state. And they have invested resources to make the hall of fame stronger than ever.”

The evening was filled with inspired performances, by the inductees in attendance as well as the house band of Muscle Shoals Allstars.

Bill Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, was among those present for the show.

“This is one of the most important opportunities we have because this represents so many of the best things about our state,” he said. “This puts us on the international map. The effect Muscle Shoals music has had on music worldwide – this is ground zero.”

At the beginning of the show, Newton presented original Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King with the “Sweet Home Alabama” award for being an ambassador for Alabama music.

“Can I keep it?” King joked as he accepted the award. King had earlier started the show with the unmistakable guitar licks from “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Sandlin, the first inductee, was introduced by his friends Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton.

“One of the great things about Johnny is he’s not afraid of new ideas,” said Talton, who along with Boyer formed the Capricorn Records band Cowboy.

Boyer said Sandlin was the person responsible for bringing him to the Shoals, where he has been a fixture in the music scene for years.

“He’s a special guy,” Boyer said. “I hope the good Lord will watch over him and keep him safe, because he’s a special guy.”

Musician turned author David Gans introduced Donna Jean Godchaux Mackay, the first and only woman to play with The Grateful Dead.

“This really has been a long, strange trip, but it’s been a wonderful one,” Godchaux Mackay said.

She thanked her mentor Jeanie Greene for helping her get into the music business and the musicians who touched her life, from those in Muscle Shoals to the those on the West Coast.

She thanked The Grateful Dead “for introducing me to improvisational music that included all kinds of music.”

Horn player Tom “Bones” Malone, who recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios on Alabama Avenue in 1998, inducted the Muscle Shoals Horns.

“I was so honored that he asked me to induct them,” Malone said. “Their history speaks for itself.”

Malone is known for his role in the blockbuster movie “The Blues Brothers,” which starred John Belushi and Dan Ackyroyd and an all-star band. He played with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra and has recorded with countless artists over his long career.

The Muscle Shoals Horns played on Malone’s 1998 album “Soulbones,” which was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound and produced by Wolf Stevenson, the vice-president and chief engineer at Malaco Records. Malaco owned the studio from 1985-2005.

“I lived in the studio for about 10 days,” Malone said.

Stephenson said he produced 104 albums at Malaco featuring The Muscle Shoals Horns beginning in the mid 1970s.

Capricorn Records producer/engineer Paul Hornsby, a fixture in the early years of Capricorn Records, accepted Chuck Leavell’s award on his behalf.

“Chuck was always like the little brother coming up,” Hornsby said. “He was a child prodigy for sure.”

Hornsby said inducting Leavell is fitting since Leavell inducted him into the hall of fame in 2010.

“Turnabout is fair play,” Hornsby said.

Leavell spoke to the crowd through a prerecorded video and thanked his mother for teaching him how to play piano.

He said she taught him to think of music as feelings, emotions and colors.

When he told his mother he wanted to be a musician when he grew up, his mother told him, “well son, you can’t do both.”

Hornsby said the induction banquet had a very “Macon, Georgia” feel to it with Leavell, Sandlin and Wet Willie all being inducted on the same night. All three were part of the early days of Southern rock that was born in Macon at Capricorn Records.

Hornsby said it seems as if he and Sandlin have been making music forever.

“Me and Johnny pretty much had parallel careers since about 1964,” he said. “We were in bands together and came to work at Capricorn. We were both staff producers. We spend a lot of time together.”

Nashville singer Mike Farris gave Wet Willie a rousing introduction reminiscent of a church sermon.

He said singer Wet Willie singer Jimmy Hall “sang like his britches were on fire” and was “the singer Mick Jagger wishes he could be.”

“Yeah, I said it,” Farris said.

The band closed the show with their classic hit “Keep on Smilin.”

“This is a great event,” said Al Head, executive director of the Alabama state Council on the Arts. “This is a great way to showcase Alabama musicians and the great tradition of Muscle Shoals music. This shines a positive light on the state of Alabama.”

Three hall of fame inductees who passed away in the past year were remembered as well: Percy Sledge, Billy Sherrill and Sonny James.

The hall of fame banquet has some loyal followers, not the least of them Florence native Jay Leavitt, who now lives in Richmond, Virginia, where he owns a record shop. He attended the first one in 1985 and has worked as a volunteer at every one since then.

“My dream job was to work at the hall of fame, and travel around and tell people about Muscle Shoals music,” he said. “I’ve kept up with it since before the Rolling Stones recorded here.”

Why does he keep coming back? It’s a passion of mine,” Leavitt said.

To read this article online, go to:


Former Alabama Music Hall of Fame Inductees

1985: Rick Hall, Nat “King” Cole, Hank Williams, Buddy Killen

1987: Sonny James, W.C. Handy, Sam Phillips, Jerry Wexler

1989: Delmore Brothers, Erskine Hawkins, William Levi Dawson, Joe L. Frank

1991: Dinah Washington, The Louvin Brothers, J.T. “Fess” Whatley, James Joiner

1993: ALABAMA, Tammy Wynette, Percy Sledge, Curley Putman, Jimmie Rodgers

1995: Martha Reeves, The Commodores, Billy Sherrill, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Jake Hess

1997: Lionel Richie, William Lee Golden, The Speer Family, Kelso Herston, Don Davis, Rose Maddox

1999: The Temptations, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Goldsboro, David Briggs, Donna Hilley

2001: Jim Nabors, Freddie Hart, Hugh Martin, J.R. Baxter

2003: Emmylou Harris, Clarence Carter, Eddie Floyd, Mack Vickery, James Reese Europe

2005: Norbert Putnam, Ray Sawyer, Vern Gosdin, The Thrasher Brothers, Arthur Alexander

2008: Donnie Fritts, Tommy Shaw, Cleveland Eaton, Ernie Ashworth, Boyd Bennett

2010: Blind Boys of Alabama, Eddie Levert, Buddy Buie, Jerry Carrigan, Paul Hornsby, Terry Thompson, Bobby Denton

2014: Candi Staton, Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn, Hank Locklin, Charlie Monk, Sun Ra  

Alabama Tourism Department to conduct live broadcasts on Periscope

 The Alabama Tourism Department will be conducting live broadcasts of the 2016 Year of Alabama Makers announcements on Periscope.  There will be two broadcasts airing on Thur., March 3.  The first will be 10 a.m. at Sloss Furnaces-Visitors Center, Birmingham.  The second will be 2 p.m. at C&P Mercantile store (former Kress on Dexter Holiday Pop-Up Shop), Montgomery.   

You may find the live broadcasts on Alabama Tourism Department’s Periscope account named @TweetHomeAlabama.  You may also view the broadcast by clicking the link on the Tweet that will be sent out on our Twitter Account by the same name, @TweetHomeAlabama.  Jo Jo Terry, Digital Marketing Director said, “Don’t worry if you don’t have Periscope or Twitter accounts, the broadcasts will be available on Facebook as well.”  ATD’s Facebook account is Alabama Travel. 

Tune in to see and hear about the exciting events and spotlights that will be part of the Year of Alabama Makers.

Year 10: Buy Alabama’s Best campaign kicks off

By Kym Klass, Montgomery Advertiser, Feb. 24

At the 10th annual kickoff of the Buy Alabama’s Best campaign – designed to educate consumers on products made in the state – it was noted that people are becoming more interested in who grows their food.

“It’s a big deal,” John McMillan, commissioner of agriculture and industries, said Wednesday at the Capitol City Club, where retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers from throughout the state gathered. “It makes a lot of difference where the produce is grown.”

The campaign, designed to inform and educate consumers on what products are made, produced, manufactured and/or headquartered in Alabama, has raised more than $600,000 in 10 years. A portion of the sale of participating Alabama products during the months of March and September will go to Children’s of Alabama to help find a cure for childhood cancer. Beginning in March, retailers throughout the state will support the campaign in their stores, with Alabama product displays, ads, signage, special promotions and will sell Children’s of Alabama icons to support the fight to find a cure for pediatric cancer.

Alabama food product sales have a $2 billion impact in Alabama’s economy, tax base and along with the grocery and food service industries, employ one out of every four Alabamians.

Representative Mac McCutcheon, Alabama House of Representatives, District 25 presented a resolution celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Buy Alabama’s Best Campaign, where the Alabama Grocers Association, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers Association met to discuss goals for 2016.

“We’re very excited to continue to promote Alabama products to consumers and let them know how important it is to support Alabama products within the state,” said Ellie Taylor, president of the Alabama Grocers Association. “In conjunction with our program, we also support Children’s of Alabama and continue to give to that … every year. We gave over $35,000 this past year and since the campaign started, we’ve given about $675,000, and probably after this year, we’ll be close to a quarter of a million dollars.”

Companies involved in the campaign include Barber’s Dairy, Buffalo Rock Company/Pepsi, Dreamcakes, Fiddlesticks Firestarter, Conecuh Sausage and Dirt Road Gourmet.

“We’re grateful that the state of Alabama loves Dreamland BBQ,” Stacey Lewis, special projects manager for Dreamland BBQ, said Wednesday. “We’re just trying to get everyone aware that we offer (products), that it’s available on line … and in stores. We’ve been around since 1958. And based on our relationship with our guests and our clients and in our stores that we cater to, we’d like to think that we’ll be around for another 58 years or so.”

Since the campaign started 10 years ago, it has grown. But it’s equally important to consider what it is doing for the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, McMillan said.

“It’s a fantastic facility, and every year, they come up with a good contribution to that hospital that benefits all of us in Alabama,” he said. “In addition to that, we are fortunately seeing a growth in food processing and manufacturing in Alabama. We’re seeing more locally grown food products, and that’s a super thing that I think we we’ve got a great potential for as we move into the future. This is an area that is really starting to grow in Alabama. We’ve got some companies that are really fixing to start big time in the food processing in Alabama, (including) Brundidge and Foley, and in other parts of the state.”

Buying the Best

For a complete list of Buy Alabama’s Best participating companies, visit:

To read this article online, go to:


Alabama Tourism Partnership German website launched

The German market has a new site for Alabama tourism information.  The site, developed by Textransfer Communications, includes an introduction page with an overview in the German language of some of the state’s most important tourism destinations.  The home page also includes the three German language videos, one each on outdoors, music and history destinations.

The site can be found at

In addition to the home page, there is a full webpage of tourism information from North Alabama, Huntsville and Birmingham.

The North Alabama section highlights music in the Muscle Shoals, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Helen Keller home, Ave Maria Grotto, Unclaimed Baggage and Little River Canyon and includes a link to each site and to the North Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Assocation.

The Huntsville section highlights the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Space Camp, Huntsville Botanical Garden, Burritt on the Mountain, Harrison Brothers Hardware, Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment and includes a link to each site and to the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Birmingham section highlights Vulcan Park and Museum, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Negro Southern League Museum with links to each site and to the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Textransfer Communications is headed by Wolgang Steiborger. His company is the German In-Market Representative firm for Alabama Tourism Partnership.

For more information on Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts in the German market, contact


Altitude acquires Jesse Owens biopic ‘Race’ for UK

Altitude Film Distribution has acquired the UK distribution rights to Stephen Hopkins’ Race, which follows black athlete Jesse Owens’ meteoric rise to become four-time Olympic gold medalist at the 1936 games in Nazi Germany.

The movie should boost tourism for Alabama.  Jesse Owens was born in Alabama and the Jessie Owens Memorial Park and museum is located in Oakville, Alabama.  Grey Brennan, Alabama Tourism Department Regional and International Director, says the Jesse Owens movie RACE is the latest in a string of movies that are being shown around the world.  “The Muscle Shoals documentary, the movie Selma, and now RACE are all important to marketing Alabama to the international market.”  In addition to RACE a movie on Hank Williams life will be released soon, making a total of four recent movies tied to important museums and events in Alabama.

To see an article from ScreenDaily on the UK distribution rights, go to:

For more information on how Alabama Tourism markets to the UK market, contact:


Two Alabama cities among Southern Living’s 2016 Best Small Towns in the South

By Lucy Berry,, Feb. 23

Two Alabama towns are being honored for their charm and unique offerings by Southern Living Magazine.

The popular lifestyle publication has recognized 20 cities in the 2016 South’s Best Small Towns list. Fairhope, often called the “jewel of the Eastern Shore” with only 16,000 residents, was one of them.

Florence, referred to as the “Renaissance City,” was also included in the list. Here’s what the Birmingham magazine had to say:

Fairhope:  “You have to tip your hat to a place that considers its municipal pier the ‘town square.’ That’s the charm of this bayside burg, originally founded as a utopian society in the late 19th century. Fairhope’s knack for creative thinking is reflected in the many artists and authors who call it home and the galleries that dominate downtown.

Florence: “This great old college town on the edge of the Tennessee River oozes creativity, from hometown heroes W.C. Handy (the father of blues) and legendary record producer Sam Phillips to contemporary designers Billy Reid and Natalie Chanin. Experience the town’s creative vibe during First Friday sidewalk art shows or by perusing renowned galleries such as ARTifacts. Wander through one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic designs at the Rosenbaum House. Just down the road is Muscle Shoals, home of FAME Studios, where Aretha Franklin recorded ‘I Never Loved a Man’ (her first big hit), Wilson Pickett recorded ‘Mustang Sally,’ and Etta James recorded ‘Tell Mama.’

Today, it’s a magnet for young Southern bands attracted by its storied pedigree.”

To read this entire article online, go to:


Black Belt’s bamboo bike boom

By Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser, Feb. 22

Pam Dorr laughs at the idea that a bicycle made out of bamboo would be flimsy. It’s not the first time she’s heard that kind of skepticism.

“We just built one for a 300-pound guy in Colorado who’s on pretty rough roads,” Dorr said. “He told me, ‘I’m a big guy, and I want it to last.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’ll get a thick piece of bamboo for you.’”

She doesn’t have to go far to get it. There’s enough within a block of her group’s workshop in Greensboro to build several hundred bamboo bikes a year, and much more in the surrounding area.

Dorr moved there a little more than 10 years ago to head up a Black Belt nonprofit meant to kickstart a resurgence for Hale County. The goal was to build affordable housing, spur economic development and start youth development programs. Bamboo bikes offered one unique path to doing that.

“We develop products out of stuff we have, and what we’ve got a lot of is bamboo,” said Dorr, executive director of the Hale Empowerment Revitalization Organization and its offshoot, HERObike.

They formed a partnership with the School of Architecture at the University of Kansas, where professor Lance Rake and students help with design work for the bikes. The result is a carbon fiber-laced bamboo frame that appeals to racers and enthusiasts.

“Bamboo is kind of shock absorbing, so you don’t really have to wear padded shorts if you’re a racer,” Dorr said. “It gives a more comfortable ride.”

Other companies make bamboo bikes, but at a cost of about $600 to about $2,500 HERObike is among the least expensive options. That’s led to people around the world buying the Greensboro bikes online — most of their sales come from France, Germany, Japan and Thailand.

HERO uses the money to build affordable housing, and bicycles are far from their only project.

The nonprofit’s PieLab bakes and sells homemade pies while teaching job skills for the retail and hospitality industry.

The youth program will spend part of the summer drying algae out of fish ponds to clean the water and use the by-product for home fertilizer.

They’re also planning to install solar energy technology at businesses in the Black Belt that have over $20,000 a month in power bills. Dorr said projects like that help the community while also teaching green technology.

“It’s a lot easier to learn it if you’re doing it,” she smiles.

Meanwhile, KU professor Rake is researching some new uses for bamboo.

HERObike has already branched out into making bamboo skateboards, electric bikes, paddleboards and kids’ pushbikes. It even holds workshops to teach people how to make their own bamboo bikes.

About 30 people work there now, a total that goes up and down depending on demand.

The Black Belt, a strip of counties in mostly west and southwest Alabama, has struggled with poverty and unemployment for years. Hale County’s unemployment rate was 1.5 percent higher than the state average in December, but that was still 3 percent lower than neighboring Greene and Perry counties.

To read this article online, go to:


Alabama outdoor destinations a hit with Canadians

A team of Alabama tourism experts fielded 3-days of questions from Canadians looking for warm weather outdoor activities at the Outdoor Adventure Show Feb 19-21 in Toronto.  There were 27,400 in attendance.

Alabama’s booth was in a section that included Kentucky, Utah, Colorado, Texas and North Florida.  The Alabama booth was double the size of any one of those booths and the only booth to have experts in different fields of outdoors activities.

As part of the Alabama team, Jim Fielder of the Alabama Scenic River Trail was the expert for paddle and hiking information.  Israel Partridge of True Adventure Sports was the expert for extreme adventure sports. Phillip Darden of Auburn was the expert on Mountain Bike experiences in Alabama.  Herb Malone was Alabama’s expect on gulf coast beach and adventures. Pam Swanner was the expert on the Black Belt region, including hunting, fishing, whitewater and other adventure sports.

Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department also attended the consumer show and represented all other destinations in Alabama. “By having experts in several different outdoor activities, the Alabama booth stayed completely busy during the event.  The engagement with the crowd was robust.”

A special brochure of the Alabama Top Trails was developed with the help of the Alabama Scenic River Trail and members of the Alabama Trails Commission.  The brochure included top cycling, paddling, mountain biking, hiking trails as well as off road facilities and equestrian sites. Midway through the 3rd day of show, all 360 of the Alabama Top Trail brochures had been given out along with boxes of Alabama Vacation Guides, Gulf Shores/Orange Beach guides, Alabama State Parks brochures and food information. Other brochures and information in demand was Alabama Mountain Biking, Gulf Shores Scuba Driving, Alabama Black Belt Adventures and the Alabama highway map.

This is the second year that Alabama Tourism has had a booth at this show.   In the same building, the Toronto Golf Show was also underway and Alabama golf destinations were in attendance.

For more information on Alabama Tourism Department’s marketing efforts in the Canadian market, contract


Music star eats at Saw’s BBQ, Birmingham

By Associated Press, The Washington Times, Feb 20

Customers and employees of a barbecue restaurant in Alabama did a double take when they noticed a famous face among them.

Country music star Lyle Lovett made a pit stop at Saw’s BBQ in Homewood and posted the picture of his visit on social media, the ( reported. The Grammy-winning singer is strolling through Alabama’s major cities for his and Vince Gill’s “Songs and Stories Tour,” which kicked off Tuesday night in Montgomery.

Nick Bennati was working in the back when he heard there was a celebrity present. When he checked on it, he said everyone was leaning over to glance.

Bennati couldn’t recall any other celebrities who have unexpectedly dropped by Saw’s.

“He’s on a short list of them,” he said.

Bennati said everyone seemed to know who he was but were too timid to approach. Two customers, Brian and Brad Simmons, did ask to meet the star. That photo ended up on Lovett’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

“I enjoyed meeting Brian and Brad and getting to visit with them. They said they were in the food business and were driving to Houston to attend the True Value Spring Reunion,” Lovett wrote.

Lovett’s visit was a welcomed one for Saw’s BBQ. The restaurant won top rookie honor in the Alabama Tourism Department’s Alabama Barbecue Battle last year.

In his post, Lovett wrote that had collard greens and cornbread with my coleslaw and sampler plate.” He also posted a photo of Saw’s employees Kendall Banks and Annette Nealey, who were behind the counter when he placed his order.

As for his thoughts on Saw’s BBQ, Lovett wrote, “The barbecue at SAW’s was excellent Southern-style barbecue, chicken with white sauce and pork—no beef. Sides were also Southern-style. I had collard greens and cornbread with my coleslaw and sampler plate. The service was fast and friendly.”

To read this article online, go to:


Alabama Tourism Workshop date change

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wed., April 27.  This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area. 

Watch upcoming editions of this newsletter for more information on the workshop.

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

April 27                       Alabama Tourism Department Workshop                      Montgomery



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