Tourism Tuesdays March 26, 2019

Tourism industry’s legislative reception set for April 3

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2019 Spring tourism workshop

Alabama: Something in the water

Chubbfathers named one of best 50 burgers in America

14 movies that filmed in Alabama, 2018-2019

100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama brochure being updated

Welcome Center welcome tourism partners

Statewide walking tours begin in April

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Tourism industry’s legislative reception set for April 3
The Alabama tourism industry is honoring members of the 2019 Alabama Legislature with its popular annual reception in Montgomery on Wednesday, April 3, at the Alabama Activities Center on Dexter Avenue from 5 to 8 p.m.

Twenty of the state’s most popular restaurants are serving delicious dishes ranging from gulf shrimp and gumbo to smoked pork belly and farm to table dishes, with desserts including Bananas Foster. A dozen breweries and wineries will pour Alabama-made drinks.

Meeting planner Patti Culp, president and CEO of the Alabama Travel Council, said companies wanting to purchase tickets can call her at 334-271-0050.

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2019 Spring tourism workshop 
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop, Thurs., April 11. The workshop will held be in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. in room 342. This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will attend this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. There is no registration fee.

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

Alabama: Something in the water
From the article by Jonathan Wingate on

If you listen to the gospel sung in the churches of the Deep South, you can hear the roots of soul, blues, country and rock and roll music. The Native American, African and European populations who’d either been enslaved or came looking for jobs after the Civil War produced a unique cultural blend that helped create an unmistakable sound. These influences all meet at a corner of the Tennessee River, in northern Alabama, where the towns of Florence and Muscle Shoals sit on either bank, forming a backdrop for the most remarkable musical legacy.

Locals really do say there’s something in the water. The Indian tribes called the river Nun-Nuh-Sae, or the Singing River, because they believed in a young woman living in the water who sings songs that guide them through life. Some say, if you go to the river’s quiet places, you can still hear her sing.

The late Tom Hendrix devoted 35 years to building an extraordinary stone wall – recorded in the Library of Congress – in memory of his great great grandmother, Te-Lah-Nay. A member of the Yuchi tribe which lived along the riverbanks, she was taken from her family during the infamous Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. “Te-Lah-Nay listened to all the rivers and streams she found in Oklahoma, but there were no songs,” Hendrix said. “She eventually escaped and spent five years walking 800 miles to make her way back home to the Singing River.”

Each stone of Hendrix’s creation, the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, represents a step on Te-Lah-Nay’s journey back to the music of the river. It’s an atmospheric starting point for any tour of this area’s exceptional musical history.

The godfather of that legacy is the legendary bluesman, William Christopher ‘W.C.’ Handy, born in Florence in 1873 and brought up in a two-room log cabin that can be visited today. Although Handy never claimed to have invented the genre, he was certainly the first musician to introduce the blues to the American mainstream. Living in the cabin built by his grandfather, a former slave, Handy spent his spare time playing the cornet and the church organ, listening to the sounds of the local songbirds and the rolling rhythms of the Tennessee River.

Handy saved up enough money to buy his first guitar by picking berries and nuts and making his own lye soap, but his Methodist preacher father said he considered the instrument to be “the devil’s plaything.” He made Handy take it back to the store and swap it for a dictionary.

Despite his family’s misgivings, Handy worked as a touring musician, travelling around the Deep South soaking up all the blues he could find. One hot summer afternoon in 1903, he was trying to catch 40 winks as he waited for a train at a railroad station in Tutwiler, Mississippi when he noticed a dishevelled drifter whiling away the time playing his guitar.

“His clothes were rags, his feet peeped out of his shoes,” Handy recalled in 1941. “His face had on it some of the sadness of the ages. He pressed a knife on the strings in a manner popularised by Hawaiian guitarists. The effect was unforgettable. ‘Going to where the Southern cross the yellow dog,’ the singer repeated, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard.”

Inspired by the mystery guitarist, W.C. Handy laid down the foundations for the blues boom that soon erupted, when he wrote a string of iconic songs including “Memphis Blues,” “Beale Street Blues” and “Saint Louis Blues.” When he realised that his peers were not being paid for their compositions, he became the first blues musician to copyright his own songs.

Although you rarely hear Handy’s name mentioned with the same reverence reserved for the blues singers for whom he paved the way, his beautifully preserved cabin is now one of the most popular stops on the Alabama tourist trail.

Sam Phillips is undoubtedly much better known than Handy, though there is nothing outside his childhood home, also in Florence, to indicate that the man who discovered Elvis Presley also grew up here. 1057 Royal Avenue is a magnolia clipboard house with a Confederate flag nailed to the porch and a tire hanging from an old oak tree in the front garden – it’s now in private hands.

Born in 1923, Samuel Cornelius Phillips was raised by a family of sharecropper farmers who could barely afford to feed their eight children. After cutting his teeth as a DJ and radio engineer, he signed the lease on a small storefront property in downtown Memphis. Promoted by the slogan “We Record Anything-Anywhere-Anytime,” Phillips opened the doors of Sun Records and his Memphis Recording Service in February 1952.

“If I could find a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars,” Phillips repeatedly told his assistant, Marion Keisker, during the early days at Sun. In the summer of 1953, 18-year-old Elvis Presley dropped in to the studio to record a two song acetate. When Keisker asked him who he sounded like, Presley simply said: “I don’t sound like nobody.”

Phillips arranged for two of his regular session men, guitarist Scotty Moore and double bassist Bill Black to come over to the studio on July 5, 1954 to play with Presley for an audition. After a few hours of fun but ultimately fruitless jamming, they were about to call it a night when Elvis started playing an uptempo version of an old Arthur Crudup blues number, That’s All Right. “Sam didn’t know what he was looking for,” Moore explained when I interviewed him a few years ago, “but he knew it when he heard it.”

Sam Phillips had found his superstar, but he never got close to the billion-dollars he dreamed of. Although it was at the time by far the biggest deal in the history of the music business, Phillips sold Elvis Presley’s contract to RCA Records in November 1955 for $35,000. Within months, Presley released “Heartbreak Hotel” and became an international star.

Across the water from Florence, the city of Muscle Shoals (current population 13,000) may be tiny compared to cultural metropolises like Memphis, New York or Los Angeles, yet it has an extraordinarily rich musical history that rivals any of them. There were periods during the ‘60s and ‘70s when 10 percent of the world’s hits were being produced in the Muscle Shoals region.

The seemingly endless stream of hit records that came swirling like Tennessee River water out of Muscle Shoals started in Rick Hall’s FAME Studios, which opened its doors in 1959. Originally located in Florence, FAME (which stands for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) moved to a former tobacco warehouse in Muscle Shoals in the early 1960s.

Inspired by his mentor, Sam Phillips, Hall launched the careers of scores of soul singers who came to FAME Studios for a bit of Muscle Shoals magic. The foundation of what became known as ‘the Muscle Shoals sound’ was built on the idea of putting black soul singers together with local white musicians during a time when race relations were at their worst in the Deep South.

Guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist David Hood, keyboard player Barry Beckett and drummer Roger Hawkins were known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

Given the nickname ‘the Swampers ‘by producer, Denny Cordell, because of their “funky, soulful Southern swamp sound,” they confounded the conventional wisdom that only black musicians could play soul and that white Southerners played only country.

FAME is a nondescript-looking brown bunker on a busy main road junction that sits between an auto-parts store and a pharmacy. Above the doorway to the studio where Percy Sledge recorded “When A Man Loves A Woman” and Aretha Franklin cut “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” a hand- painted sign reads: “Through these doors walk the finest musicians, songwriters, artists and producers in the world.”

“I can’t really put it into words, but I know that when I hear something that was recorded here, it just rings a bell in my head,” says trombonist Charles Rose, co-founder of the Muscle Shoals Horns. “The music always had a certain purity about it. Most of the Muscle Shoals musicians were not overly sophisticated virtuosos – they were just good old boys who played with a unique style. Maybe it’s osmosis, but working here with these people, you instinctively know what feels right.”

Nearby is the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, which the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section left FAME to set up as a rival operation in 1969. It was here that the Rolling Stones recorded their 1971 album Sticky Fingers – legendary sessions that produced classics including “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and “You Gotta Move.”

After the Swampers relocated in 1979, the original studio remained closed until it was refurbished two years ago, thanks to a $1 million donation from Apple/Beats Audio.

“We were just a bunch of redneck musicians, so when I look back and think of all of the incredible success we had and all of this music that came out of a little place like Muscle Shoals, I really have to pinch myself,” says Jimmy Johnson, who engineered those Stones sessions. “At the time, I don’t even think we realised that it was so special, but it really was. I don’t know whether it’s true that there’s something in the water here, but there is definitely something magical about this part of Alabama.”

For the complete article please see:, Issue 15

Chubbfathers named one of best 50 burgers in America

From the article by Neal Wagner on

A popular Alabaster restaurant has the best burgers in Alabama, and among the best burgers in the nation, according to a list recently compiled by a travel website. recently released its list of the top 50 burgers in America, including the top offering from every state.

Chubbfathers, which is at 1207 First St. N. in Alabaster, was named the top pick from Alabama, earning a spot on the list.

“The burger is the greatest American sandwich of all. Juicy meat, cheese or plain, pickles or just good ol’ lettuce. Whatever way you have it, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bite into a perfect burger,” read the website. “Considering it’s such an American staple, the Big 7 Travel team has scoured every state in the US for the best burgers of the land. From smashed diner patties to gourmet burgers, these are the 50 best burgers in America for 2019.”

The website praised Chubbfathers for offering solid traditional burger choices, as well as some of the restaurant’s own unique creations.

“The burger menu here includes plenty of traditional creations you know and love as well as a few of the Chubbfather’s own twists on the classics. These bad boys are big, juicy and delicious,” read the restaurant’s entry on the list.

Restaurant owner Will Cholewinski said the news was a pleasant surprise, and he has earned plenty of support from the community since the list came out.

“I’ll just leave this here…God is good and thanks to all of you’” Cholewinski wrote in a post on his Facebook page linking to the listing.

For the complete article please see

14 movies that filmed in Alabama, 2018-2019
From the article by Mary Colurso on

Lights, camera … Alabama!

The movie industry is on the upswing in our state, from Hollywood features to indie projects to homegrown flicks. It’s not unusual to encounter a film crew in Birmingham or Mobile, and other cities here are finding favor with directors and producers. Major stars? They’ve been coming to Alabama, as well, attracting avid fans to movie sets and prompting displays of Southern hospitality.

One reason for this growth is Alabama’s generous incentives program  — up to $20 million per year — for filmmakers. “A qualified production company may be eligible to receive a rebate of a portion of the expenditures incurred to produce a qualified production,” according to the website of the Alabama Film Office. “The amount of the rebate equals 25 percent of certain production expenditures on the project that are incurred in Alabama plus 35 percent of the payroll paid to Alabama residents.” There are other incentives, such as exemptions for certain state sales, use and lodging taxes.

The state’s natural beauty and the varied locations have made a difference, as well. Alabama boasts urban skyscrapers, pristine countryside, postcard-worthy beaches, picturesque hamlets and more.

Increasingly, it seems that Alabama is ready for its close-up — sorry about that, Norma Desmond — and poised for a larger role in the film world. It’s not easy to keep track of all the activity, but here are 14 movies that have filmed, in full or in part, in Alabama over the past year or so.

“The Devil All the Time”
“The Friend”
“Hell on the Border”
“Son of the South”
“This Is the Year”
“Just Mercy”
“Into the Ashes”

For the complete article please see

100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama brochure being updated
The Alabama Tourism Department’s popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama” brochure is in the process of being updated. If you know of a locally owned restaurant in the state that you think needs to be included, please let us know. The restaurant must have been opened for at least 5 years or have been started by one of Alabama’s top chefs or restaurateurs to be featured. Give us the name of the restaurant, the town it is located and what you consider to be their signature dish. Send your suggestions to by April 12.

Welcome Center welcome tourism partners
The Alabama Tourism Department-Welcome Center Program will be welcoming guests throughout the state to increase the awareness of the economic, social and cultural impact that tourism has on the local, regional and state-wide communities. We invite our tourism partners to participate at each Center from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. (central standard time) by bringing special promotions, coupons, etc., and share in our hospitality on the following dates:

May 9: Lanett, Grand Bay and Houston Welcome Centers
May 10: Baldwin Welcome Center
May 15: Cleburne Welcome Center
May 16: Sumter Welcome Center
May 23: Ardmore Welcome Center
May 30: DeKalb Welcome Center

Please contact the Welcome Center managers to RSVP.

Statewide walking tours begin in April
Some 30 towns across Alabama will be on display during Saturday mornings in April as part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s April Walking Tours.

A variety of community leaders will lead the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns. The hour-long tours will start at 10 a.m. on April 6, 13, 20 and 27.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Attalla, Gazebo at 4th St. and 5th Ave.; Bayou La Batre, Mariner Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Courtland, Courtland Heritage Museum; Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Decatur, Old State Bank Building; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Elkmont, Elkmont Depot; Enterprise, Pea River Historical Society; Eutaw, Prairie Avenue; Eufaula, Carnegie Library; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center.

Huntsville, Confectionary Shop at Constitution Village (April 6 and 13 only); Livingston, McConnell Field on University of West Alabama campus; Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 20 and 27 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Monroeville, Old Courthouse Museum; Montgomery, Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Post Office; Moulton, Lawrence County Archives; Pell City, City Hall; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Springville, Springville Museum; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

The tours are being coordinated by Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department. “Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours. These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state. More than 36,000 people have participated in the walking tours since the beginning of the program 16 years ago and the tours keep increasing in popularity every year,” Jones said.

More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Alabama.Travel is designed to promote our state and local business and encourage tourists to stay in Alabama. By updating your partner page, you are supporting the Tourism Department and business within the state. Keeping photos, videos, events, etc. up-to-date on your Partner page drives engagement and creates a better user experience. We rely on partners like you.

Need to update your Partner page? Head over to today.


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