Nashville To Muscle Shoals

“Backstage Pass”

I65S > Concord Road > US-31/Franklin Road > Natchez Trace Parkway

From the big machine of the music industry to the unlikely rural studios that helped launch some of the biggest music careers in the world, the contrast between Nashville and Muscle Shoals, the endpoints of this Gold Record Road drive, gives you a fascinating look into the historic commerce of American music. Nashville is known worldwide as Music City, but not because the music itself sprung organically from the land and the water here. Instead, Nashville is the magical, magnetic spot where stars were and are born; it’s the legendary place where labels, studios, producers, writers and artists built a booming business polishing the rural acts of the Triangle and packaging them for the public.

Most famously, it’s where the Grand Ole Opry put country music on the map—literally—as an advertising vehicle for life insurance; today, the Opry is an American institution with a membership roster that reads like a family tree of music royalty. The city’s music reputation knows no genre boundaries—artists and producers come from all over the world for a chance to perform and record in Nashville. Head south on the Gold Record Road for an authentic small-town experience in Franklin and Leiper’s Fork, where rural living, celebrity status and big music business live in harmony. You’ll follow the Natchez Trace for a scenic drive through history, traveling the legendary road that brought people to the area, and connected the communities—and the music—along the way.

Make a stop in Lawrenceburg, and visit the hallowed ground of Southern gospel music, a major influence on the young Elvis Presley and countless others. End up in the Shoals, which feels like the yin to Nashville’s twang: a clutch of small Alabama towns with a laid-back, no-frills Southern culture that contrasted sharply with other “Music Cities” like Memphis and Nashville in the 1960s. That isolated magic bred a funky new blend of R&B, rock, country and gospel music, and made its tiny, underdog studios a hot spot for one big artist after another, popularizing what became known as the Muscle Shoals sound and changing music history forever.

Nashville, TN

Side Trip Option:Owensboro, KY

Side Trip Option:Knoxville and Bristol, TN

Music

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Start your Nashville experience by digging deep into the history of the music that put this city on the cultural map. Situated a block from the honky-tonks of Lower Broadway and the historic “Mother Church” of country music, this Nashville institution houses special exhibits as well as the museum’s impressive permanent collections: hundreds of thousands of artifacts, images, moving images, oral histories and—of course—recordings that tell the colorful story of country music in rare and precise detail. (For example, the Bob Pinson Recorded Sound Collection features nearly every country recording made before World War II, including the only remaining recording of the Grand Ole Opry’s first radio broadcast in 1939.) Pick up a piece of signature concert art at the legendary Hatch Show Print. And don’t miss the Hall of Fame Rotunda, featuring bas-relief likenesses of every inductee since 1961.
222 Fifth Ave. South, Nashville. 615-416-2001

Music City Walk of Fame in the Walk of Fame Park
Across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, take a breather in this downtown park, where you’ll find a path of platinum and granite stars honoring individuals who have made a lasting mark on Nashville’s music history. The Park is also home to the Nashville Music Garden, a 2,700-square-foot collection of roses and lilies named after such American music icons as Minnie Pearl, Amy Grant, Pam Tillis, Kitty Wells and Brenda Lee.
Demonbreun St. between Fourth and Fifth Ave., Nashville.

Ryman Auditorium
Worship at the “Mother Church of Country Music,” where the Grand Ole Opry made its home from 1943 to 1974. It’s also known today as the birthplace of bluegrass for one legendary pairing: on December 8, 1945, it was here that Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe played together on stage for the first time. Catch national touring musical acts of all kinds in this venue-like-no-other by evening, or take a tour during the day—you can even visit the Ryman recording studio and cut your own CD. If visiting in the winter, you may even catch the Opry here: The show returns to its old digs for a few months every winter for off-season performances.
116 Fifth Ave. North, Nashville. 615-889-3060

Fast Fact:  

The first three inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame were Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Fred Rose. Williams, an Alabama native, honed his skills on the “Louisiana Hayride” before his electrifying debut performance at the Opry on June 11, 1949, with an unprecedented six encores of the song “Lovesick Blues,” a record that still stands today.

Lower Broad Entertainment District
In the heart of downtown Nashville, this buzzing district should satisfy your hunger for live music. There are more than a few honky-tonks to check out in this area, from Fifth Avenue to the Cumberland River, plus plenty of boots and hats, buskers, Music City souvenirs and neon lights. Topping the must-see list is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, where you can “have a holler and a swaller” just as Waylon Jennings and many other Nashville legends like Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Webb Pierce and Patsy Cline did back in the day. Many artists used to sidle up to Tootsie’s bar after gigs at the Grand Ole Opry—the Ryman Auditorium is a stone’s throw away—and the proof is on the bar’s Wall of Fame. Three doors down, you’ll find Robert’s Western World, in a building that once housed the Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company. Have a cold PBR and a fried bologna sandwich from the grill, and enjoy live music on stage seven days a week from early afternoon into the late evening. Other hot spots on Lower Broad include Paradise Park Trailer Resort, The Stage on Broadway, Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, Second Fiddle, Bootleggers Inn, Legends Corner and many more.
Fifth to First Ave. along Broadway, Nashville.

Grand Ole Opry
Take in a live performance of “the show that made country music famous”—and the one that sealed Nashville’s identity as the home of country music. Going strong since 1925, just five years after commercial radio became available in the U.S., it’s now the longest-running weekly radio broadcast in the world. The Opry has had several homes—including the historic Ryman Auditorium—but has never left the airways on 650 AM WSM, where you can catch live and archived broadcasts several times times a week. Everyone who’s anyone in country music has graced its stage. Each show features at least eight artists, including guest acts and Opry members: a group that includes longtime legends of country music—like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride and Little Jimmy Dickens—alongside hot contemporary names like Blake Shelton, Rascal Flats, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and Trisha Yearwood.
2804 Opryland Dr., Nashville. 615-871-6779

Fast Fact:  

At the center of the Opry House stage floor is a six-foot oak circle inset, cut from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, its previous home.

Fast Fact:  

The Opry isn’t the only record-setting radio broadcast on the Gold Record Road. Find the legendary King Biscuit Time, the longest-running daily radio broadcast in history, in Helena, Arkansas, on the Delta Highway route.

Historic RCA Studio B
Tour this Music Row landmark, and stand in the spot where more than 200 Elvis Presley recordings and more than 1,000 American hits were made. Buy tickets at the Country Music Hall of Fame; tours depart daily and roundtrip transportation is provided.
1611 Roy Acuff Pl., Nashville. 800-852-6437

Fast Fact:  

Opened in 1957, RCA Victor Studio B was the first purpose-built recording studio in Nashville. It was built to record superstar RCA artists Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold and many others to come. It became known as the “home of 1,000 hits”. On the strength of this success, RCA developed Studio A  and its three-story “producers row” office building in 1964 and connected the complex to Studio B. In 2014, the site sparked worldwide controversy as a developer made public plans to demolish and redevelop the Studio A site. Thanks to a passionate grassroots organization known as Save Studio A, the landmark is now under new ownership, and efforts are underway to permanently protect and preserve it as working studio.

Johnny Cash Museum
Visit this downtown museum for an extensive collection of memorabilia, stories and recordings from the Man in Black himself. Learn more about the personal life and musical career of one of Sun Studio’s early stars, and one of the only musicians to be inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Halls of Fame.
119 3rd Ave. South, Nashville. 615-256-1777

Fast Fact:  

You’ve probably seen the iconic black and white image of Johnny Cash giving the “middle finger salute” to the camera. The photo itself was shot just after Cash’s 1969 performance at San Quentin Prison, but it became a rallying cry for old-school country artists in the late 90s when legendary Beastie Boys producer Rick Rubin spent $20,000 on a full-page ad in Billboard Magazine featuring the image, with the headline “American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support.” At a time when traditional country artists were being ignored by country radio in favor of more pop-infused sounds, Cash turned to Rubin to revitalize his career and reach new audiences, and it proved to be a good move. Cash’s “Unchained” won Country Album of the Year at the 1997 Grammys with almost no support from the country music industry—the ad famously commemorated the achievement.

Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
Housed in Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, this museum houses a treasure trove of instruments played by session musicians and well-known artists alike from the 1950s to the present day, plus artifacts like the very sound booth from Memphis’ American Sound studio, where Elvis recorded “Suspicious Minds.” New musicians are inducted annually.
417 4th Ave. North, Nashville.  615-244-3263

Hatch Show Print
Visit this iconic letterpress shop that printed—and continues to print—its distinctive showbills for country music’s greats. The posters printed under the Hatch name from the 1920s through the 1960s and beyond helped make stars of Opry players, jazz musicians, blues greats and more. Smell the ink, watch the posters roll off the presses and pick up some truly historic art to take home. Call ahead to join a tour.
224 5th Ave. South/Fifth Ave. Lobby of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville. 615-577-7710

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Gallery
Located inside the Music City Center, this interactive exhibit honors songwriters from every music genre with artifacts, memorabilia and fifty-five-inch touch screens that bring the sounds, videos and history of Nashville’s songwriting tradition to life. Names of the Hall of Fame members are also engraved in Songwriters Square a block away at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Demonbreun, directly across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Music City Center, corner of Sixth Ave. and Demonbreun St., Nashville.

Bluebird Café
Hear the next big name in Americana music do his or her thing at this intimate venue known as the place to hear top local talent long before it became a central setting on the television series “Nashville.” The club pioneered the concept of “Writers in the Round”: four songwriters sitting in the middle of the room, taking turns playing and accompanying one another.
4104 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville. 615-383-1461

Fast Fact:  

The Nashville Songwriters’ Association International owns the Bluebird Cafe, anchoring the city’s unique “listening room” culture—a fertile music scene that encourages collaboration and cowriting, built around the area’s high concentration of professional songwriters. If you’re a songwriter yourself, visit the headquarters on Music Row and consider joining as a member.

Music Row District

As Madison Avenue is to advertising, Music Row is to the music industry—take a drive down 16th and 17th Avenues and the side streets in between and you’ll pass through the heart of the music business, where labels, studios, artists’ organizations and more have put down roots.
16th and 17th Ave. S. (aka Music Square East and Music Square West) between Demonbreun St. and Grand Ave., Nashville.

Fast Fact:  

The National Museum of African American Music, the only museum dedicated to “all dimensions of African-American music,” is scheduled for construction in downtown Nashville in 2015.

Station Inn
Get up close and personal with the top talent in bluegrass and roots music at this intimate, gritty-but-friendly club, located since 1978 in a tiny cement-block building in The Gulch, a now-thriving urban neighborhood in downtown Nashville. It’s not at all unusual for big-name artists to make an appearance for a song or a set with the booked performers. Bill Monroe and Doc Watson famously showed up in that fashion, and today, countless bluegrass artists who started here, like Alison Krauss, enjoy coming home for a visit now and again. There are no advance ticket sales, so arrive early and snag a seat. In town on a Sunday? You’re in luck: There’s a free Bluegrass Jam every Sunday at 8 pm, a golden opportunity to hear top local talent.
402 12th Ave. South, Nashville. 615-255-3307

Third Man Records
Peruse the eclectic collection of 45s and LPs for sale at this combination record shop, studio, record label and event space, the brainchild of singer and musician Jack White, formerly of the rock band The White Stripes. White has made a mission out of working with or preserving the work of legendary country, blues and early rock-’n’-roll artists, and the evidence fills the bins in Third Man’s cozy shop. Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, Charley Patton and Jerry Lee Lewis are just a few of the notables whose songs White has brought into the Third Man fold.
623 7th Ave. S., Nashville. 615-891-4393

United Record Pressing
Take a tour of the factory that’s turned out “nothing but vinyl since 1949,” and has manufactured records and record packaging in this location since 1962—in fact, it’s North America’s largest-volume-producing vinyl record plant. Tour the “Motown Suite,” an apartment above the pressing plant that was kept as comfortable accommodations for African-American artists and record company executives in the segregated South. Today, the apartment still appears furnished as it was back then, down to the 1960s dinette set, around which the staff of United Record Pressing gathers for meetings. Tours are offered on Fridays at 11 am only and cost $10; no cash accepted.
453 Chestnut St., Nashville. 615-259-9396

Fisk University
Stroll the campus of his small urban historically black university, founded just six months after the end of the Civil War in 1865 to educate former slaves. Fisk is home to the legendary Fisk Jubilee Singers, the a cappella gospel group that toured the world in the late 1800s to raise funds for the institution and save it from bankruptcy. They popularized Negro spirituals among white audiences, introducing the rhythms and chords that would lay the foundation of gospel music and later influence rock and roll, country and R&B. The group still tours globally today.
1000 17th Ave. N., Nashville. 615-329-8500

Fast Fact:  

The area surrounding Fisk is the former Jefferson Street Entertainment District, once a thriving mecca of black entertainment and anchor of African-American culture in Nashville. From Jimi Hendrix to Etta James and Ray Charles, rock, blues, soul and R&B had a major presence here; the annual Jump to Jefferson Festival celebrates its history.

Fontanel Mansion
Head for the rolling hills just north of Nashville, and spend an afternoon at the former home of Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame member Barbara Mandrell. The 136-acre homestead is now a unique live entertainment venue and complex with zip-lines and disc golf, a restaurant and inn, free walking trails, and an amphitheater that books local and touring acts. You can even book a tour of the 27,000-square-foot mansion.
4225 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville. 615-724-1600

Music Connection

A city the size of Nashville offers music at every turn. While we certainly can’t cover it all, we do want to make sure you catch a show at a local venue or experience a festival while you’re in town. Here are a few of our favorite sites, festivals, shops and online resources—start digging around here and you’re sure to find many, many more.

Find all things Nashville through the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, even a live music app.

Check Now Playing Nashville and the Nashville Scene for shows, events and performances every night of the week at tried-and-true venues like Tin Roof, The Five Spot, Third and Lindsley, The Family Wash and many more.

Visit in June to be a part of the legendary CMA Festival, formerly known as Fan Fair, held every summer in Nashville.

Every June, acres of sprawling farmland in the nearby town of Manchester transform into one of the hottest camping, culture and live music festivals in the country: Bonnaroo.

The Americana Music Festival brings national acts together in early fall for performances all over town, and the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival draws writers and performers from across the country every spring.

Visit world-famous Gruhn Guitars and Carter Vintage for beautifully restored instruments, incredibly knowledgeable staff and little slices of history on display.

Grimey’s New and Preloved Music Store is a hot spot for the local music scene and frequently hosts in-store performances featuring up-and-coming locals, touring acts and national names like the Black Keys.

Serious music history researchers and historians should check out the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, located about 35 miles south of downtown Nashville in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

Approach Nashville from any direction, and road signs will let you know not only that you’re crossing the line into Metro-Davidson County, but that you’ve reached the home of the Grand Ole Opry. That says a bit about how proud Nashville is of its country music heritage and how much the Opry broadcast, a fixture on the AM airwaves since 1925, has had to do with it. But even though its music offerings are sure to keep you moving, Nashville has more to offer than just strum and twang. You’ll find no shortage of good grub, from down-home meat-and-threes and barbecue joints to chef-driven fine dining. Every neighborhood boasts unique boutiques, and plenty of parks and gardens in which to stretch your legs and soak up some sunshine, along with the friendly vibe that Nashville has always been known for. There’s so much to see and do here, we can’t even begin to cover it all; check the Nashville CVB’s website for a complete guide to the city, no matter where your interests lie.

Fast Fact:  

In addition to being the Father of the Democratic Party and the seventh U.S. President, Andrew Jackson also cofounded the city of Memphis, initiated the Trail of Tears and became a national hero for his leadership in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Shortly after the battle, he built Jackson’s Military Road, a more efficient route connecting New Orleans and Nashville, ultimately rendering the Natchez Trace obsolete for traders and travelers.

President Jackson remains one of the most fascinating figures in American history, and his actions and political moves forever changed life in the Triangle. Tour the Hermitage, his historic home and estate, to learn more about his life and legacy.

Tour the Belle Meade Plantation for a glimpse into 19th century life in Nashville. This historic Greek Revival mansion and grounds now stand as a time capsule representing Southern life, from slavery and the Civil War to, agriculture and politics. The property’s equestrian roots run deep too—bloodlines established here in the 1800s and early 1900s continue to dominate the world of thoroughbred racing today.

Amble through Cheekwood, a 55-acre botanical garden that also boasts an American art museum in its historic mansion.

Music City has become a foodie hot spot in recent years, with culinary stops like Catbird Seat, Etch and The Southern opening their doors to critical acclaim.

Explore Nashville’s neighborhoods, from 12South shopping to East Nashville bar- hopping and several other unique local pockets. Nashville is known for its vibrant neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality. Find great local restaurants, hangouts, hot spots and more.

Fill your plate at Arnold’s Meat & 3, one of the best plate-lunch diners in the South, and a favorite of the late Southern-food expert John Egerton.

Make a stop at Loveless Café, a bastion of classic Southern cooking that’s a stone’s throw from the entrance to the Natchez Trace Parkway. The restaurant opened its doors in 1951 and still uses some of the same tried-and-true recipes from its early days—you can even take home the signature biscuit mix, preserves and “piggy brittle” this icon is known for.

Traveler Tip: If you decide to visit Loveless Cafe, you have the option of hopping on the Natchez Trace here and following it straight from Nashville to Leiper’s Fork.

Traveler Resources

This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.

Nashville Wiki
Tennessee Tourism

Travel north of Nashville on I-65 for about 130 miles to find the town of Owensboro, Kentucky, a bluegrass fan’s paradise.

Visit the International Bluegrass Music Museum, the only institution dedicated to preserving the history, collections and artifacts of this original American art form. It’s also home to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and hosts regular live music, including the First Thursday of the Month Jam, where players and pickers of all skill levels are invited to join in.

The annual ROMP Bluegrass Roots and Branches Festival features four summer days of family-friendly camping and live bluegrass in Yellow Creek Park on the 4th weekend in June, featuring national and local acts in the gorgeous Kentucky landscape.

If you’re in Owensboro, you’re just a few miles from the tiny town of Rosine and the area known as Jerusalem Ridge, the boyhood home of the “Father of Bluegrass,” Bill Monroe. Monroe’s and Uncle Pen’s reconstructed homesite is open to visitors, with informational plaques and markers on Bill, his brother Charlie Monroe and Uncle Pen. Monroe’s gravesite in Rosine is also worth a visit. Find site addresses and phone numbers here.

Fast Fact:  

Bill Monroe learned to play the blues and got his first paying gig from bluesman Arnold Shultz. Monroe later incorporated fundamental musical elements of African-American music into his signature one-of-a-kind bluegrass sound.

Fast Fact:  

Bill Monroe originally wrote and recorded “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as a slow waltz in 3/4 time; in 1954, a young Elvis Presley reimagined the song in 2/4 time with a driving rockabilly feel for the B-side of his first Sun Records single. The recording earned Presley a guest spot on the Grand Ole Opry, where he sought Monroe out backstage to apologize for changing the song. Monroe surprised him with a kind approval, and later rerecorded the song in the original 3/4 waltz time with a slight pause, and then a section of the 2/4 version that Elvis had inspired. Monroe played this version at live shows the rest of his career.

Visit the area during the first week of October for the Jerusalem Ridge Festival, a multi-day camping and music event held on picturesque land overlooking the town of Rosine. The property was originally deeded to Bill Monroe’s great-great-great-grandfather following his service in the Revolutionary War—an appropriate place for a festival honoring the “Birthplace of Bluegrass Music” and the man who brought it to the masses via the Grand Ole Opry.

Fast Fact:  

Bill Monroe shared his geographic roots with other music legends: Grandpa Jones, Merle Travis and the Everly Brothers are all from Western Kentucky. The hook of John Prine’s song “Paradise” mentions Muhlenberg County, where you can find the Four Legends Fountain in Drakesboro and pay homage to the “pioneers of thumb picking.”

Let the local CVB be your guide to all things Owensboro, including the International Bar-B-Q Festival held every year on the second Saturday in May.

Franklin, TN to Knoxville, TN to Bristol, TN

Follow I-40 east of Nashville about 180 miles to Knoxville, Tennessee; travel 120 miles further east to Bristol, right on the Tennessee-Virginia border to reach the “birthplace of country music.”

In Knoxville, stop by the Knoxville Visitors Center for information about the area. It’s housed in a former general store and is home to the world-famous WDVX Blue Plate Special Radio Show, broadcast live every day at noon. From bluegrass and blues to folk and funk, hear national and local acts spanning all genres—you never know who will take the stage.

Fast Fact:  

Knoxville’s Market Square, now a collection of eclectic restaurants and shops, is one of the spots where fiddler Roy Acuff began playing for local crowds—and also where Elvis Presley’s career took an important turn. When a Market Square record store played “That’s All Right” over its loudspeakers in the 1950s, it sold hundreds of copies; two were sold to an RCA talent scout. Within the year, RCA had bought Presley’s contract with Sun Records in Memphis, and Elvis was destined for international fame.

Fast Fact:  

The Andrew Johnson Building downtown was once a high-end hotel; it was also home to WNOX, the radio station where Roy Acuff and others got their start. It’s also the place where Hank Williams Sr. spent the last night of his life, New Year’s Eve 1952.

On the way to Bristol, you’ll be traveling near (and will no doubt see plenty of billboards for) Pigeon Forge, home to Dolly Parton’s famous Dollywood theme park, a thriving attraction backed by the country superstar since the 1980s. Dolly’s mission to bring jobs and economic opportunities to her hometown region in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains has turned this once-struggling town into a tourist mecca, drawing visitors from all over the world.

As you get into town, look for the 20-foot guitar outside the Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau, where you can rent a self-guided audio tour of the city, including the birthplace of Tennessee Ernie Ford. The dotted line down the middle of State Street, marked by the famous Bristol Sign, is the actual border between Tennessee and Virginia.

Bristol’s music history is anchored by the 1927 Bristol Sessions, commemorated by a now-famous mural downtown. In that year, Ralph Peer of Victor Talking Machine Company arrived at the Tennessee-Virginia line with portable recording equipment, sent in search of new talent. He found the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, the Stoneman Family and others who created 76 gospel, blues and Appalachian-influenced recordings in a few short weeks. The sessions led to the first broad exposure of the country genre— the “Big Bang” of country music. The famous Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is held here every September; visit the 24,000-square-foot Birthplace of Country Music museum, scheduled to open in late summer 2014.

Fast Fact:  

The Carter Family had great success with record sales before the music industry was interrupted by the Great Depression and many record labels ceased operation. From 1938 to 1941, the Carter Family lived in Texas and performed on the Mexican “border blaster” radio station XERA, which was not subject to FCC regulations and could reach 48 states in the U.S. and across much of Canada. In 1941, Mexico signed a treaty with the U.S. dividing up the radio spectrum; in 1942, XERA closed its doors for good. During these few years, however, the Carter Family and country music gained exponential popularity throughout North America, thanks in part to rogue border stations like XERA.

While you’re in the area, make plans to explore the Crooked Road through Southwest Virginia for a deep dive into the area’s musical flavor, including the Ralph Stanley Museum, dedicated to traditional mountain music, and the Carter Family Fold, an 800-seat music shed, museum and reconstructed homeplace honoring the First Family of Country Music. Catch a live show of the Appalachian sounds that launched a genre every Saturday night at 7:30, still run by descendants of the Carter Family.

Last but not least, a jaunt to Shelby, North Carolina, will take you to the Earl Scruggs Center, a museum celebrating “music and stories from the American South,” including the contributions of the legendary banjo master himself. If you’re in the area, check out the Blue Ridge Music Trails to discover more North Carolina music and history.

Traveler Resources

Knoxville, TN Convention and Visitors Bureau
Bristol, TN Convention and Visitors Bureau
Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways: Sunny Side Trail and White Lightning Trail
Cleveland County, NC Convention and Visitors Bureau

Franklin

Music

ROUTE GUIDE: As you leave Nashville on I-65 south, take exit 71 for Concord Road and turn left. The driveway for the WSM Tower will be on your left. When you leave, turn right and head west. Then turn left on Highway 31 south toward Franklin.

WSM Tower
You can’t miss the historic diamond-shaped WSM Radio Tower as you head south from Nashville on your way to Franklin. This 1932 structure was constructed to broadcast the Grand Ole Opry, now the longest-running radio show in history. It was once the tallest tower in America with an impressive reach, even for today; its ability to put the sounds and stars of the Americana Music Triangle into countless homes in 38 states and Canada literally changed the course of history and served as the foundation of Music City. The tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its signature design is echoed in the architecture of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.  Catch the broadcast on AM 650.
8012 Concord Rd., Brentwood.

Fast Fact:  

“WSM” stands for “We Shield Millions,” the slogan of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company that first broadcast the Grand Ole Opry as an advertising vehicle in 1925.

Franklin Theatre
This historic venue represents the heart of downtown Franklin, drawing national acts and serving as an anchor for the area’s small-town flavor. Originally opened in 1937, this impeccably restored landmark brought music, theater and motion picture entertainment back to Franklin’s already thriving downtown in 2011, and it serves as the cultural catalyst for the community.
419 Main St., Franklin. 615-538-2076

Music City Roots
Catch a live, two-hour broadcast of the award-winning Americana music show every Wednesday night at the Factory at Franklin. Roots is famous for its progressive interpretation of Nashville’s radio tradition, showcasing classic country and traditional acts alongside newer evolutions of the Americana sound. Formerly held at the Loveless Cafe’s Loveless Barn, the show officially relocated in the summer of 2014 in order to accommodate larger crowds. If you can’t make it to the show, catch the broadcast Wednesdays from 7 pm to 9 pm on 94.5 FM or streaming online at musiccityroots.com.

Fast Fact:  

The producers of Music City Roots are also responsible for Bluegrass Underground, a radio show broadcast from a vast underground cavern in McMinnville, Tennessee.

VivaNashVegas Radio Show at Kimbro’s
Stop by this historic establishment and catch a live broadcast of the VivaNashVegas Radio Show every other Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm. Broadcast online, this rollicking, free-form “hillbilly roots” music and variety program is hosted by George Hamilton V, son of “International Ambassador of Country Music,” Opry member and Rockabilly Hall of Fame member George Hamilton IV.
214 South Margin St., Franklin. 615-599-2946

Kimbro’s
Have a drink and a burger at this local favorite, where the bar is made entirely of vintage radios—and stay for entertainment that’s as eclectic as the decor. This watering hole, located in a retooled Victorian cottage, serves only locally made draft beer and features a strong lineup of performers, a list that has over the years included John Prine, Cowboy Jack Clement, Rodney Crowell and others. Visit on a Tuesday evening for songwriters’ open mic.
214 South Margin St., Franklin. 615-599-2946

Carpe Diem
Next door to Kimbro’s, shop an eclectic collection of vinyl records, plus plenty of kitsch, vintage and “antique oddities.”
212 South Margin St., Franklin. 615-599-2946

Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant
Stop at this downtown hot spot Tuesday through Saturday nights for dinner and live music, as the popular restaurant transforms into one of the town’s premier listening rooms. Hear some of the area’s best up-and-coming artists, and you never know who will be a last-minute addition to the bill—or you might get a sneak preview of Nashville’s next big thing. Dinner reservations required.
120 4th Ave. South, Franklin. 615-794-5527

Puckett’s Boat House
Check out the dance floor and live music lineup at this seafood favorite, part of the Puckett’s Family. Tuesday through Saturday, you’ll find blues night, zydeco Cajun dancing, Tennessee Country and more.
94 E. Main St., Franklin. 615-790-2309

Bunganut Pig
Every night of the week, this local English pub-style watering hole becomes a unique candlelit venue for live local music.
1143 Columbia Ave., Franklin. 615-794-4777

Gray’s on Main
Relax with a good meal and soak up the local sounds at this restored 1876 Victorian building in Franklin’s historic downtown. The second floor of this three-story establishment is a great spot for live music in the evenings.
322 Main St., Franklin. 615-435-3603

Minnie Pearl’s Gravesite
Visit the final resting place of Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon in Franklin’s Mount Hope Cemetery. Cannon was a groundbreaking female comedian in her time, gently poking fun at her native Southern ways onstage at the Grand Ole Opry and later on the television series “Hee Haw.” She was an Opry member and performed as Minnie Pearl  for over 50 years, paving the way for countless women in music and comedy.
608 Mt. Hope St., Franklin. 615-794-2440

Music Connection

Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Franklin, and be sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.

Check Williamson County Live Music Guide for shows, events and performances every night of the week.

Shop high-quality, handcrafted instruments at Artisan Guitars, located in the Factory at Franklin.

Catch local music at Franklin’s annual Main Street Festival, and don’t miss the annual Pilgrimage at nearby Harlinsdale Farms in the fall.

Though the Americana Music Association isn’t itself a site to put on your agenda, we can’t overlook this important Franklin-based trade organization, whose mission is to “advocate for the authentic voice of American Roots Music around the world.” The organization is responsible for the Americana Music Festival and Conference in Nashville every fall, which draws thousands of music lovers, artists and industry folk to the city for a celebration of the area’s national musical heritage.

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

Just south of Nashville, the rolling hills and farms of Franklin and greater Williamson County are home to dozens of country music stars and other celebrities; so much so that star sightings are almost as commonplace as the history placards marking the many Civil War sites of interest here. Nashville’s biggest music business players across all genres choose to live here because the culture allows them the freedom to be themselves, raise their families and get involved in the community. The town’s downtown district has received so many small-town “best of” accolades over the years, it’s hard to keep count; explore the quaint Main Street area and enjoy small-town life at its finest.

Franklin is rich in Civil War heritage, having served as the site for one of the bloodiest battles in the entire conflict, the Battle of Franklin. The Civil War dramatically influenced the music coming out of the Americana Music Triangle, as it turned Southern culture upside down economically, racially and spiritually; music served as humanity’s common language and heart. Many historic sites have been expertly restored to tell the story of the unbelievably dramatic conflict in the area—take time to visit at least one while you’re here.

The Carter House, 1140 Columbia Ave., 615-791-1861
Historic Carnton Plantation, 1345 Eastern Flank Circle, 615-794-0903
Lotz House Civil War Museum1111 Columbia Ave., 615-790-7190
Civil War Trails Markers in Franklin and across Middle Tennessee

Explore Downtown Franklin, a 16-block district listed on the National Register of Historic Places and consistently recognized as one of the best small towns in America. It’s a step back in time and also a modern-day oasis, with brick sidewalks, antique shops, art galleries, unique restaurants, high-end boutiques and beautifully restored homes. Try the Red Pony for dinner, stop at McCreary’s Irish Pub for live Celtic music, or grab a slice of pie and a sandwich at local favorite Meridee’s Bread Basket.

Visit the Factory at Franklin, a 12-building shopping, dining and entertainment destination listed on the National Register of Historic Places, just six blocks from downtown. Great care has been taken to preserve its architectural and historic details, and to attract unique businesses you won’t find anywhere else. It’s also home to Studio Tenn, the award-winning theater company that combines Nashville’s talented musicians and actors with Broadway actors onstage.

Have a picnic at Arrington Vineyards, tucked away in the hills just outside of Franklin. Stop in for a tasting, drink in the scenery and catch live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at this vineyard founded by country music legend Kix Brooks.

Take a detour on I-65 south to Huntsville, AL, also known as Rocket City USA to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the world’s largest space attraction. Explore incredible displays of artifacts from our nation’s space program, hands-on interactive exhibits, IMAX theater, 3D theater, space travel simulators and so much more– even the restored Saturn V moon rocket!

Get your culture fix in Huntsville at the historic Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment District, home to more than 100 working artists, small businesses, restaurants and vendors. Guitar players will want to make a stop at Danny Davis Acoustic Instruments, a complete luthier shop. Catch live music every Friday night in the spring during Concerts on the Dock, and don’t miss the annual two-day Cigar Box Guitar Festival, held the weekend after Memorial Day.

Traveler Resources

This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.

Downtown Franklin
Visit Williamson County
Franklin Wiki
City of Huntsville

Leiper's Fork

Alternate Route:Lawrenceburg-Florence

Music

Puckett’s Leiper’s Fork
This community staple has served Leiper’s Fork as a restaurant, grocery and meeting place since the 1950s. Though the name and vibe of this one-of-a-kind small-town anchor have been replicated in Franklin, Nashville and other locations, this is the original Puckett’s community kitchen. Authentic and unassuming, this is where locals and celebrities alike take the stage for live pickin’ performances just a few feet from your table, sometimes as early as noon. Check the website for showtimes, menu and lineup. Thursday night open mic night is a must see!
4142 Old Hillsboro Rd., Franklin/Leiper’s Fork. 615-794-1308

Hank’s Pickin’ Corner at Serenite Maison
It might seem like an unlikely match, but inside this high-end imports and antiques shop you can actually play rare vintage Martin and Gibson guitars—the same vintage and make played by Hank Williams Sr. himself. You never know when you might catch a “flash jam” of Hank’s music and other country classics—they actually happen regularly here.

Hank Williams Farm
Pick up a driving map at Serenite Maison, and explore a short, scenic loop through town and out to the farm once owned by Hank Williams, established before the Civil War. Today, it’s owned by country superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and remains one of the most impressive antebellum homes in Tennessee. It’s private property, but you can still read the historic marker out front and take in its stately historic beauty from the road.
4149 Old Hillsboro Rd., Leiper’s Fork. 615-599-2071

Fast Fact:  

The inspiration and hard work for the Americana Music Triangle and Gold Record Road started right here in Leiper’s Fork, now headquartered through the Leiper’s Fork Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Music Connection

Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Leiper’s Fork, and be sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.

Check in for Leiper’s Fork Events
Find a live show at one of several Leiper’s Fork Venues
Follow Leiper’s Fork on Facebook
Find showtimes on Puckett’s After Hours Calendar

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

You might sense something different about the village of Leiper’s Fork, and you’re right—this bucolic setting is a Land Trust for Tennessee-protected National Register Historic Village founded by a cluster of brave settlers along the Natchez Trace. Life is slow and the air is thick with down-home sweetness—and the neighbors just might be country music royalty. Many of the industry’s biggest names have left the big city for this special cultural blend and settled here, inspired by its unspoiled beauty and timeless charm.

Check out the galleries, antiques shops and restaurants of the Leiper’s Fork Historic District, frequented by a unique and diverse mix of old-timer locals, laid-back artists and music business types.

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind place to spend a night or two near Leiper’s Fork, check out Moonshine Hill Inn and Brigadoon, two unique spots that are no strangers to hosting Gold Record Road travelers.

Traveler Resources

This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.

Leiper’s Fork Village
Leiper’s Fork Wiki
Land Trust for Tennessee

Route Guide: Follow Old Hillsboro Road/Highway 46 just south of Leiper’s Fork, and turn right to continue on Highway 46/Pinewood Road. Enter the Natchez Trace Parkway going south. There will be alternates along the way, but the Trace is the Gold Record Road’s main route from here.

Along The Way:
The Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace
Enter at Hwy. 46/Pinewood Rd.
The Natchez Trace Parkway stretches 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, and as you leave Franklin, you’ll jump on just south of its northernmost point. Today’s scenic drive has a complex and fascinating history, serving as the backbone of the area’s commerce and culture for centuries. It started as a series of animal trails, later connected by Native American footpaths that would become the routes used by traveling merchants and bandits, and eventually, settlers’ wagons. And all along, music was traveling here too—immigrant settlers introduced instruments from their native lands, Native American drum beats collided with European folk songs, and weary travelers turned to song to communicate and cope. You’ll find short hiking trails all along the route that offer a glimpse of what it must have been like to travel on the Old Trace, but you won’t find any billboards, travel plazas or businesses as you drive along the Trace itself, as the entire 444-mile route is protected and preserved by the National Park Service as a linear park. Enjoy the natural beauty, fresh air, and a few friendly and historical markers along the way.

Fast Fact:  

The Nashville’s Trace trail from Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways is a great way to explore the Tennessee portion of the Natchez Trace. Find directions and descriptions of all the stories, stops and attractions in the small communities just off the route, where music is a way of life. A mobile app is available too.

Wayne County Visitor Center
As you prepare to cross the Tennessee-Alabama border, let the Wayne County Visitor Center in Collinwood be your area guide. In particular, get directions to Wichahpi Commemorative Wall, a powerful landmark that represents the very foundation of the Muscle Shoals story.

Wichahpi Commemorative Wall
Known to most as “Tom’s Wall,” this stone wall monument is 30-plus years in the making, the life’s work of Florence resident Tom Hendrix in memory of his great-great- grandmother, a Yuchi Indian woman named Te-lah-nay, who lived along the Tennessee River in the 1800s. The tribe called it the “Singing River,” believing that a woman who lived under its flowing surface sang to them through the sounds it made as the water passed over the rocky shoals. Te-lah-nay was sent to Oklahoma as a teen on the Trail of Tears following the tragic Indian Removal Act of 1830, a journey so brutal that more than 4,000 Native Americans died on the trip. Upon her arrival in Oklahoma, Te-lah-nay found that the rivers did not sing; homesick and determined, she braved the elements and countless other dangers to return—more than 600 miles on foot—to her beloved singing river. Each stone in the wall represents one step in her journey home. People from all over the world feel a mysterious connection to this area, sensing a soulful musical presence buried deep in its landscape and trickling from its every stream, beckoning them to come feel the music here. Tom’s Wall is the largest unmortared wall in the U.S., and the largest monument to a Native American woman. The site is open to all visitors; find directions at the Wayne County Visitor Center in Collinwood, just north of the Alabama-Tennessee line.

ROUTE GUIDE: Continue following the Natchez Trace Parkway, exiting onto Highway 20 toward Florence and the Shoals area.

lawrenceburg-florence-muscle_shoals

ALTERNATE ROUTE GUIDE: Exit the Natchez Trace Parkway at Highway 412/Highway 99, and follow the signs to Mount Pleasant, where you’ll catch Highway 43 south and continue on to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, and Florence, Alabama.

Along The Way:
Highway 43

As you travel Highway 43, you’ll want to make a few stops in the towns along the way. Check out the Maury County CVB and the Lawrence County Tourism sites for more information on the area.

Visit Mount Pleasant Grille in Mount Pleasant, the historic downtown restaurant that regularly hosted Opry members Eddy Arnold, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff and others on its second-floor stage.

Nearby Summertown is home to The Farm, an intentional community and former 1970s commune. It’s perhaps best known for its midwifery reputation under the leadership of Ina May Gaskin. Call ahead to schedule a tour, visit the small general store, explore the ecovillage or register for a workshop; join the pickin’ party every Labor Day Weekend at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.

Ethridge is a great place to experience Amish Country, with plenty of pies, quilts, crafts and more along Highway 43—even buggy rides through the pastoral Amish countryside. The Amish are a traditionalist Christian culture, known for their simple dress and way of life—including old-world farming practices and the rejection of conveniences like electricity or automobiles, which they believe would distract them from their faith and threaten their dependence on the tightly knit community.

Traveler Tip: The Amish are comfortable sharing their unique lifestyle with visitors, but please refrain from taking photographs. They hold to the Bible’s dictum “thou shalt not make a graven image nor any likeness of a thing.”


Lawrenceburg

Music

James D. Vaughan Museum
Visit this local museum for artifacts and memorabilia detailing the life and career of James D. Vaughan, the Father of Southern Gospel Music. He founded his namesake publishing company in Lawrenceburg in 1900, and later founded the Vaughan School of Music, establishing and defining the Southern Gospel genre. Contact local curator Tom Crews to book a tour; hours vary.
31 Public Square, Lawrenceburg. 931-629-5779 (Mr. Crews); 931-762-8991 (City Parks Dept.)

Fast Fact:  

Southern Gospel music played an important role in shaping rock and roll, from Jerry Lee Lewis’s early influences (he started out playing piano in a gospel group with cousins Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart) to the Jordonaires, the gospel group that famously provided backing vocals for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ricky Nelson and many, many more.

Fast Fact:  

The 106th Congress of the United States recognized Lawrenceburg, Tennessee as the birthplace of Southern Gospel.

Music Connection

Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Lawrenceburg, and be sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.

Visit in July to experience the James D. Vaughan Southern Music Gospel Festival at the historic Crockett Theater in downtown Lawrenceburg.

Stop at Weathers Brothers Music Store in downtown Lawrenceburg for instruments, bluegrass CDs and an informal Saturday morning bluegrass jam.

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

Just a few blocks south of the Lawrenceburg town square, check out the David Crockett Cabin and Museum. The legendary frontiersman, statesman and soldier once lived here from 1817 to 1822, during his business and political career. Tour a replica of his office filled with memorabilia and artifacts from the era.

Whether you’re an antique hunter or just interested in chatting with friendly locals, stop by New Moon Antiques on the square in Lawrenceburg.

Traveler Resources

This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore Lawrence County Tourism Website for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.

Lawrenceburg Wiki
Main Street Lawrenceburg
Lawrence County Tourism

ALTERNATE ROUTE GUIDE: Continue following Highway 43, exiting onto Highway 2 toward Florence

Muscle Shoals, Florence / Sheffield / Tuscumbia

Music

Florence/AL Visitors Center
This state-of-the-art visitors center should be the first stop for your Muscle Shoals area experience. Expansive music exhibits highlight the rich musical history of the region, and interactive information and helpful staff will help you plan your next steps while you’re here. You can even book a music-focused “Swampette” tour of the area with Judy Hood, wife of Swampers’ bass player David Hood.
200 Jim Spain Dr., Florence. 256-740-4141

FAME Studios
Visit the studio that launched the famous Muscle Shoals sound in 1959, churning out hits by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and many more. Like the “big” studios in Nashville and Memphis, the first FAME artists typically recorded with the studio’s house band, a distinctive group known as the “Swampers.” Though it was the racially charged Civil Rights era, backing primarily black artists with white session players turned out to be a recipe for success, sparking a new evolution in popular music around the world. FAME still records top artists today—musicians seek it out for its rich history, soulful vibe and magic touch. Visit the FAME Studios website or Twitter Page for tour times.
603 E. Avalon Ave., Muscle Shoals. 256-381-0801

Fast Fact:  

As a young unknown artist in 1969, 22-year-old Duane Allman doggedly hung around the FAME Studios parking lot in 1969, hoping for an opportunity to play for Rick Hall, the studio’s producer and founder. Allman made his way into session work with Hall that year, and during a session with Wilson Pickett the two played an impromptu version of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” that received worldwide attention. British rocker Eric Clapton reportedly heard Allman’s song on the radio and pulled over to the side of the road to listen. “I drove home and called Atlantic Records immediately,” Clapton said. “I had to know who that was playing guitar, and I had to know now.” If you’re a dedicated Allman Brothers fan, consider making the trip to the Allman Brothers Band Museum in Macon, Georgia.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
If you take one photo in the Shoals, make it this one: the legendary 3614 Jackson Highway building that has hosted recording sessions for Cher, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd and countless others in the 1970s. Founded in 1969 by legendary session players the “Swampers” from nearby FAME studios, this studio was catapulted to success when the Rolling Stones, lacking the proper documentation to record in New York, stopped in to lay down preliminary tracks for “Sticky Fingers,” including “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar.” The studio is currently open for tours Monday – Thursday 10am-2pm and Friday – Saturday 10am-4pm with plans for restoration in the near future. No appointment necessary. $5 per person. Call 256-394-3562.
3614 Jackson Hwy., Sheffield.

Fast Fact:  

Percy Sledge, an orderly at the Colbert County Hospital, recorded “When a Man Loves a Woman” in Muscle Shoals in 1966, backed by future members of the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section. The song became one of the first big hits to come from the area, helping to pave the way for countless others to follow. The backing band would later come to be known as the “Swampers,” thanks to Lynyrd Skynrd’s 1974 hit “Sweet Home Alabama.” The group was made up of four session musicians: Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Barry Beckett and Roger Hawkins; Hood and Johnson are interviewed extensively about the magic of Muscle Shoals and hits of the time in the 2013 film “Muscle Shoals.”

Cypress Moon Studios
Pay a visit the second home of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, where the “Swampers” continued to record hits after moving to this formal Naval Reserve Training Center from their Jackson Highway location in 1978.  Bob Seger, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dr. Hook, Etta James, Julian Lennon, Glenn Frey and countless others recorded here over the next 25 years. Take a tour (Mon-Sat) and experience sweeping views of the “singing” Tennessee River, or check out the studio’s  monthly concert series.
1000 Alabama Ave., Sheffield.  256-764-1434 or 256-335-6961.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Visit this comprehensive museum honoring the achievements and music of Alabama natives. From W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues,” to Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock and Roll,” so many Shoals natives have made their indelible mark on music—and global—history. Recordings, personal memorabilia, artifacts and more trace the personal and professional lives of more than 1,000 stars across all music genres, including Tammy Wynette, Lionel Richie, Emmylou Harris, Nat King Cole, Hank Williams and more.
617 US. 72, Tuscumbia. 256-381-4417

Mississippi Blues Trail Marker
The sounds and stories of the blues and its influence on the Muscle Shoals sound can’t be contained within state lines. The Mississippi Blues Trail marker outside the Alabama Music Hall of Fame tells the stories of the Mississippi players who both influenced and helped to create the distinctive sound.

W.C. Handy Home, Museum & Library
Visit the small log cabin where W.C. Handy was born in 1873. Known as the “Father of the Blues,” Handy was an accomplished bandleader, and the first person to publish a blues song, “Mr. Crump’s Blues”—later known as “Memphis Blues” —in 1912. In doing so, he set the wheels in motion for the blues sound to spread past the Delta, planting the seeds for Memphis Soul and the Muscle Shoals sound, and reaching all the way across the ocean to influence rock and roll from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton. See memorabilia, instruments and artifacts that tell the story of Handy’s life, including his piano and trumpet.
620 W. College St., Florence, Alabama. 256-760-6434

Fast Fact:  

Another music pioneer born in Florence was Sam Phillips, founder of the legendary Sun Records and Sun Studios in Memphis. Phillips grew up poor in a family of white tenant farmers, working alongside black laborers and hearing the early blues—sounds that would influence his uncanny ear for breakout stars, including Elvis Presley.

Swampers Bar and Grille
Stop by this hotel bar for a meal, and get your fill of music memorabilia and live entertainment every night. You’ll find an incredible collection of photos featuring world-famous artists who recorded here in the Shoals area. And it’s not just great music and iconic memories—Swampers has a best-in-the-nation customer service rating too.
800 Cox Creek Pkwy. South, Florence. 1-256-246-3662

Music Connection

Check out these sites, festivals, shops and online resources for Muscle Shoals, and be sure you catch a show at a local venue while you’re in town.

Before you come to the Shoals, the 2013 award-winning film “Muscle Shoals is a must-watch.

Visit Florence in July to catch the weeklong W.C. Handy Music Festival, featuring performances by national blues acts.

Catch a show, a meal and a drink at the Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia, the bar that’s built into a cave—catch a live show from time to time too.

If you get the chance, see a live show at the historic Shoals Theater. Keep up with events and happenings on the theater’s Facebook Page.

Hop over to nearby Russellville for a show at the Roxy Theatre, where you’ll catch Kerry Gilbert and the KGB on the second Saturday night of every month.

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

“The Shoals” is the widely used name describing Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Florence, Alabama. Right on the banks of the Tennessee River, this area was once home to Native Americans who settled near the “singing river”—so named for the sound of the shallow, treacherous rapids flowing over the rocky deposits called “shoals.” This was one of the first white settlements on the Natchez Trace; in the 1960s and 70s, the area was home to the music studios that produced some of the most revolutionary records of the era. Today, the four towns have joined forces to undertake a revitalization of the area, focused on reclaiming its rich music heritage.

Florence is known for its beautifully preserved historic homes—explore any of its 10 historic districts to take in the many styles of architecture. Pick up a brochure map at the Visitors Bureau.

Spend some time exploring Florence’s historic Main Street and Tuscumbia’s Main Street District, both great spots for shopping, dining and a truly Southern experience.

Check Florence’s online calendar for events and live music.

Visit the Indian Mound and Museum in Florence for a glimpse into the lives of the area’s early residents.

Visit the Rosenbaum House in Florence, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939. This national architectural treasure on Riverview Drive is now a museum.

Fast Fact:  

Florence serves as home base for Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid, both nationally known designers.

Visit Ivy Green, the childhood home of Tuscumbia native Helen Keller, to see original family furnishings, hundreds of personal mementos and more. Keller, left blind and deaf following a childhood illness, went on to inspire the world by learning to read and write, attending college, and becoming a prolific author and lecturer. Visit in June and July to see the famous stage play “The Miracle Worker performed on-site.

Stay for golf at the world-class Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals, part of the largest golf course construction project ever attempted.

Visit the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard in nearby Red Bay.  Established in 1937 with the burial of “Troop,” it is the only cemetery of its kind in the world with more than 185 canine graves.

Take a detour and head east on HWY 75 to Huntsville, AL, also known as Rocket City USA to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the world’s largest space attraction. Explore incredible displays of artifacts from our nation’s space program, hands-on interactive exhibits, IMAX theater, 3D theater, space travel simulators and so much more– even the restored Saturn V moon rocket

Get your culture fix in Huntsville at the historic Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment District, home to more than 100 working artists, small businesses, restaurants and vendors. Guitar players will want to make a stop at Danny Davis Acoustic Instruments, a complete luthier shop. Catch live music every Friday night in the spring during Concerts on the Dock, and don’t miss the annual two-day Cigar Box Guitar Festival, held the weekend after Memorial Day.

Find well-known small and largemouth bass fishing destinations and tips at the Florence/Lauderdale CVB  and Colbert County websites.

Traveler Resources

This list represents our personal recommendations, but be sure to explore Florence/Lauderdale County and Colbert County’s online tourism resources for lodging, dining, events, additional attractions and more information on anything listed above. Conditions change, businesses open and close; the local CVB is the best source for current information.

Downtown Florence
Florence CVB
Muscle Shoals Wiki
City of Tuscumbia
City of Sheffield
City of Muscle Shoals
Colbert County Visitors Center
Muscle Shoals Music Foundation 
Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area
City of Huntsville

Along the Way:
Red Bay

As you leave the Shoals area, consider passing through nearby Red Bay for a visit to the Red Bay Museum Tammy Wynette exhibit to see memorabilia, photos, stage costumes and more donated by Tammy Wynette’s friends and family. The singer was originally from Tremont, Mississippi, where a Mississippi Country Music Trail marker stands in her honor, but Red Bay was the closest town for movies, shopping, etc., when Tammy was a young girl.
110 4TH St. SE, Red Bay, AL. 256-356-8758

Regional & State Traveler Resources

Scenic Trace, a comprehensive guide to traveling the 444-mile route between Nashville and Natchez
Tennessee Vacation
Alabama Tourism
Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways
Natchez Trace Travel, Free Natchez Trace itinerary planning and B&B/cottage reservation service
North Alabama Tourism
Civil War Trails
Alabama Civil Rights Trail

Travel Tips

  • In many rural areas, restaurants and other stops are open and ready for business on the weekends only; in other areas, attractions close on Sundays and Mondays instead. Be aware that hours of operation may vary, especially in smaller communities, and lodging options can be few and far between. We encourage you to visit websites, make phone calls and prepare in advance in order to catch these sites—small businesses and small towns in particular—at their best.
  • The Natchez Trace Parkway is a linear National Park; you won’t find gas stations, convenience stores or other quick stops on this scenic route unless you jump off the Trace and into one of the corridor communities along the way. Be sure to start with a full tank of gas, and keep your speed in check—the 50-mph limit on this scenic drive is actively enforced.
  • The rural South is economically diverse, with pockets of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, which can raise safety questions with travelers. Our advice is to behave as you would in any urban area—keep car doors locked, keep valuables with you and don’t flaunt jewelry or cash.
  • This information was accurate when published but can change without notice.

 

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