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USA Music Tour 2015 Day 23

Tuscumbia Alabama 12 September

We were ready to leave Clarksdale and head to Alabama.  Leaving the Ground Zero Blues Club was not a chore.  The Club has I believe four rooms upstairs, as well as the one we stayed in, which is larger and out the back which was selected as it was a better fit for the three of us.  I cannot speak for the rooms upstairs, but I would strongly recommend that you NOT stay in the room that faces Sunflower Avenue.  Location good, but I have nothing else positive to say about it.

We headed due east looking to have breakfast in the town of Oxford Mississippi, rather than frequent the Yazoo Pass Cafe for a third time.

The one hour drive was pretty, a sunny day, large clouds of white and light grey fluff, green fields and crops a-plenty.

Oxford is a college town and a picturesque one at that, with a courthouse in the middle of the historic precinct.  The intended destination for our meal was the Ajax Diner until I discovered it did not open until 11.30.  We found the Bottlefield Bakery which was perfect.

The town was buzzing and blazing of the navy of the local College football team Ole Miss who were playing its first game today.  A nice happy atmosphere, sports fans full of hope and promise for their own team at the start of the season.

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

We needed to be in Tuscumbia (near Muscle Shoals) well before 5pm, which was the closing time of The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame.  Also, even though the Fame Recording Studio was closed this afternoon, I suggested we go there first just in case we could get in, you never know.  Otherwise, a photo opportunity outside would suffice.

Almost three hours drive, we started along a rolling straight highway then the GPS directed us to the Natchez Parkway Trail, joining it just near Tupelo MS.  It was pretty, a mixture of trees on either side of the two-lane undulating road, with well-cut verges (a lot of maintenance involved I would imagine).

Eventually we crossed the State border into The Muscle Shoals Forest, found Highway 72 and headed past The Hall of Fame and our hotel for the night, all in Tuscumbia (the home of Helen Keller by the way) but we needed to keep going, taking a left into Muscle Shoals and, after a bit of trouble, finding Fame Recording Studios.  There were cars outside, maybe it wasn’t shut?

photo Jim Jacob

It was.  We took a couple of shots outside (photos!) and then two fellows appeared out the door.  It turned out they were Spencer Coats (who works at Fame) and Jimbo Hart (bass player with Jason Isbell’s band, The 400 Unit).

When Spencer realised we were Australians, he offered to take us through after he had done an errand for his boss.  Of course we would wait!

When they returned, Jimbo put us on to a show in nearby Florence tonight (see below) and Spencer showed us around (as much as he could, there was a band recording at the time), to one of the recording booths, Rick Hall’s office, the board room, the gold and platinum records.  Sheer magic for us music buffs (it reminded me I must watch the wonderful Muscle Shoals documentary again).  A quick stop at the gift shop, nice shirts and of course CDs.  We were very lucky to get in…so fortunate.

photo Jim Jacob

Spencer showing us around – photo Jim Jacob

HMV Listening Dog – photo by Jim Jacob

The office of Fame founder Rick Hall – photo by Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

Okay, the time was 3.45pm.  The trip back the way we came took us to The Alabama Hall of Fame, along Highway 72.  From the outside, it was much bigger and more modern than I expected.  We got to the front desk at 4pm, enough time (just).  The facility honours the musicians and singers who were born in Alabama or who have lived there – plenty of them too, Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Emmylou Harris, Sam Phillips, Nat King Cole, the group Alabama, the group Alabama Shakes (why, of course!), Webb Pierce, Jimmy Buffett, Percy Sledge, The Civil Wars etc.  It’s a long and distinguished list.  The exhibits feature Webb Pierce’s crazy ‘cowboy car’, the band Alabama’s tour bus, Sun Studios, Fame Recording Studio and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.  Tributes to the native songwriters as well.  Terrific.

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

Checked in at the Microtel Hotel down the road.  Get organised for tonight’s show in Florence.

We found the club Flobama, a steak close by and, despite the long line outside, got tickets.

The Boxmasters have just released a new double album by the name Somewhere Down The Road, one disc of uptempo songs and the other more moody.  Tonight it was the faster numbers.  The songs generally have a power pop chorus and intelligent lyrics. The band was tight, electric guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboard, bass and drums.  Everyone suited up.  Lead singer Billy Bob Thornton had a quiet edginess, full of opinions and humour, interactions with the crowd were a feature and that flashing smile.  An unexpected treat and thanks to Jimbo for giving us the tip.

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob


 

On the morrow, it’s McMinnville and Nashville.

 

Read about our musical experiences through Alabama

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Author: Rob Dickens

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