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Alabama Artists

The roots of American music run deep in Alabama, where blues, rock, country and jazz all trace their origins. Today, the scene is vibrant as ever, producing superstar performers and an authentic vibe that music lovers travel the globe to experience.

  • Photo of Act of Congress

    Act of Congress


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    Birmingham-based Act of Congress (2007– ) released its debut album, “Declaration,” in 2008. Band members Adam Wright and Chris Griffin began making music together in 2001 as students at the University of Montevallo, and Tim Carroll and Bethany Borg later joined the group. The progressive acoustic band, often compared to Nickel Creek, combines elements of modern bluegrass, pop, jazz, and rock. Act of Congress won the 2008 Disc Makers Independent Music World Series.

  • Photo of Adele "Vera" Hall

    Adele "Vera" Hall


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    Born just outside of Livingston in Sumter County, Adele “Vera” Hall (1902–1964) grew up to establish one of the most stunning bodies of American folk music on record. Hall’s recordings made for the Library of Congress in the 1930s include her haunting voice and are examples of early blues and folk songs found nowhere else. Her “Another Man Done Gone” was broadcast by the BBC as a sampling of American folk music and a defining part of Southern Black culture. Another of her recordings, “Trouble So Hard,” was an international hit for electronic rocker Moby in the late 1990s.

  • Photo of Alabama

    Alabama


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    Alabama (1977–2003) has more No. 1 records than any band in country music history and has sold more concert tickets than any other country group. Not only are they the top selling country music group of all time with 66 million in record sales, but they also rank as one of the 10 biggest selling bands overall. Its members lived in DeKalb County in the northeast corner of the state. Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry grew up on separate cotton farms on Lookout Mountain in Alabama. Their roots in the state are clearly noted, not only in the band’s name but also in their songs. At least two of which include Alabama in the name, “My Home’s in Alabama” and “Alabama Sky.” The band was inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1993. Today visitors can tour the Alabama Fan Club and Museum in Fort Payne. In the Fort Payne city park are statues of the band’s members. Each June is Alabama Fan Appreciation Weekend in Fort Payne that includes a Songwriter’s Showcase and other concerts held in the area.

  • Photo of Allison Moorer

    Allison Moorer


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    Contemporary country singer and songwriter Allison Moorer (1972– ) had an impressive start to her musical career: Robert Redford chose her first single, “A Soft Place to Fall,” to appear in his 1998 film The Horse Whisperer. The ballad was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Moorer performed it at the Oscars. The younger sister of country artist Shelby Lynne, Moorer was born in Mobile, raised in Frankville and educated at the University of South Alabama. “Alabama Song,” the title track of her debut album, describes her home state. The critically acclaimed artist also received a Grammy nomination for “Days Aren’t Long Enough,” a 2007 duet with her husband, musician Steve Earle.

  • Photo of Ashton Shepherd

    Ashton Shepherd


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    Ashton Shepherd (1985- ) of Coffeeville, Ala., may be only 25, but that doesn’t mean her career is young. Shepherd entered her first talent contest at eight years old and released her first independent record at 15. In June 2006 she won a contest to open for Lorrie Morgan. It was there she was discovered by a record producer and signed shortly after. She released her major label debut in 2007 featuring the single, “Takin’ Off the Pain” which peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Country Singles chart. In May 2011, her name was on the charts again with, “Look It Up.”

  • Photo of Auburn Knights Orchestra

    Auburn Knights Orchestra

    Formed in 1930, the Auburn Knights Orchestra is one of the oldest college-age big band organizations still performing in the world. The band is made up of students at Auburn University. During the early years, the swing band gave students a way to perform during summer break in order to earn money for college expenses. Today to the band can be heard during live performances at their annual reunion weekend each July at Auburn.

  • Bama State Collegians

    Alabama State University can thank the Bama State Collegians (1930s– ) for its very existence today. During the Great Depression, this student jazz orchestra was the most popular of three jazz bands whose income saved the Montgomery school, then known as Alabama State College, from closing. They toured the country, sending back proceeds to pay for expenses such as teacher salaries. The band was directed by a number of notable musicians, including Tommy Stewart and Erskine Hawkins. In 1934, the group traveled to New York and became the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, recording hit records such as “Tuxedo Junction,” which rose to No. 7 nationally as performed by Erskine Hawkins and No. 1 as performed by Glenn Miller.

  • Photo of Benjamin Lloyd

    Benjamin Lloyd

    A successful Chambers County businessman and later a public office holder in Greenville, Benjamin Lloyd (1804–1860) was a prominent Primitive Baptist in the early 1800s, a time of dissension among Baptists over various issues, including the use of music during worship services. Lloyd selected 535 hymns from popular hymnbooks of that time and published the words, without musical notation, under the title The Primitive Hymns in 1841 in Wetumpka. Published and revised by the Lloyd family for 130 years, the book now contains 705 hymns and is still used by Primitive Baptist congregations around the country.

  • Photo of Beth Nielsen Chapman

    Beth Nielsen Chapman


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    Some of the music world’s biggest stars have recorded songs by Montgomery singer and songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman (1956– ): Elton John, Faith Hill, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Bette Midler, Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Roberta Flack, Martina McBride, Waylon Jennings and Andy Bey, to name a few. Chapman co-wrote “This Kiss,” a No. 1 country hit by Faith Hill that received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song in 1999. Other No. 1 hits written by Chapman include “Five Minutes,” “Nothing I Can Do About It Now” and “Strong Enough to Bend.” Her own recordings have been especially well received in the United Kingdom, where her concerts routinely sell out and her album “Deeper Still” was voted Album of the Year by BBC2’s Terry Wogan.

  • Photo of Birmingham Sunlights

    Birmingham Sunlights


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    This four-part a cappella group from Birmingham began within the Church of Christ, which allows no instruments in its music. The group has since become an international representative of U.S. music, singing hymns and folk songs across Africa, Australia and Europe.

  • Photo of Bo Bice

    Bo Bice


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    A Southern-rock sensation on the TV music competition show American Idol, Bo Bice (1975– ) is living proof that Alabama continues to produce music stars. Born Harold Elwin Bice Jr. in Huntsville, Bice grew up in the Birmingham suburb of Helena. His first album after his American Idol appearances, “Real Thing,” was certified gold. Bice formed his own label, Sugar Money Records, and has released additional albums.

  • Photo of Bradley Walker

    Bradley Walker


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    Bluegrass Unlimited magazine has called Bradley Walker (1978– ) “the next great voice of bluegrass music,” and the International Bluegrass Music Association named him Male Vocalist of the Year in 2007. Raised in Athens, Walker has a traditional country sound and a powerful vocal style that has been compared to George Jones and Lefty Frizzell. In addition to performing at the Grand Ole Opry and at major bluegrass festivals, Walker has performed several times on Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. Born with muscular dystrophy, he has used a wheelchair his whole life. Walker released his debut album “Highway of Dreams” in 2006.

  • Photo of Braxton Shuffert

    Braxton Shuffert

    Braxton Shuffert was known to listeners of WSFA radio as “The Singing Cowboy” from 1933 to 1950. He was very popular, and received thousands of fan letters, and was a Country Music pioneer in central Alabama. He performed regularly at the City Auditorium in Montgomery and throughout central Alabama. Hiram (Hank) Williams had listened to Braxton on the radio for almost 5 years before they met in 1938 when Hiram was only 15 years old.

    Braxton organized Hank Williams’ first band and was one of the original “Drifting Cowboys”. After serving a few years in the Army during World War II, Hank had Braxton to come to Nashville and record with MGM records; he even had a songwriter’s contract to write exclusively for Acuff-Rose.

    Braxton was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry but turned it down because his family was more important to him than his music. He continued to perform with Hank any time Hank returned to Alabama. He was with Hank every day the week before Hank died and served as a pallbearer at his funeral.

    At 95, he continues to write songs and perform with his backup band, The Pickers. The Hank Williams Museum has a large display case dedicated to Braxton.

  • Photo of Brother Cane

    Brother Cane


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    Formed in 1990 by a group of friends in Birmingham, Brother Cane (1990-1998) released three studio albums on Virgin Records before disbanding in 1998. They are best remembered for their single, “And Fools Shine On” from the 1995 album, Seeds, which was featured on the soundtrack for the movie Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The album charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Album Rock Charts.

  • Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport


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    Charles “Cow Cow” Davenport (1894–1955) played piano in the boogie-woogie style that helped give birth to rock and roll. Like many blues players, Davenport, who was born in Anniston, had a strong connection to Alabama gospel music. He attended seminary in Selma, only to be kicked out for playing ragtime. Davenport toured and recorded with blues singer Dora Carr in the mid-1920s and later briefly worked with blues singer Ivy Smith in the late 1920s. In 1938 he suffered a stroke that affected his piano playing. He remained active singing until he could play the piano again. Two albums of his music, “Cow Cow Blues” and “Alabama Strut,” were released in the 1970s.

  • Photo of Chuck Leavell

    Chuck Leavell

    Alabama is famous for being home to some of the world’s most talented studio musicians, and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (1952– ) of Birmingham is a central figure in that legacy. He joined The Allman Brothers Band after the death of founder Duane Allman, who began his career as a Muscle Shoals studio guitarist. After playing with the band during the peak of its fame, Leavell eventually started the jazz-rock band Sea Level, then began working as a studio musician. He has since played with greats such as Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones.

  • Photo of Claire Lynch

    Claire Lynch


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    Currently one of the country’s leading female bluegrass artists, Claire Lynch (1954– ) of Hazel Green continues to collect awards and accolades including two Grammy nominations. Nominated 12 times for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year award from 1994 to 2009, she won the category in 1997. Lynch began her music career as part of her husband’s bluegrass band, Hickory Wind, when they and the other band members were students at the University of Alabama. Hickory Wind later became the Front Porch String Band, and in 2005 the Claire Lynch Band was created. A singer, songwriter and session vocalist, Lynch’s harmonies have been on albums by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.

  • Photo of Clarence "Bluesman" Davis

    Clarence "Bluesman" Davis

    Born near Eutaw, Clarence “Bluesman” Davis (1946– ) is one of Alabama’s authentic, down-home juke joint performers. Davis is a one-man band in the style of Southern blues, singing while accompanying himself on guitar and foot-pedal bass. He co-founded the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, held annually in Eutaw in late August. Included in Davis’s repertoire: “Goosa Quarter Farm,” “Hootchie Momma,” ”Born in the Country” and “Pick’n the Blues.”

  • Photo of Clarence Carter

    Clarence Carter


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    Blind from birth, Clarence Carter (1936– ) taught himself to play guitar by listening to the blues. Carter was born in Montgomery and attended high school at the Alabama School for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega. He majored in music at Alabama State University, where he met fellow blind classmate Calvin Scott and formed the duo Clarence & Calvin. They recorded several songs, including two at FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, but Carter didn’t become a hit artist until embarking on his solo career. His gritty, earthy vocals combined with often wicked and lascivious lyrics (for example, “Sixty Minute Man” and “Strokin’,” his biggest seller) portrayed an American South that became popular with audiences. Carter’s classics “Slip Away” and “Patches” helped establish Muscle Shoals as a center for rhythm and blues artists.

  • Clarence "Pinetop" Smith


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    Although he only recorded 11 tracks before his death at age 25, Clarence “Pinetop” Smith (1904–1929) left his mark on a style of music that would be a key ingredient of rock and roll. Born in the Orion community near Troy, the self-taught piano player was raised in Birmingham where he began performing at house parties in his teens. In 1928, Smith moved to Chicago and recorded “Pinetop’s Boogie-Woogie,” using the phrase “boogie-woogie” for the first time on record. Another recording session followed in 1929, but this would be the last. Just weeks later, he was shot and killed by a stray bullet during a dance-hall fight. Boogie-woogie soon caught on, becoming a craze that swept the world in the 1930s and 1940s.

  • Photo of Cleveland Eaton

    Cleveland Eaton


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    A living legend from the golden age of jazz, bass player Cleveland Eaton (1939– ) of Fairfield has played with a litany of musical greats: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Herbie Hancock, just to name a few. His 10 years spent playing with the famed Count Basie Orchestra even earned him the title of “The Count’s Bassist.” As a solo perfomer, he’s perhaps best known for his masterful 1975 funk album, “Plenty Good Eaton.”

  • Photo of Commodores

    Commodores


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    From the smooth crooning of “Three Times a Lady” to the pumped-up funk of “Brick House,” The Commodores were one of the most versatile and popular bands of the 1970s. Founding members Lionel Richie, Walter Clyde Orange, Milan Williams, William “Wak” King and Ronald La Pread met at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1968 and were signed by Motown in 1972. The band has preserved its Alabama rehearsal and recording space, which can still be found as Commodore Records at 208 East Martin Luther King Highway in Tuskegee.

  • Coot Grant

    Combining vaudeville showmanship with a classic blues sound, Birmingham native Coot Grant (1893–death year unknown) was an international star of the early 1900s. Born Leola B. Pettigrew, daughter of a honky-tonk owner, she began her career as a dancer and found fame by touring with her husband, Wesley Wilson. They performed under many names, including Grant & Wilson, Kid & Coot, and Hunter & Jenkins. The duo also released dozens of singles, including blues classic “Gimme A Pigfoot,” and recorded with superstars such as Louis Armstrong.

  • Curly Chalker


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    Harold Lee “Curly” Chalker (1931–1998) was born in Enterprise and began playing the lap steel guitar in his teens. Considered to be one of country music’s greatest pedal steel players of all time, he advanced the steel guitar from country to both pop and jazz and is credited with inventing bar “quaking” and introducing volume “gutting.” His cascading chords, delivered with the speed of single-string riffs, became known as the “Chalker Sound.” Chalker played or recorded with Willie Nelson, Bill Haley and the Comets, the Gap Band, and Simon and Garfunkel. Chalker also was the staff pedal steel guitar player on the TV show Hee Haw for 18 years. His likeness is featured on a mural in downtown Dothan, along with 16 other country music performers with ties to the Wiregrass region.

  • Dan Penn

    A songwriting sensation in the 1960s, Vernon, Ala. native Dan Penn’s (1941- ) first hit was “Is a Bluebird Blue?,” performed by Conway Twitty. But Penn’s career really took off while at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. There, he penned songs such as “I’m Your Puppet,” “It Tears Me Up,” performed by Percy Sledge, and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” performed by Aretha Franklin. He also co-wrote hits for Joe Simon, Jimmy Hughes and Wilson Pickett. Today, Penn lives in Nashville and tours with legendary songwriter and keyboardist Bobby Emmons.