By the mid 1970s the Muscle Shoals music industry was coming into its own… No longer was it a “mom and pop” small business… Nor was it a “bunch of hippies” making music. Local studios had grown from SPAR, FAME and Norala to include facilities such as Widget, Muscle Shoals Sound, Music Mill, Broadway, Wishbone… and hit records were being recorded at all of these… Muscle Shoals was recognized worldwide – well, everywhere in the world, but in the Quad Cities of northwest Alabama.
Studio owners recognized the need to work together in order to further their needs for local and state support. In 1975 the Muscle Shoals Music Association was formed… That first board was composed of studio owners Rick Hall (FAME) (who served as MSMA’s first president), Jimmy Johnson (MSS), David Johnson (Broadway), Terry Woodford (Wishbone), Al Cartee (Music Mill) and songwriter Terry Skinner. Eventually, the Board would include representatives from the Nashville offices of ASCAP and BMI. As MSMA grew through membership drives, and dues accumulated into a reliable form of revenue, the MSMA Board brought on their first executive director – former Sheffield Mayer Buddy Draper who was a longtime supporter of Muscle Shoals music. As mayor Draper had encouraged local banks, city governments and civic organizations to embrace the music industry.
It was during this time the U.S. Congress enacted the Copyright Act of 1976. The act “updated” the antiquated laws governing copyright, including for the first-time protecting sound recordings. The eight-track tape format was the “state-of-the-art format” at that time, and tape piracy was in epidemic proportions. While Muscle Shoals was the “hit recording capitol of the world,” ironically one of the largest tape piracy duplicating facilities in the US was located across the river in Florence. Through the actions of the MSMA, legislation was passed in Alabama to make tape piracy illegal (one of the first, if not the first, State to do so) and the Florence facility, as well as other such facilities in the State of Alabama were shut down.
MSMA led the pursuit of legislation forming the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Supported by local State Senator Bobby Denton (himself a Muscle Shoals recording artist), in 1980 the State Legislature created the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board – the mandate of which was to honor Alabama’s musical achievers and to build a facility in which to honor such individuals and accomplishments.
The entrepreneurial training program Junior Achievement maintained a presence in the Shoals area in the 70s and 80s. In the early 80s, MSMA hosted a JA record label under the guidance of executive director Buddy Draper and Wishbone’s Kevin Lamb – the first such record label in the history of Junior Achievement. The label recorded local high school bands at Wishbone and other studios, and manufactured vinyl albums which were then sold within the local community.
And of course, there were the Muscle Shoals Music Association Record and Producers Seminars hosted at Joe Wheeler State Park. Under the leadership of Draper, for three years in a row, music executives from (literally) all over the world gathered at Joe Wheeler State Park for three days of educational seminars and networking opportunities.
Local journalist Bill Jarnigan stepped up to fill the Executive Director’s seat when Draper resigned.
Under the guidance of songwriter Ava Aldridge, Suzanne Bolton, Janna Malone, Jimmy Nutt and others, MSMA continued their goal of “educational opportunities” for a new generation of music makers over the next several years.
In 2002- 2006 MSMA produced Songfest, a songwriter’s festival featuring a who’s who of Muscle Shoals Music legends and award-winning industry professionals from around the world. Performances and panels by Clarence Carter, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, Spooner Oldham, George Jackson, Alan Parsons, Rick Hall, Mac McAnally, David Hood, Dan Penn, Phil Walden, Roger Hawkins, Bonnie Bramlett, Rita Coolidge and many more.
If you’d like to be a part of MSMA, and help the organization continue to celebrate its history, while supporting the next generation of music makers, please join us! We look forward to continuing to grow the Muscle Shoals music community with exciting events and opportunities to network with other music lovers and creators. Please join here and become a member today!