MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia reopens Friday after being closed nearly a year due to financial problems that silenced the celebration of Alabama music ranging from Hank Williams to Nat King Cole.
Officials said the ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. will include legendary music producer Rick Hall and members of the famed Muscle Shoals Sound rhythm section known as the Swampers, who were recognized with a line in Lynyrd Skynyrd's hit song "Sweet Home Alabama."
State officials pushed to get the tourist attraction reopened to coincide with the attention created by the documentary "Music Shoals." It features Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and others talking about the sound that came out of recording studios in the northwest corner of the state.
"Alabama has a strong musical heritage and the Shoals can lay claim to a unique musical sound. I'm excited that the hall of fame can now reopen in the Shoals and share that musical heritage with more people," Gov. Robert Bentley said Thursday.
The hall was built in 1990 with $2.5 million in state funding. It features the tour bus of the band Alabama, a wax figure of Hank Williams wearing his original stage suit and a wax figure of Nat King Cole at his piano. There are also instruments, apparel and memorabilia from many other Alabama performers, including Lionel Richie, Emmy Lou Harris, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and Tommy Shaw of Styx.
The hall was built in a place that became a recording mecca in the 1960s and 1970s for acts ranging from Aretha Franklin to the Stones and Paul Simon. But its location, more than 60 miles from Interstate 65, meant it was not on a major tourist route. In 2011 and 2012, it drew about 12,500 visitors annually — far too few to pay its own way. That and a loss of state funding resulted in the board closing the hall in November 2012.
In August, three board members resigned and Bentley appointed three new board members. The state also provided $150,000 as the new board set about trying to reopen the hall.
Acting state Finance Director Bill Newton, who serves as chairman of the board, said, "We are all excited that more visitors to our state will be exposed to the state's impressive musical heritage."
To boost the number of visitors, State Tourism Director Lee Sentell — the new treasurer of the hall of fame board — said his agency has prepared a TV commercial promoting Alabama's music industry and the hall of fame that will air on nearly 50 TV stations operated by Montgomery-based Raycom at no cost to the state. His agency will also run ads in music industry publications and promote the attraction in the Alabama Vacation Guide.
"We have many marketing avenues that don't require additional funds," he said.
The hall will operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Board members said longtime employee Dixie Campbell will serve as manager and industry veteran Dick Cooper will return as curator.
After the reopening Friday morning, the documentary "Muscle Shoals" will start playing at a theater in neighboring Florence on Friday night.