A visit to Florence, Alabama, (and neighboring Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Sheffield) not too far across the Tennessee-Alabama border, should be on every Nashvillian’s bucket list no matter what you’re into — music, architecture, history, coon hunting or barbecue.
The area is a well-known, much-revered mecca for music lovers. Visit the childhood home and museum of W.C. Handy, the father of the blues. The FAME recording studio offers a very quirky short tour of the birthplace of Muscle Shoal’s magical sound. They haven’t even run a vacuum in there since Duane Allman played that solo on Wilson Pickett’s cover of “Hey Jude,” so it’s truly an authentic experience.
Dr. Dre purchased the competing Jackson Highway Studio, home of the Swampers who split from FAME, and it’s currently under renovation, but the building is worth a photo. And be sure to snap a selfie next to the historic marker in the field by the downtown Florence Hampton Inn (walking distance to Florence’s quaint food and dining district and the flagship Billy Reid), the site of the former motel where the Rolling Stones camped out while recording “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and “You Gotta Move” in 1969.
Beyond the Swampers, you won’t believe how many famous musicians once called Alabama home. They’re all showcased in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Don’t miss a tour of the incredible Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House, built in 1939 — a shining example of Wright’s Usonian architecture and beautifully maintained by the city of Florence. The childhood home of Helen Keller (complete with the famous backyard water hand pump) is a trip back in time. And the Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard is a nice little drive through the countryside.
We are especially fond of the little family-owned neighborhood barbecue spots like Bunyan’s, Howell’s and Brooks, homegrown and much older than the slick barbecue of new Nashville. They all feature the incredible and very simple Alabama hot slaw. It’s a spicy blend of chopped cabbage with yellow mustard dressing, ideal for piling on a barbecue pork sandwich or hot dog. We strongly suggest you whip up a batch, whether it be for your next cookout or weeknight take-out pulled pork.
We’ve got two secrets to the slaw for you. One, chop it up nicely in a food processor so it looks more like a relish (and will sit better in a sandwich). Two, the dressing is an even blend of yellow mustard, cider vinegar and sugar. Add salt to taste and a big pinch of cayenne pepper. Make it a day or two ahead; it gets better with time.
This post appears at Nfocus Magazine and we include it here for our rbandmindy.com readers.