The Shoals is a metropolitan area in northwestern Alabama, officially known as the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Area, including the cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, and Sheffield, and the counties of Lauderdale and Colbert. The population is about 142,950.
The Shoals is home to the University of North Alabama located in Florence and is the birthplace of Helen Keller, Tuscumbia. Every summer the play “The Miracle Worker” is produced for the public to view on the original Keller homesite. The water pump at which Helen rediscovered language is used as a prop in the play. Other area attractions include the Zodiac Theater located in downtown Florence.
The Shoals is also noted for its rich music traditions and is sometimes referred to as the birth place of the blues. W. C. Handy, credited by some as the father of the Blues was born there. In addition it is the literal birthplace of three members of the contemporary southern rock band Drive-By Truckers. In the 1970s and 80s, and to some extent even today, The Shoals was home to a thriving recording industry, particularly based on FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Popular groups and musicians including The Rolling Stones, Julian Lennon and Lynyrd Skynyrd have recorded there. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is located in Tuscumbia.
In the summer, late July and early August, the area hosts the famed Handy Music and Helen Keller Festivals.
Notable attorney, actor, former senator and presidential contender Fred Thompson was born in Sheffield. Also the actor Cedric Pendleton, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, is from Florence.