Residents of Athens-Limestone have good reason to be proud of their rich heritage when it comes to music. We are still celebrating the fact that our very own Alabama Shakes won three Grammys this year, legendary songwriter Roger Murrah has loaned us the piano that started his career, and Limestone County natives such as the Delmore Brothers, Jabe Hess, and Ernie Ashworth are all honored in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Recently tourism officials from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas attended a meeting at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame to discuss their strategies for attracting more visitors to what has become known as the Americana Music Triangle. The “Triangle” is a term for the cities in the South which have become famous for their role in shaping American music such as jazz, country, rock and soul. The points of the Triangle include Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans. The Americana Music Triangle was founded by Aubrey Preston, a Leiper’s Fork, TN, businessman, for the purpose of building music tourism in the South. At the meeting, Mr. Preston said, “Pass the ball,” meaning when it comes to increasing music-related tourism, “Work with your team mates so you can score and get ahead.” Other officials at the meeting said, “The cooperative efforts of local and state tourism agencies, along with the music industry and the help of the Americana Music Triangle are paying off.”
Aubrey developed a website called www.americanamusictriangle.com and launched it about a year ago, using all media platforms to do so. Its tag line is, “Where history made music, then music made history.” It has been highly successful. The site functions as a web-based guide to the cities in the triangle, and there is no cost to use the site.
Debbie Wilson, of the Alabama Tourism Office, said Americana Music Triangle maps have been placed in the 8 Welcome Centers across Alabama. The Athens-Limestone County Tourism Office will have the maps in their visitor’s center in the next couple of weeks.
Alabama and Tennessee tourism associations have been especially engaged in promoting music tourism for the past two years. The Muscle Shoals and Nashville musical connection is especially strong, and Franklin and Florence have become connected as well. I would like to see Athens participate in this partnership as well.
There is no cost to tourism to be a part of the Triangle. It has no paid staff and exists as a virtual map and guide that can be used by tourists everywhere. If Athens can start its own Athens-Limestone Music Museum soon, we can tap into and post upcoming events and news.
The Colbert County Convention and Visitors Bureau has actively marketed the Shoals to Europeans interested in the music heritage of the area. The Americana Music Triangle, along with the Muscle Shoals feature length documentary have been really good for raising our level of music tourism activity. The documentary was released in 2013.
Preston said the launch of the site generated 6 million media impressions, which was coupled with a weeklong bus tour around the Triangle. He encouraged tourism officials to work with each other and coordinate trips to other events when possible.
Since tourists coming to our area often aren’t completely aware of state and county lines while traveling, they will go outside the Triangle borders to visit the location of the birthplace or home of their favorite musician or music genre. If we can make a way for there to be a music museum here, they will come. We can all win by showing support for the great talent we are so blessed to have as a part of our community.
By: Teresa Todd, President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association