Making friends with Muscle Shoals
By Chad Ingram
It was a showing of Muscle Shoals at Haliburton’s Those Other Movies that led county residents Jim and Bernie Davis to the Alabama town for which the documentary is named.
The film tells the story of record producer Rick Hall and his recording studio where artists such as Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Mick Jagger and Bono made some of their most magical recordings.
“I walked out the door and said, ‘Let’s go there,’” Bernie recalls.
That was in the fall of 2013 and in the spring of 2014, the Davises headed to Muscle Shoals for the first time.
“Five weeks later, we had to force ourselves to go home,” Bernie says. “It’s not your typical tourist trap.”
The Davises have been back four times since.
While the southern United States are famous for their hospitality, the Davises say the way they were welcomed in Muscle Shoals was like nothing they’d ever experienced.
“We’ve been in every state in the United States on our bikes,” says Bernie.
The Davises were befriended by a group of fellow bikers who showed them around. Bernie says locals seemed puzzled as to why the Canadian couple had come to the small community.
“‘Why y’all here?’” she says, paraphrasing their hosts. “When you say Canada, they’re really not expecting that.”
Muscle Shoals has a population of some 13,000.
The Davises became known as “the Canadians,” people asking to take selfies with them and tracking their whereabouts on social media.
“By the time we’d get home, 100 people knew where the Canadians had been,” Bernie says.
“The people there have an amazing memory of who you are,” says Jim.
The Davises have become quasi-celebrities of sorts, featured in local newspapers.
In the spring of this year, the Times Daily out of Florence, Alabama ran a story called 16 hours to Muscle Shoals. It documents the Davises’ love of the area and their activities, such as rubbing shoulders with musicians at local establishments like the Claunch Cafe.
In a musical town, it can seem like everyone is a musician, the Davises meeting guitarists who’ve played with the like of Bonnie Raitt and Little Richard.
“The two talk about the places they’ve visited, places such as The Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Rivertown Coffee Co., Rattlesnake Saloon and the people they’ve met as if they’ve been regulars in the Shoals all their lives,” the story reads.
It includes a graphic, charting the 1,000-mile trip from Minden to Muscle Shoals.
Another local paper, the Colbert County Reporter, proclaims on the front page of its May 1, 2015 issue, “Jim and Bernie impressed with Shoals hospitality.”
The Davises returned from their most recent trip to Muscle Shoals just before Christmas.
While they’re not sure if they’ll go back, Jim says it seems likely.
Bernie recommends Haliburton County residents check out the Shoals.
“You’ve got to go,” she says.