Sunday, March 08, 2009

March Madness in Alabama Music

Alabama has always had strong music roots, whether the world noticed it or not. And the sheer thought of American Idol winners and runner-ups including Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks and Bo Bice is just another proud moment tucked in Alabama's rich heritage. It's such a relief that the Birmingham News is presenting a March Madness-styled tournament to find the No. 1 music icon that best represents the state. And boy, is there a rich list of selections to filter through. From the great jazz/pop crooner Nat King Cole to honkey-tonk pioneer Hank Williams, from jazz great Sun Ra to the dynamic soul legend Wilson Pickett, the offerings are a-plenty and cover a multitude of music genres; stretching from pop to gospel.

And out of the 64 seeds selected, the Birmingham News was gracious to put a good number of gospel legends through. And they are:

Birmingham native Dorothy Love Coates, also lead singer of the Original Gospel Harmonettes; who recorded a heap of gospel hits including "99 and a Half," "Get Away Jordan" and "That's Enough" and "You Can't Hurry God."

Ten time GRAMMY-Award winning pop/jazz/gospel sextet Take 6, who established their group at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala. Mervyn Warren, an original member, who has produced for Whitney Houston, Take 6, Quincy Jones, David Foster, Celine Dion, Brandy and Leann Rimes, was also born in Huntsville, Ala.

Vestal Goodman, a singer raised on the Southern Gospel tradition, sung with the Happy Goodmans. She enjoyed a healthy career singing with Bill & Gloria Gaither during their Homecoming celebrations.

The Blind Boys of Alabama, who started their career as students at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, is a multiple GRAMMY-award winning quartet are driving forces in the traditional gospel genre and have recorded hits with Ben Harper, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, George Clinton and were even joined by Prince on state at a Knitting Factory show in 2008.

Other favorites in the list include the Temptations (former members Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and, later, Dennis Edwards are all from Alabama) Stax artist Eddie Floyd (known for writing and recording "Knock on Wood"), Sun Records' founder Sam Phillips, the legendary Muscle Shoals Backing Band, jazz great Dinah Washington, Motown artist Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie & the Commodores, blind blues sensation Clarence Carter, country-rock band Alabama and Tony-Award winning actress Nell Carter.

If you are interested in voting for your favorite gospel star, or any one of these great heroes in the music world, you still have a little time left. Submit your vote for first-round picks by going to: Should be a March Madness most Alabamaians won't forget.

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