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Morrow critical of music hall of fame’s closing

Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow has sent a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley expressing his frustration, disappointment, and what he calls embarrassment over the governor’s decision to zero out all funding for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Bentley’s decision has come at a pivotal time, Morrow said.

The history of Muscle Shoals and Alabama’s role in shaping American culture through music is making national headlines due to the release of Muscle Shoals, a documentary focused on the ever-lasting impact of Alabama’s musical influence.

“It is embarrassing that the governor has cut all funding for the hall of fame,” Morrow said.

“It sends a mixed message to the nation and causes shame to the Shoals at a time when Shoals residents should be feeling tremendous pride.”

Morrow noted that the governor sent his budget recommendation to zero out the funding for the Music Hall of Fame in 2011, the same year that the state had designated as the “Year of Music.”

“When the governor made that recommendation, I went on the House floor and asked ‘how can we say we are proud of our music history while at the same time we are stripping all funding for the Music Hall of Fame?’ But my words fell on deaf ears.”

The Hall of Fame has been closed since Christmas and the power has been shut off because the Hall was unable to pay the bills.

Hall of Fame director Wiley Barnard said they were trying to generate revenue for the hall.

“We’re working resolutely to try to raise funds to get the power back on,” Barnard said.

Alabama’s musical history was recently showcased at the Sundance film festival. The documentary, Muscle Shoals, depicted the true story of how music from a small town in Alabama can have a nationwide impact on not only music, but culture as well. Director Greg Camalier’s documentary reveals how artists such as Aretha Franklin, Lynrd Sknyrd, Etta Jones, and the Rolling Stones found their distinct sound.

Supporters of the Hall of Fame have criticized Bentley for making the decision to zero out state funding for the Hall, saying it sends mixed messages at a time when people from around the nation are captivated by the documentary and the rich musical history that Alabama has to offer.

“I am begging Gov. Bentley to recognize what a wonderful resource the Music Hall of Fame is and to restore the Hall’s funding,” Morrow said.

“The people of Alabama want us to be fiscally responsible. But that does not mean that they want us to take a knife to the heart and soul of our culture, or to shut down a museum that brings in much needed tourism and celebrates Alabama history.”