The fifth annual Birmingham Arts and Music Festival (BAAM!) will kick off in style in the Avondale neighborhood on Aug. 15-17 with the Avondale Music + Arts Festival. A TEDxBirmingham Salon will be held at Bottletree Cafe on Saturday, Aug. 16 from 4-5:30 p.m., while Birmingham Celebrity Jeopardy – featuring Heather Holmes of MAKEbhm, Graham Corray Boettcher of the Birmingham Museum of Art and Sharrif Simmons, founder of BAAM! – will take place at Avondale Brewery on Sunday, Aug. 17 from 6-7 p.m.
The musical element of the Avondale Music + Arts Festival will begin at 5 p.m. in Avondale Park with an attempt to set the Guinness world record for the longest Soul Train line in history. The night will continue with a concert at Avondale Brewery featuring Tuscaloosa’s Bad Brad and the Sipsey Slims, Birmingham’s Sarah Green and the Sunday Lovers and Birmingham’s Something Burning. The show starts at 7 p.m., and Early Bird VIP tickets ($30) and walk-up VIP tickets ($40) will get you inside for free, while a $10 cover charge allows admittance to the concert.
Oh, and Bad Brad and the Sipsey Slims are bringing friends.
Kelvin Holly and Will McFarlane will join on guitar, while David Hood will sit in on bass. Holly served as the guitarist for Little Richard and the Amazing Rhythm Aces, and while recording on sessions in Muscle Shoals in the 1990s, he recorded with artists like Bobby “Blue” Bland. McFarlane played guitar with Bonnie Raitt from 1974 to 1980. After amicably leaving Raitt’s band, he moved to Muscle Shoals, where he was featured on recordings by Bland, Little Milton, Etta James and Johnnie Taylor. He has been inducted into the Musician’s Hall of Fame in Nashville as a friend of the Swampers.
David Hood was a member of the most famous version of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the Swampers. With Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins and Jimmy Johnson (and some help from Pete Carr and Spooner Oldham), he recorded the most notable records that came from the Northwest Alabama community, which served as the focal point of the 2013 documentary by the same name.
Hood’s most famous riff likely comes in “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers, but he was also a part of the band that recorded Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”, Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You).” Along with Beckett, Hawkins and Johnson, he left FAME in 1969 to open their own studio in Sheffield, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, which first welcomed Cher and later hosted a session with the Rolling Stones that spawned the hits “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar.” The four men later relocated to Alabama Avenue, and the space was taken over by Jackson, Mississippi’s Malaco Records, but Hood continued to record with folks like Bob Seger and Sawyer Brown.
While Hood was part of the most celebrated version of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, all three Shoals residents spent time with different variations of the band. McFarlane’s time with the band mostly overlapped with the first version of “The Fame Gang,” while Holly spent more time with the second version of “The Fame Gang.” Today, Hood and Holly are fixtures in the Decoys, a Muscle Shoals band which also features Mike Dillon (drums), Scott Boyer (guitar and vocals) and N.C. Thurman (keyboards, harmonica, guitar, vocals). Dillon was the drummer for the Dickey Betts Band, while Boyer was part of Cowboy, the band which became the Capricorn Rhythm Section. Thurman recorded with Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Hank Williams Jr. and Little Richard.
So the extended family of the Swampers has a pretty impressive story of its own.
On Friday, Aug. 15, Bad Brad and the Sipsey Slims will get by with a little help from their friends: Holly, McFarlane and Hood. And they’ll bring a little bit of that Muscle Shoals Sound to Avondale Brewing Company to ring in BAAMfest! After the concert, fans can keep the music going with a free show from Sharrif Simmons at Stillwater Pub in Birmingham’s Southside.
For more information on the Avondale Music + Arts Festival, check out the event’s Facebook page.