There are many things that put the "sweet" in "Sweet Home Alabama," but among them are the good times we enjoy with our friends and family in the state.

Often overlooked by surrounding metro areas and cultural regions known for their unique music, food and entertainment industries like New Orleans, Nashville and Atlanta, it's easy to underappreciate the talent right here in Alabama.

In 2022, 1819 News did its best not only to uncover the corruption in our state but also to highlight everything there is to like about Alabama, including the state's artistic talent and entertainment facilities.

Here are the five top entertainment stories for Alabama in 2022:

1. Highlighting Alabama’s music talent: Alabama Music Spotlight

American music is Southern music. Blues, country, jazz, and rock and roll all have roots below the Mason Dixon. Alabama, in particular, sits at the intersection between numerous musical traditions.

Throughout 2022, 1819 News highlighted Alabama’s musical talent, from the history-rich studios of Muscle Shoals to young acts just getting their start in the real LA: Lower Alabama.

The Burnells a cross-genre jam band that finds itself in the crosshairs of the folk music of Bob Dylan and artists of the Athens, Georgia, grunge scene of the likes of REM.

1819 News interviewed country music star Tim Dugger. Dugger got his start performing at NASCAR races in Talladega and performed at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time in December 2021.

Barry Waldrep, a Randolph County native and the world’s largest banjo store owner has been joined in the recording studio by successful artists such as Vince Gill, Radney Foster, Warren Haynes, Spooner Oldham and Oteil Burbridge.

1819 News interviewed legendary Muscle Shoals singer-songwriter Walt Aldridge. Aldridge got his start working for FAME Studios in the late 1970s and eventually went on to author several popular songs, such as Conway Twitty's "She's Got a Single Thing in Mind" (1989) and "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde" (2000) by Travis Tritt.

Joe Cagle Band's music is “a fusion of country, rock and jazz” inspired by jam icons Dave Matthews and the Grateful Dead. 

Drew Travis is the lead vocalist and keyboard player for The Backseat Drivers, a Mobile-area jam band whose members are all in their late teens and early 20s. Though young, The Backseat Drivers recorded an album in 2020 at Mobile’s Dauphin Street Sound.

Photo from Barry Waldrep com
Barry Waldrep. Photo from BarryWaldrep.com.

2. Cracking jokes: Alabama Laughs

We live in a crazy world. As serious as it can sometimes be, it can’t hurt to laugh every now and then. Opelika natives Jody Fuller and Dusty Slay will help you.

1819 News spoke to Fuller in September. Fuller is a military veteran, Auburn Tiger fan and lifelong stutterer who built a career by telling jokes on stage. Fuller, whose comedic experience has led him to take on inspirational speaking gigs and author several books, released a special with Dry Bar Comedy in April in which he tells stories about accidentally calling all three time-outs during a middle school football game and reads knock-knock jokes from kids.

Slay once lived in a trailer park and worked at Western Sizzlin. Now, he tells jokes for a living. His "We're Having a Good Time Podcast" references his signature habit of raising his hand in the air and telling his audience, "we're having a good time" between jokes. Aside from his solo show, Slay was just made co-host of the "Nateland" podcast with Nashville comedians Nate Bargatze, Aaron Webber and Brian Bates. He also has a 30-minute set on Netflix’s “The Standups.”

Photo from Dusty Slays Facebook page
Dusty Slay. Photo from Dusty Slay's Facebook page.

3. Documenting the potential Oak Mountain Amphitheatre move

Not all entertainment stories are happy, however. In October, news broke about a possible move that would cause Pelham to lose its beloved Oak Mountain Ampitheatre, which would be replaced by a new amphitheater in North Birmingham. 

Since then, the move has continued to come to fruition, with several parties electing to fork up funds for the new 8,500-to-9,000-seat entertainment venue, which will be owned by the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center but managed by Live Nation.

Though Shelby County officials have been mostly silent about the proposed move, it has received support from other state and local figures such as State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Photo from the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre Facebook page
Photo from the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre Facebook page.

4. Rock the South: Cullman’s classic country music concert

In August, 1819 News attended Cullman’s classic country music concert Rock the South. The show featured country music stars Morgan Wallen, Koe Wetzel, Jamey Johnson and Fort Payne-native Southern rock band Alabama.

Rock the South has been held since 2012 when it was created as a celebration of the Cullman area’s recovery from the EF4 tornado that struck the region in 2011. From then on, the event has been home to popular country music stars such as Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Dierks Bently, Florida Georgia Line, Alan Jackson, Thomas Rhett and Eric Church.

In 2023, the concert will be extended to a three-day schedule, as was announced in November. 

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5. Going old school: Campus 805 and Campus No. 124

Aside from laughs and sounds, Alabama’s restaurant and recreation industry emerged from the lockdown era in full swing. Notably, one of Huntsville’s entertainment districts, located in the former campus of S.R. Butler High School, offers residents a place to hang out, play games and enjoy a glass of Alabama beer. A similar location in Pelham is following suit.

Huntsville’s Campus 805 is home to two of Alabama’s most popular breweries, Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer, and also includes a speakeasy, axe-throwing range and an indoor golf simulator.

Pelham’s Campus No. 124 is located in the former Valley Elementary School and, though still under construction, is already home to the steak and seafood restaurant, the Half Shell Oyster House, and the Beer Hog, a beer hall featuring several Alabama craft brews. 

Campus 805 1 Brian Moats
Campus 805. Photo: Brian Moats.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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