TUSCUMBIA — The irony didn’t escape Rodney Hall that a week before the premier of a documentary focusing on the early days of the Muscle Shoals sound, the facility created to honor the state’s musical achievers is “dead in the water.”
Hall, the chairman of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame board of directors, said Friday the facility is closed and the electricity has been turned off.
“The hall of fame has been unable to reopen after the Christmas holidays, and we are financially strapped,” Hall said. “We’ve had several deals we’d been working on that, for whatever reason, have gone south on us.”
Hall said Executive Director Wiley Barnard continues to pursue funding options, but he could not say when the hall of fame might reopen.
“We’ve spent the last two years without funding, basically,” Hall said.
The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is a state agency, but was cut from the general fund budget in 2010 and has not received any funding from the state since, except for a grant from the State Department of Tourism.
“The hall of fame was never meant to be a burden on the state,” Hall said. “It was meant to be an asset for the state. It never fulfilled its potential. It’s time to make that happen and turn it around.”
While it isn’t clear how, Hall said the hall of fame has to be reborn and rebranded to become relevant again. He said efforts to raise money have been unsuccessful because “the name has been tainted.”
“With that in mind, what we’re going to do, basically, is tear down and rebuild this thing,” Hall said, using the phrase “tear down” figuratively. “It was set up wrong in the first place.”
Board member Buel Springer said he did not know the hall had not reopened after the holidays. The hall of fame was only open Friday-Sunday.
Springer said a $250,000 loan from an anonymous local source fell through.
That money could have been used to pay the utility bill.
“We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over,” Springer said. “That’s been a failure, and we expected it to be a success. That’s what we’ve been doing for years.”
He said the hall of fame has to be something the community sees as proactive and something that can attract the younger generation.
“We’re being as creative as possible,” Barnard said. “We appreciate the support during this crisis time.”
Hall said they’re looking at different types of fundraisers, but nothing has been finalized.
Barnard, who has deferred his salary for the past two months, said he will “continue to hang in there ... because this project means too much to me. We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances,” he said.
Hall said Barnard and the board are still trying to market and sell a portion of the property where the hall of fame is located, possibly parcels that front U.S. 72.
They will also be discussing the hall of fame’s future with local leaders and the Shoals legislative delegation.
“We have to totally change the way we do business,” Hall said. “We’ve been saying this for a while now. We’re going to become a hall of fame and museum without walls. We’re going to be statewide and go to places like hotels and airports.”
He said the Alabama Music Hall of Fame is more than the building on U.S. 72.
“We have to morph it into something that works,” Hall said.
Hall and his father, FAME Recording Studios founder, Rick Hall, and other local artists will be attending the premier of “Muscle Shoals” at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah on Jan. 26.
The film was produced by Mars Candy heir Stephen Badger and focuses on the embryonic years of the Shoals music scene.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.