Steven Johnson always knew the Alabama Shakes had the potential to do special things, but not on the scale of what the band has experienced this year.
"I never thought that we would be in the position we are in now," said Johnson, the Athens-based band's drummer.
"Of course, that doesn't mean I didn't dream about it. Anyone that has been in a band has thought about what it must be like to play big gigs and festivals, but at the same time, realizes the chances of that happening are slim to none."
The Shakes, however, overcame those odds and is not the only band with connections to the Shoals that have seen their dreams realized.
Grammy Awards, Grammy nominations, Americana Music Association awards, late night talk show appearances and mentions in numerous year-end Top 10 lists became an even more common occurrence this year.
The success of these artists during the past year is the No. 7 story in the TimesDaily's roundup of Top 10 stories of the year.
In May, the Alabama Shakes played to one of the largest daytime crowds of the weekend at the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores and to an overflowing This Tent at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., the next month.
The band, which was admittedly influenced by the old school Muscle Shoals sound, returned to the Shoals in August to play a sold-out show at the Shoals Theatre in Florence.
As 2012 came to a close, the Alabama Shakes started popping up on various year end Top 10 lists.
Their debut album, "Boys & Girls," was Number 6 on The New York Times' Top 10 albums of 2012. "Hold On," a track from "Boys & Girls," was the Number One song on Rolling Stone's To 50 songs of 2012. Their version of Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times" was named by Paste Magazine's as one of the 15 best cover songs of 2012.
In September the band was named the Americana Music Association's Emerging Group of the Year and last month received three Grammy nominations. The Alabama Shakes are up for Grammys: Best new Artist, Best Rock Song for "Hold On" and Best Recording Package for Brett Kilroe's design for "Boys & Girls".
"I'm very excited to have been nominated for a Grammy," Johnson said. "I'm told it means that we were nominated by our peers, other artists and people that work in the music industry. To me, that is a very gratifying feeling, to be accepted and praised by the ones we have admired and envied for so long."
Johnson said the most important thing he's learned in the past year is to take others' advice and be able to compromise.
"There are four members in this band all with our own ideas and on top of that you have management, label, accountants, lawyers etc.," he said. "Everyone has input and you have to learn to accept some things and trust the people that you are working with and you can apply that to all aspects of this business, songwriting, live performance, radio, TV, money, merchandising."
Johnson said he hopes the band's success can help focus attention on other regional bands.
"That's more or less how we got our break, through a fellow Southern rocker, Patterson Hood, so why not try and do the same for others," he said.
The Grammy Awards are scheduled for Feb. 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Another band with a strong Shoals connection, The Civil Wars, received Grammy nominations for their collaboration with country superstar Taylor Swift.
The folk duo comprised of Florence resident John Paul White and Nashville's Joy Williams were nominated for Grammys for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "Safe & Sound" and Best Song Written For Visual Media for "Safe & Sound."
"Safe & Sound" is featured on the soundtrack for the popular film "The Hunger Games."
In February, The Civil Wars received Grammys for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their debut album, "Barton Hollow," and Best Folk Album for "Barton Hollow."
The Civil Wars also received the Americana Music Association award for Duo/Group of the Year.
A month or so later, the group abruptly cancelled all 2013 overseas tour dates due to "internal discord" and "irreconcilable differences." They stated they were unable to continue "as a touring entity" which fueled speculation about their future.
Greenhill native Jason Isbell was nominated in four different categories by the Americana Music Association and received the award for Song of the Year for "Alabama Pines," a track from his 2011 release "Here We Rest."
The band has also become a favorite of late night talk show host David Letterman.
Earlier this year Isbell moved from the Shoals to Nashville and is engaged to be married to fiddle player Amanda Shires.
Greenhill native Chris Tompkins received his third Grammy nomination for "Blown Away," a track he wrote with Josh Kear. The song has been a hit for country superstar Carrie Underwood.
The Nashville songwriter won a Grammy in 2008 for "Before He Cheats," another track he and Kear wrote for Underwood.
Mac McAnally, who splits his time between Nashville and his home in Sheffield, won his fifth consecutive Musician of the Year award from the Country Music Association in November.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.