Alabama Music Photos: The Music of Politics


Alabama Music Photos: The Music of Politics


Photo collection documenting the interplay of music and politics and Alabama history.


Recordings, images, text, and all other materials in the Southern Music Research Center's digital archive are made available here for educational and research purposes only.

Please contact for all usage requests. Reproduction of some materials may be restricted or available at a small processing charge.



Collection Items

Senator Tom Heflin with violin, 1928
Alabama Senator Tom Heflin poses with a violin delivered anonymously to his Washington, D.C. office, 1928. The senator’s rabidly anti-Catholic pronouncements, widely denounced by his colleagues and the press, drew comparisons to the despotic emperor…

Big Jim Folsom and his Strawberry Pickers, c. 1946
Gubernatorial candidate James E. “Big Jim” Folsom on the campaign trail with his Strawberry Pickers, c. 1946. The larger-than-life, two-time Populist governor made rural string-band music central to his folksy image, barnstorming the state with the…

Big Jim Folsom's Strawberry Pickers at Birmingham Radio Station WTNB
Governor “Big Jim” Folsom’s Strawberry Pickers at Birmingham radio station WTNB, c. 1947.

Folsom promised the members of his campaign band that he would provide them all jobs with the State of Alabama, if he was elected. Following Folsom's 1947…

Big Jim Folsom Square Dances
Photo of Big Jim Folsom at an Asheville, North Carolina, square dance attended by southern governors in 1947.

Big Jim Folsom "conducts" the Meat Grinders, 1962
Governor “Big Jim” Folsom, accompanied by his wife Jamelle, “conducts” members of the Meat Grinders, his 1962 campaign band. Twice elected to the Alabama governor’s office, Folsom lost the 1962 election to George Wallace, a former protege whose long…

Big Jim Folsom, Jamelle Folsom, and the Meat Grinders, 1962
Governor “Big Jim” Folsom, with his wife Jamelle and his 1962 campaign band, the Meat Grinders.

Big Jim Folsom campaigns in Elba, Alabama, 1966
Big Jim Folsom campaigns in his hometown of Elba, Alabama, for a third term in the Governor's office, April 1966. Two members of his band can be seen behind him. Folsom would lose the election to Lurleen Wallace, whose husband George had defeated…

Jamelle Folsom at piano
Jamelle Folsom, wife of Governor “Big Jim” Folsom, at piano. Undated press photo.

Country Boy Eddie Campaigns for Ryan deGraffenried, 1962
Since the 1946 election of Big Jim Folsom, country (or "hillbilly") music had become an essential piece of any candidate's campaign for the Alabama governorship; by 1962, every candidate had his own band. Here, Birmingham's popular, long-running…

George and Lurleen Wallace Lead Square Dancers, 1966
Governor George Wallace and his wife, gubernatorial candidate Lurleen Wallace, lead square dancers, April 11, 1966.

Because Alabama law barred consecutive terms by a single governor, in 1966 Lurleen Wallace ran for the office, transparently…

George Wallace, Jr. performs with tambourine, 1966
A teenaged George Corley Wallace III (commonly known as George Wallace, Jr.) shakes a tambourine onstage at a political event, April 6, 1966.

George Wallace, Jr., would go on to pursue careers in both politics and country music.

Carl Elliott for Governor / Hank Williams, Jr. Poster
In 1966, Hank Williams, Jr. and the Cheating Hearts campaigned across Alabama for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl Elliott. Elliot came in third place in the Democratic primary, losing to Lurleen Wallace. Poster for an appearance by Elliott…

Honey and Sugar promo photo
Honey and Sugar promotional photo; Cornelia Wallace, second wife of Alabama governor George Wallace, is at right. The niece of Governor “Big Jim” Folsom – the mentor, then rival, of her future husband, George -- Cornelia Ellis toured with Roy Acuff…

Singer Lisa Taylor Wallace announces engagement
Singer Lisa Taylor announces her engagement to (former and future) Alabama governor George Wallace, Associated Press photo, 1981. As a teenager, Taylor and her sister had performed as a country music duo, Mona and Lisa, for Wallace’s 1968 campaign…

Big Freada Wallace and Birmingham Mayor George Seibels, 1974
Big Freada Wallace, a mainstay of the Birmingham nightclub scene, at the piano with Birmingham Mayor George Seibels, City Hall Christmas party, December 1974.

J. V. Jenkins performs at Richard Arrington inauguration, 1979
Singer J. V. Jenkins performs at the inauguration of Birmingham mayor Richard Arrington, Jr. Press photo, 1979. Jenkins performed “Here Am I, O Lord, Send Me,” at Arrington’s request. “It’s a song that has special meaning for black people,” Rachel…

Birmingham Heritage Band at Oscar Adams victory celebration, 1988
Victory celebration for Alabama Supreme Court Justice Oscar Adams, Birmingham, 1988. Original press caption: “Oscar Adams dances with wife Anne-Marie to ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’” Taking a solo behind the couple is Adams’s brother, saxophonist…
View all 17 items

Collection Tree