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Sweet Home Alabama

How Much Did Alabama Pay to Own Rights to the Phrase “Sweet Home Alabama”?

Alabama is a state in the US Southeastern region, bordered to the north by Tennessee, east by Georgia, south by Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and the west by Mississippi. But did you know they paid a large amount of money just for the right to use a phrase?

The state of Alabama paid $75,000 in 2014 for the right to use the slogan “Sweet Home Alabama” on state line road signs.

Where Did the Phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” Come From?

The story of Sweet Home Alabama begins in Jacksonville, Florida, not Alabama. That’s where, in 1964, five teenagers formed what would become the legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It wasn’t until five years after they first met that they decided on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd, after their former PE teacher. Leonard Skinner, a high school teacher, penalized guitarist Gary Rossington for his long hair because it violated school policy. (Source: Country Living)

How did Lynyrd Skynyrd Create “Sweet Home Alabama”?

Sweet Home Alabama was written in response to Neil Young. The lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie Van Zant, was a big fan of Young’s music, but he was taken aback by Young’s early 1970s songs Southern Man and Alabama, which attacked the south for its backward, racist past. (Source: American Songwriter)

None of the song’s three writers were from Alabama. Gary Rossington and Ronnie Van Zant were both born in Jacksonville, Florida, while Ed King was born in Glendale, California. Rossington described the writing process in an interview with Garden & Gun.

I came up with this little riff. It’s the little picking part, and I kept playing it while we waited for everyone to arrive for rehearsal. Ronnie and I were sitting there, and he kept telling me to “play that again.” The lyrics were written by Ronnie, and the music was composed by Ed and me.

Gary Rossington, Founding Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd

The hit resulted in two TV rock show offers, which the band declined. In addition to its debut on Second Helping, the song has appeared on numerous Lynyrd Skynyrd compilations and live albums. (Source: Garden and Gun)

What Does That Phrase Mean for the State of Alabama?

The slogan; Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama will soon greet drivers in Alabama. Universal Records, which owns the trademark for the phrase from the Lynyrd Skynyrd rock anthem, has agreed to pay the state $75,000 for five-year rights. The phrase will appear on new green and white state line signs. Smaller versions of the signs will be displayed at visitor centers.

The agreement with Universal allows the state to use the phrase in other types of tourism promotions. Alabama can renew the agreement after the initial five-year term expires.

The phrase is an obvious fit and an important part of promoting the state to visitors. Sweet Home Alabama’ is appropriate for our state because it is a well-known song and slogan.

Lee Sentel, Alabama’s Department of Tourism and Travel Director

(Source: Alabama)

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