FLORENCE -- When Bill Jarnigan reels off a list of his favorite artists, he often tacks on the phrase, "especially their early stuff."

That's because the soul and pureness of a singer/songwriter often are most evident in the artist's up-and-coming years, he said.

"If you listen to the early stuff, before they become popular, their songs are from the gut," Jarnigan said. "It's the musical poet pouring out of their soul."

Jarnigan isn't a singer, musician or songwriter.

He has, however, influenced the industry in another manner: by writing countless articles about Alabama's music.

His work was recognized last weekend when Jarnigan received the Contemporary Award for Media from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

"He's very important to this area," said David Johnson, director of the hall of fame. "He's done a lot of research, stays on top of it and has helped us at the hall of fame immensely."

Jarnigan has been influenced by his love of music from the time he was a child spending Saturday evenings listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio with his grandfather.

He said the Muscle Shoals music industry and Southern gospel also have been major influences on his life. Even his chocolate Labrador is named after the Rolling Stones' Muscle Shoals hit, "Brown Sugar."

However, he enjoys all types of music and is known to listen to rock, country, gospel and symphonic music in one sitting.

"I've always wanted to be around music," said Jarnigan, director of university relations for the University of North Alabama.

"I love music and being around people who are creative."

He volunteers with the hall of fame and has written the scripts at the past two induction ceremonies. Jarnigan also has taught classes at UNA on the history of commercial music.

Over the years, Jarnigan has had articles in numerous publications, including regular columns about music in the Birmingham News, TimesDaily, Truckers USA, Fun & Stuff and The Gospel Road. He also was the Muscle Shoals correspondent for Billboard Magazine and published a booklet titled, "Alabama Music Heritage."

He has been executive director of the Muscle Shoals Music Organization and emceed the Alabama Sampler Stage at City Stages in Birmingham and Jubilee City in Montgomery.

Jarnigan said when he accepted the award at the hall of fame ceremony, he used the opportunity to urge state legislators to place more emphasis on music in the public school curriculum, including funding.

"Music helps you think outside the box," he said. "You have the so-called left brain and right brain working together."

Jarnigan admits he was surprised when he first learned he would receive the award. "I never really thought what I was doing was having any impact on anybody. I was just doing it because I love it."

Bernie Delinski can be reached at 740-5739 or bernie.delinski-@timesdaily.com.

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