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Music / Alabama

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A long-lasting Country Music band. For most of its career, Alabama was composed of three cousins: Randy Owen (lead vocals, rhythm guitar; born December 1, 1949), Jeff Cook (lead guitar, keyboards, fiddle, backing vocals; August 27, 1949 - November 7, 2022), and Teddy Gentry (bass, backing vocals; born January 22, 1952); Massachusetts native Mark Herndon (drums; born May 11, 1955) rounded out the quartet for much of their existence, although three different drummers had played in the band before he joined in 1979.

The band had a humble start in 1977 with "I Wanna Be with You Tonight" on the GRT label, which only managed a #78 peak on the charts. When GRT declared bankruptcy and went out of business before they could release a follow-up single, the cousins learned that a contractural clause forbade them to record for another label. The band worked for more than a year to raise funds to buy out their contract, touring the south in a beat-up van. Finally, in the late spring of 1979, they landed at MDJ Records, where they recorded their first new material in two years. Included were the songs "I Wanna Come Over" and "My Home's In Alabama."

"I Wanna Come Over" marked Alabama's first top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, but it was the second of those two songs – the southern rock-fused "My Home's in Alabama," the homage to their home and the story of their struggles – that put them on the map. "My Home's in Alabama" peaked at No. 17, but it went a long way toward paving the band to superstardom and led to them signing with RCA Records. Even though "I Wanna Come Over" would all but become forgotten, it did provide the template for the other side of Alabama's musical style: the mellow pop-styled ballad, which would be used on the far-better-known singles "Feels So Right," "There's No Way" and "Forever's As Far As I'll Go."

Signed to RCA Records in the spring of 1980, the band quickly superseded the accomplishments of those first two top 40 country with the massive country rocker "Tennessee River." The song became the band's first No. 1 hit, and for the rest of The '80s, the band sent single after single into the penthouse, missing only once that entire rest of the decade with the No. 7 "Tar Top." In the first half of the decade, many of the band's singles also crossed over to pop radio, including "Feels So Right," "Love in the First Degree," "Take Me Down" and "The Closer You Get," all of which reached Top 40 on the pop charts. Alabama also employed a distinctive crossover sound, blending the strong rhythm sections of rock and the breezy soft-rock harmonies of the Eagles with plenty of fiddle solos and country-friendly lyrics. They were also one of the first country groups to play all their own instruments on records(with the exception of Herndon being replaced by electronic drums for much of the '80s), for writing many of their hits themselves, and for having a stage presence that closely mirrored traditional rock band staging: Herndon at the rear, Owen in front of him, and Cook and Gentry on Owen's right and left respectively. Their success was such that in 1989 they were named "Artist of the Decade" at the Academy of Country Music awards.

The band's momentum slowed a bit come the 1990s, despite its biggest No. 1 hit in 1990 with "Jukebox in My Mind." Although its last No. 1 hit came in 1993 with "Reckless," Alabama continued to chart consistently within the Top 10 until the end of the decade. Album sales, however, began to slip, and the crossovers just weren't coming on as strongly (save for a collaboration with *NSYNC on "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You"). Alabama charted its last Top 40 hit in 2001 with "When It All Goes South" and then effectively retired following a 2003 tour. Two albums of inspirational music followed in 2006 and 2007, and Owen released a solo album in 2008. This year also saw the final breakdown of their sometimes-acrimonius relationship with Herndon, with Owen going as far as claiming he had never been a member of the band, and had only been presented as such due to RCA wanting the group to present an image similar to The Beatles. Alabama largely semi-retired in The New '10s, although Cook, Gentry, and Owen occasionally came out to do new projects, including a cover of "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" for a Waylon Jennings tribute and a guest appearance on Brad Paisley's "Old Alabama", both in 2011. They also did a duets album with various country artists covering their big hits and made their first "official" album in 11 years, Southern Drawl, in 2015.

Guitarist Jeff Cook died on November 7, 2022, of complications from Parkinson's Disease.


  • Wild Country (1976)
  • Deuces Wild (1977)
  • Alabama Band No. 3 (1979)
  • My Home's in Alabama (1980)
  • Feels So Right (1981)
  • Mountain Music (1982)
  • The Closer You Get... (1983)
  • Roll On (1984)
  • 40-Hour Week (1985)
  • Alabama Christmas (1985)
  • The Touch (1986)
  • Just Us (1987)
  • Southern Star (1989)
  • Pass It On Down (1990)
  • American Pride (1992)
  • Cheap Seats (1993)
  • In Pictures (1995)
  • Alabama Christmas, Vol. II (1996)
  • Dancin' on the Boulevard (1997)
  • Twentieth Century (1999)
  • When It All Goes South (2001)
  • Songs of Inspiration (2006)
  • Songs of Inspiration II (2007)
  • Angels Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites (2014)
  • Southern Drawl (2015)
  • American Christmas (2017)

"My trope's in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head":

  • Album Title Drop: Just Us is title-dropped on "Tar Top".
  • American Title: American Pride
  • B-Side:
    • Originally, "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" was the B-side to "I'm Not That Way Anymore", but radio programmers preferred the former song, so the sides were reversed after two weeks. "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" would go on to become one of their most famous songs.
    • "Christmas in Dixie" was originally issued as a double A-side with Louise Mandrell and R. C. Bannon's "Christmas Is Just a Song for Us This Year".
  • Broken Win/Loss Streak: Although they weren't always hitting #1 in The '90s, they at least landed in the Top 10 with consistency, keeping alive a streak of uninterrupted Top 10 hits dating back to "Tennessee River" in 1980... until the #13 "The Cheap Seats" in 1994 broke that streak.
  • Christmas Songs: They've released two albums' worth of them.
    • Their 1982 single "Christmas in Dixie" is one of the best-known country music Christmas songs ever. Not surprisingly, the band included it on several Christmas albums.
    • "Angels Among Us" was ostensibly a Christmas song (it was released in 1993 with a Christmas song on the B-side, and typical of country Christmas songs at the time, re-charted for the next couple Christmases), but there's nothing particularly Christmas-y about it except for it taking place in winter.
    • "Thistlehair (The Christmas Bear)" from their 1985 album tried to introduce a new Christmas character. In the song, Thistlehair was already loved by children everywhere, similar to how Rudolph was already "the most famous reindeer of all" when he was first introduced.
  • Earth Song: "Pass It On Down", which mentions events such as tap water not being safe to drink, the hole in the ozone layer, and rainforests being burned. The song is about preserving the environment for future generations.
    So let's leave some blue up above us
    Let's leave some green on the ground
    It's only ours to borrow
    Let's save some for tomorrow
    Leave it and pass it on down
  • Epic Rocking: "My Home's in Alabama" clocks in at 6:26. Many of their songs pick up the tempo at the end, often with a frenetic solo and/or repeat of the chorus. "Dixieland Delight" and "If You're Gonna Play In Texas" are both examples of this.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "T.L.C. A.S.A.P." (Tender Loving Care, As Soon As Possible).
  • Hard Truckin': The truck driver in "Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)" gets into an accident in the snow, causing his family to worry until he is confirmed to have survived.
  • Intercourse with You: Most of their slow love songs are about sex, particularly "When We Make Love".
  • Kids Rock: Both "Pass It On Down" and "Angels Among Us" have children singing on the last verse.
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: "My Home's in Alabama" uses a subtle one. The tempo picks back up after the last chorus.
  • Lead Bassist: Teddy Gentry has written and produced several songs for other artists and gets lead vocal on several album cuts.
  • Lighter and Softer: From Southern Star onward, their sound lost its crossover pop-rock sound in favor of a more mainstream slickness. They also stopped doing Intercourse with You ballads at this point.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Type 2: they had three different drummers before the lineup of Mark Herndon, Teddy Gentry, Jeff Cook, and Randy Owen, which held from about 1979-2008.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Their 1980s albums often ended this way: Feels So Right has "I'm Stoned" (4:53), 40-Hour Week ends on "If Ain't Dixie (It Won't Do)" (7:34), The Touch with "Pony Express" (7:53), and Just Us with "Fallin' Again" (7:41)note .
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)"
  • Melancholy Moon: "Sad Lookin’ Moon":
    Now there's a sad lookin' moon shinin' down on me
    There's a sad lookin' sky as far as I can see
    I always believed and I thought the stars could see
    But there's a sad lookin' moon shinin' down on me
  • New Sound Album: Dancin' on the Boulevard was an attempt to add influences of '60s soul music to their sound.
  • Record Producer: Harold Shedd handled their extremely crossover-friendly sound in the 80s. After the weak performance of The Touch and Just Us in the late 80s, combined with Shedd's departure for Mercury, the band split production duties on Southern Star: Barry Beckett produced half the album, and Josh Leo and Larry Michael Lee (formerly of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils) produced the other half. Leo and Lee stayed on board through 1993's Cheap Seats, after which they switched to Garth Fundis (Don Williams, Trisha Yearwood) for new songs on Greatest Hits III in 1994, Emory Gordy Jr. (Patty Loveless) for In Pictures in 1995, and Don Cook (Brooks & Dunn) starting with Dancing on the Boulevard. They produced Southern Drawl by themselves.
    • In addition, Gentry has produced some songs by Canadian country band Emerson Drive.
  • Rock-Star Song: "Tar Top" is a reference to the bands that Owen and his bandmates played in prior to Alabama's foundation, with others questioning their musical direction as they rise to the top.
  • Self-Deprecation: Occurs in "Dancin', Shaggin' on the Boulevard": "Those 'Bama boys at The Bowery / They can't dance, but they play for free."
  • Shout-Out: In "Southern Star", after the line "Let my mind just go and drift away", the guitarist plays the riff from Dobie Gray's "Drift Away".
  • Signature Style: At least in the 80s, they were known for shifting among many styles: upbeat songs that could be either fiddle-heavy romps or muscular country-rock, and slick pop/AC ballads, all with layered, Eagles-esque harmonies.
  • Singer Name Drop:
    • "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" name-drops guitarist/fiddler Jeff Cook on the line "Them Texans raised the roof when ol' Jeff opened up his case."
    • "Tar Top" has several: the first verse contains the line "Alabama was far away from being little more than just a Southern state", while the chorus has the lines "Where's JC and the Chosen Few / I saw the Flash without T. Gentry / And B.V. left for Malibu" ("JC" is Jeff Cook, "T. Gentry" is Teddy Gentry, and "B.V." is Alabama's first drummer, Bennett Vartanian).
    • "Dancin', Shaggin' on the Boulevard" has the Self-Deprecation bit mentioned above.
  • Solo Side Project: Randy Owen released a solo album in 2008.
  • Song Style Shift: "Dixieland Delight" and "Mountain Music" are the best-known two: both songs shift into a faster-tempo fiddle-driven coda after the last chorus. The former also has a Truck Driver's Gear Change.
  • Step Up to the Microphone:
    • Jeff Cook sang "Some Other Place, Some Other Time", "Keep On Dreamin'", "See the Embers, Feel the Flame", "Green River", "Lovin' You Is Killin' Me", "What in the Name of Love", "Lovin' Man", "Country Side of Life", "She Won't Have a Thing to Do with Nobody but Me", "Cruisin'", "If I Could Just See You Now", "Barefootin'", "Dixie Fire", "Until It Happens to You", "I Ain't Got No Business Doin' Business Today" (cover of Razzy Bailey), "Pictures and Memories", "This Love's on Me", "Heartbreak Express", "Hey Baby" (cover of Bruce Channel), "Mist of Desire", "Wonderful Waste of Time", "No Bad Days"
    • Teddy Gentry sang "Burn Georgia Burn", "Never Be One", "Red River", "Alabama Sky", "The Boy", "As Right Now", "Pony Express", "I Showed Her", "Old Man", "Fire on Fire", "Starting Tonight", "Sometimes Out of Touch", "Clear Water Blues", "Then We Remember", "Love Remains", "It's About Time"
    • "The Borderline" from Southern Star features Randy and Teddy alternating lead vocals with Charlie Daniels.
    • Mountain Music is bookended by the only two songs in their catalog that feature all three rotating the lead: the title track and their cover of Kieran Kane's "Gonna Have a Party".
  • Sweet Home Alabama: As one would expect for a band with a Southern name, they have songs about the South, such as "Dixieland Delight", "If You're Gonna Play in Texas", "Song of the South", "High Cotton", "Southern Star", "Born Country", etc. Averted with "The Cheap Seats," which is set in a "middle-size town in the middle of the Middle-west."
    • Incidentally, the band covered "Sweet Home Alabama" on the Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute album Skynyrd Frynds.
  • Tick Tock Tune: A tick-tock effect is heard on two songs: Their Breakthrough Hit "I Wanna Come Over" (in between the refrain and second verse) and "I'm In A Hurry (and Don't Know Why)" (during the line "shaking hands with the clock").
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Young Randy was this back before the Wildcountry days.
    ''I got a gig down at The Bowery, I played for tips and watered drinks
    Just a novice in a business that's seldom what it seems.''