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; born August 27, 1949) 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Signed to RCA Records in the spring of 1980, the band quickly superseded the accomplishments of those first two top 40 country with the massive country rocker "Tennessee River."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 most of Herndon's drum tracks being replaced by electronic drums for much of the 80's), 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. Alabama has largely been semi-retired in The New '10s, although Cook, Gentry and Owen occasionally come 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Epic Rocking: "My Home's in Alabama" clocks in at 6:26, which is really freaking long for a country song. 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," for example. Also, the album versions of most of their singles tend to be longer or have parts that were edited out for radio play.
- Fun with Acronyms: "T.L.C. A.S.A.P." (Tender Loving Care, As Soon As Possible).
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: If you listen closely to the ending of "When We Make Love", you can hear Randy moaning softly as the keyboard is playing. This is left intact when it is played on the radio.
- Green Aesop: Rather obviously in "Pass It On Down:"So let's leave some blue up above usLet's leave some green on the groundIt's only ours to borrowLet's save some for tomorrowLeave it and pass it on down
- Intercourse with You: Most of their slow love songs are about sex, particularly "When We Make Love".
- Invincible Hero: ALMOST EVERYTHING they released in the 1980s was a No. 1 hit. Out of 27 singles released from 1980-1989, all but two hit the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Exceptions were their first hit of the decade, 1980's "My Home's in Alabama" and 1987's "Tar Top".
- Kids Rock: A kids' chorus appears on both "Pass It On Down" and "Angels Among Us". One kid is noticeably off-key in the latter.
- 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.
- Long-Runner Line-up: Type 2: they had three different drummers before Mark Herndon joined in 1979. The Owen/Gentry/Cook/Herndon lineup lasted from 1979 until 2008, although Herndon rarely played in-studio, and not at all after In Pictures. By the 2000s, Alabama was essentially semi-retired anyway, but a lawsuit filed against him by the other three members forced him out of the picture, leaving just Owen, Gentry, and Cook.
- New Sound Album: Dancin' on the Boulevard was a lot more harmony-driven with some splashes of soul music.
- Record Producer: Harold Shedd was the mastermind between their extremely crossover-friendly sound in the 80s, as rooted in country as it was in the harder sides of rock and the slickness of AC. 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 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 also 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: fiddle-heavy up-tempos, rocking up-tempos, and slick pop/AC ballads, all with layered, Eagles-esque harmonies.
- Solo Side Project: Randy Owen released a solo album in 2008, but did not intend for it to be a separation from the now-semi-retired band.
- Song Style Shift: "Dixieland Delight" and "Mountain Music" are the best known two. The former doubles with a Truck Driver's Gear Change.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Jeff and Teddy sang on several album cuts, but the singles were all Randy with one exception: "Mountain Music" has Jeff and Teddy sing one line each on the bridge (which is reprised in their cameo on "Old Alabama").
- Sweet Home Alabama: Countless 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. Subverted 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 during the line "shaking hands with the clock" on "I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)".
- 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 drinksJust a novice in a business that's seldom what it seems.''