Mountain Music

Southern born and Southern bred,” three cousins from Alabama set out to make it as a country band with a Southern rock twist.

Teddy Gentry, Randy Owen and Jeff Cook were born in Fort Payne, Alabama, and grew up singing in church. They got together in 1969 to form a band called Young Country. In 1972 they changed the name to Wild Country and decided to give it a shot as a full-time band.

The trio got their start playing live at The Bowery bar in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. After a few years of playing for tips, the trio self-recorded a couple of albums and began touring. They wrote letters to DJs and visited radio stations to try and gain airplay and recognition for their songs, now under the name Alabama.

The group did catch some attention and in 1979 MDJ Records signed them. They released their signature song, “My Home’s in Alabama,” which reached Billboard’s Top 20 in 1980.

“We believed we had something pretty special from a vocal standpoint, and we were looking for the opportunity to prove it,” Gentry stated. “There were a lot of times when we wondered whether we might be better off going back home and getting jobs, but we just kept rehearsing and writing songs, trying to get better and believing we could do it.”

The humble boys from Alabama got their big break with a record deal from RCA Nashville in 1980. Their first single on RCA, “Tennessee River,” was their first to hit No. 1 on the Billboard country chart, beginning a streak of more than 30 No. 1 hits.

After some initial resistance from the country crowd, fans were now hooked on Alabama’s crossover country/rock style.

The band’s second major-label album, “Feels So Right,” peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for more than three years — longer than any other Alabama album. Their next string of No. 1 hits released in 1981 included “Old Flame,” “Feels So Right” and “Love in the First Degree.” That year, Billboard named Alabama “New Group for the Year” and the Academy of Country Music awarded the band “Vocal Group of the Year.”

The following year, the group released “Mountain Music,” with the title single hitting No. 1 on the charts, as well as “Take Me Down” and “Close Enough to Perfect.” Now on the mainstream circuit for just two years, Alabama had already sold 6 million albums.

They enjoyed continued success throughout the ‘80s and released a “Greatest Hits” album in 1986 that went five times platinum. The band kept on churning out albums all through the ’90s and into the new millenium. By 2004, Alabama’s members decided to take a break from the constant touring and recording.

In celebration of the group’s 40th anniversary, Alabama resumed touring in 2013 for the Back to the Bowery Tour, referencing their humble beginnings in Myrtle Beach. In addition, the band released “Alabama & Friends,” a tribute album with covers of their classic hits recorded with guest artists, such as Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line. The album also featured two new tracks by Alabama, “All American” and “That’s How I Was Raised.”

The band released its first all-new studio album in 14 years, “Southern Drawl,” in 2015. The project includes 13 original tracks and debuted at No. 2 on the Top Country Albums chart.

In April 2017, Cook announced that he had been struggling with Parkinson’s disease, and would be stepping away from touring. He is still an official member of the band and makes appearnances when his health allows.

The group racked up a plethora of awards and industry honors over their career, including two Grammys, the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian award, CMA’s Entertainer of the Year award three times, ACM’s Entertainer of the Year award five times, as well as ACM’s Artist of the Decade award. They earned 21 Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum albums and were named the RIAA’s Country Group of the Century.

Alabama was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in November 2005 and the Musician’s Hall of Fame in October 2019.

They are currently back on the road performing for their beloved fans in celebration of the band’s 50th anniversary. They will stop in Laughlin on Saturday, Sept. 10 for a performance at Harrah’s Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater.