Country supergroup Alabama is definitely the most successful – and certainly one of the most influential – bands in country music. The contributions Alabama made to the genre are too immense to measure.
But as beloved as the group is, there are few Alabama band facts that we’re sure you never knew before! Check it out below.
1. They Were All Cousins
The band was founded by Randy Owen and his cousin Teddy Gentry in 1969. They were soon joined by another cousin, Jeff Cook. The trio – who were born and raised near Fort Payne, Alabama, an area with strong country music roots – started making music together as children.
Owen and Gentry learned guitar together and started singing in church before the age of six.
2. They First Performed Under The Band Name’ Young Country’
When Cook joined Owen and Gentry in 1969, they formed the group Young Country. The three cousins were then joined by another cousin, Jackie Owen, completing the group’s first lineup. Their first performance was at a high school talent contest where they played a Merle Haggard song. They won first prize and received tickets to the Grand Ole Opry.
Unfortunately, all of them were too busy with previous commitments to pursue music: Owen was still in high school, Cook was working for Western Electric, while Gentry was laying carpets full-time. The band grew even more inactive when Cook went to college and Owen into the military.
It was only 1977, after signing to a one-record contract, that they changed their name to Alabama.
3. The Went Through Some Odd Jobs While Trying To Make It As A Musician
Teddy Gentry worked several odd jobs as he tried to make it as a musician. In addition to working as a full-time carpet installer, Gentry was also running a theatre, bagging groceries, and working on a farm. Randy Owen also took on physical jobs, like laying brick, painting, bricklaying, farming, and hanging sheetrock.
4. Gentry Spent His First Paycheck To Something That Means The Most To Him
After Gentry received his first paycheck from RCA records in 1980, amounting to $61,000, he asked his wife Linda what he should do with the money. She answered, “What means the most to you?” Why don’t you buy your grandfather’s farm – where you were raised, because I know you love the old place.”
Well, that’s exactly what Gentry did. His grandfather agreed to sell the 60-acre cotton farm for $1000 an acre, which he later on named Bent Tree Farms after going over some rhymes with his son. “We had rhymed several words, and suddenly I said our last name — Gentry. To which he replied, Bent Tree,” Gentry said.
The following day, Gentry discovered that there were Bent Trees in Oklahoma “that the Indians would bend over when the trees were small and tie them to the ground, to point the direction the tribe was moving at the time.” Coincidentally, Gentry was told that “there were bent trees along the top of Lookout Mountain and Little River Canyon where our farm is. When we found out this information, we decided to change the name of the farm to Bent Tree Farms.”
5. Jeff Cook Was Diagnosed With Parkinson’s Disease
In 2017, Jeff Cook announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. “This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors,” Cook said at the time. “For me, this has made it extremely frustrating to try and play guitar, fiddle, or sing.”
Because of the progressive illness, Cook can no longer perform for every show, but he is not calling it quits. “Let me say, I’m not calling it quits, but sometimes our bodies dictate what we have to do, and mine is telling me it’s time to take a break and heal,” he said.
6. Randy Owen spearheaded ‘Country Cares for Kids’
Randy Owen started Country Cares for St. Jude Kids three decades ago as a way to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which offers free medical care for children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. In 2019, Country Cares already raised more than $800 million.
“Randy Owen has rallied the country music community like no other for 30 years to make a tremendous difference in helping St. Jude fulfill its lifesaving mission for our patients and their families,” said Richard Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “He is proof that one person can make a remarkable difference in this world.
7. The Band Enjoyed A Hot Streak of No. 1 Singles
After “Tennessee River” was released in 1980 and hit No. 1, it started Alabama’s string of twenty-one consecutive No. 1 singles, a string that spanned from 1980 through 1987.
8. Bronze Statues of The Band Members Were Erected In Fort Payne, Alabama
In 2008, bronze statues honoring Alabama were unveiled in the band’s hometown of Fort Payne. Cook presented the bronze statues in a public ceremony. “It’s a great honor to be recognized by our hometown in such an elaborate way,” Cook said. “I want to personally express my gratitude to all the people involved in making this happen. Thank you, Fort Payne.”
9. They Are The Most Awarded Band In The History Of Country Music
With more than 200 awards from various organizations, Alabama is the most awarded band in the history of country music. The group won CMA’s prestigious Entertainer of the Year award for three consecutive years, from 1982 to 1984. They’ve also won ACM’s Entertainer of the Year award five times, among others.
10. The Band Was Credited For Popularizing The Country Band
Alabama has been credited by Michael McCall of The Encyclopedia of Country Music for “substantially broadening country’s audience while becoming one of the most popular acts in American musical history.”
AllMusic has also credited the band for popularizing the idea of a country band, saying that “It’s unlikely that any other country group will be able to surpass the success of Alabama.”