The Southern rock and bluegrass band Alabama, formed in 1969, is one of the widely recognized country bands of all time. It was founded by Randy Olwen and it comprised of his cousins Teddy Gentry on bass guitar and background vocals, and Jeff Cook on lead guitar, keyboards, and fiddle. They began performing and touring around bars in the Southeast and wrote their original songs. Soon, their hit singles Dixieland Delight, Love in the First Degree, Mountain Music, Song of the South, and If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band) dominated radios and country charts across the nation.
Like many of their fellow successful bands in the country music industry, Alabama has some not-so-publicized fun facts and we are here to uncover them one by one for your reading pleasure.
1. Alabama first introduced themselves under the name, Wildcountry. However, they switched the name to Alabama in 1977. After their chart successes through two of their singles, RCA Records offered them a record deal.
2. One of their past band members, Mark Herndon (on drums), was the only member who was originally not from Alabama. Herndon was born in Massachusetts.
3. Jeff Cook, who plays the lead guitar, fiddle, and keyboards, started his career in music by performing in school functions and playing the ukulele.
4. Cook can also play the bass, banjo, and mandolin.
5. Randy Owen, Jeff Cook, and Teddy Gentry are cousins and they all grew up in Alabama.
6. There have been three variations to the band’s name. In 1969, they first called their group, Young Country. They then changed it to Wild Country in 1972, until they finally settled with Alabama in 1977.
7. Among their front man, Randy Olwen’s favorite artists include Anne Murray, Ronnie Milsap, and The Eagles.
8. Olwen’s exposure to music began when he was only 6.
9. Before going full-time for Alabama, he did a number of jobs like farming, painting, laying bricks and hanging sheet rock.
10. Mark Herndon happens to be a licensed pilot.
11. While Alabama was playing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Herndon joined the band and he became part of the group as their new drummer in 1973.
12. Some of Herndon’s favorite musicians and influences are Hank Williams Jr., Bob Seeger, Jean-Luc Ponty, Journey, Rush, and Tchaikovsky.
13. Jeff Cook used to be a DJ at a local radio station when he was 14.
14. His greatest dream was to help fellow artists share their talents and beautiful works of musical art to the world—an ambition which was fulfilled through the construction of Cook Sound Studio.
15. Teddy Gentry is a loving husband to his wife, a doting father to his two kids, and a caring grandfather to two grandchildren. He has been happily married for over 24 years.
16. Before joining the band, Gentry worked bagging groceries, doing farm work, laying carpet, and even running a theater.
17. Alabama’s first performance as a group took place when they joined a high school talent show. They performed a song by Merle Haggard and ended up winning first prize. They won tickets to the Grand Ole Opry.
18. Since Mark Herndon originally played for a rock n’ roll band, his musical influence and style contributed well in bringing to life Alabama’s signature sound.
19. Randy Olwen once shared that calving season was his favorite in the entire agricultural season’s cycle. In an interview with Billboard, he shared that witnessing the new babies come, and staying so close to their mothers, was a joy to be part of. He adds, “We have two calving seasons—in the fall and the spring, but that would be my favorite part of it.” But what Olwen enjoys the most about calving season is the time it allows for him to bond with his family.
20. Alabama’s songs about living life on the farm best depict what it’s really like and bring the most justice to the lyrics. All three original members were raised in a cotton country. Randy Owens has also been working in the cattle industry for years.
We hope you enjoyed our list! Do you have any more Alabama trivia you’d like to share? Feel free to post them in the comments section below!