Alabama (band)

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Alabama
Alabama band.jpg
The lineup that Alabama held for most of its career. Left to right: Mark Herndon, Jeff Cook, Randy Owen, and Teddy Gentry.
Background information
Also known as Young Country
Wildcountry
Origin Fort Payne, Alabama, United States
Genres Country, southern rock, country rock, bluegrass
Years active 1972–2004
2006–2007
2010–present[1]
Labels GRT, MDJ, RCA
Associated acts Cook & Glenn, Juice Newton
Website www.thealabamaband.com
Members Jeff Cook
Randy Owen
Teddy Gentry
Past members Mark Herndon
Jackie Owen
Rick Scott
Bennett Vartanian

Alabama is an American country, southern rock and bluegrass band formed in Fort Payne, Alabama, in 1969. The band was founded by Randy Owen (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and his cousin Teddy Gentry (bass guitar, background vocals), soon joined by their other cousin, Jeff Cook (lead guitar, fiddle, keyboards). First operating under the name Wildcountry, the group toured the Southeast bar circuit in the early 1970s, and began writing original songs. They changed their name to Alabama in 1977 and signed a record deal with GRT, creating a minor sensation with debut single "I Wanna Be With You Tonight". GRT soon went bankrupt and due to a hidden clause in their contract, the band was prohibited from recording and releasing new music; they secured a loan to buy themselves out of the contract as the decade closed.

Alabama's biggest success came in the 1980s, where the band had over 27 number one hits, seven multi-platinum albums and received numerous awards. Alabama's first single on RCA Records, "Tennessee River", began a streak of number one singles, including "Love in the First Degree" (1981), "Mountain Music" (1982), "Dixieland Delight" (1983), "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" (1984) and "Song of the South" (1987). The group's popularity waned slightly in the 1990s, although they continued to receive hit singles and multi-platinum record sales. The group disbanded in 2006 following a farewell tour and two albums of inspirational music, but reunited in 2010 and have continued to record and tour worldwide.

The band's blend of traditional country music and southern rock combined with elements of gospel music, and pop music gave it a crossover appeal that helped lead to their unprecedented success. They also toured extensively and incorporated production elements such as lighting and "sets" inspired by rock concerts into their shows. The band has over 30 number one country records on the Billboard charts to their credit and have sold over 75 million albums, making them one of the world's best-selling bands of all time.[2] Allmusic credited the band with popularizing the idea of a country band, and wrote that "it's unlikely that any other country group will be able to surpass the success of Alabama."[3]

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry grew up together in Fort Payne, Alabama, which is about a three-hour drive to Nashville, Tennessee. They eventually started playing music and singing in church. Teddy started playing guitar in church, but later switched to bass when he got into high school, winning the battle of the bands as the bass player for the, "Sand Mountain Chicken Pluckers."

Jeff Cook, who was a distant cousin of Randy and Teddy's, lived in Fort Payne, and had his own guitars and a PA system. Randy had sung with Jeff and his band at a High School performance. Jeff had more money than Randy and Teddy, and had a house in town. Around 1969, when Randy was eighteen, he and Teddy showed up on Jeff's doorstep wanting to play.

Randy wanted to get an education, something to fall back on in case his musical career didn't take off. He attended a junior college called Northeast State in Powell, Alabama. Owen, Cook and Gentry continued to play music, and played their first show under the name, "Young Country." Randy's cousin Jackie played bass, and Teddy sat in on the drums. The band took first prize at a high school talent contest playing Merle Haggard's, "Sing Me Back Home." The prize was $500, however the band won gas money and a trip to the Grand Ole Opry.

The band took a break while Owen and Cook attended college, and then in 1972 the band reunited in Anniston, Alabama, using the name Wildcountry.[4] Randy was getting an English degree from Jacksonville State University, Jeff had an electronics job, and Teddy had a job laying carpet. They shared an apartment, and often played the Canyon Land Amusement Park.

The Bowery[edit]

In 1973 they decided to pursue music full-time. The band had an opportunity to play for the Summer, and although Randy was still enrolled in college, he pleaded his case with Jacksonville State, and was able to finish in absentia.

The rest of the band quit their day jobs and moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where they had a job playing at The Bowery. The band was asked to play the entire Summer as the house band, requiring them to move to Myrtle Beach. When they got to the bar, The Bowery had already hired a singer, making Wildcountry the backup band.

Each member of Wildcountry eventually had a chance to sing due to the fact that they would play for hours on end, playing for free, taking home only what they earned in tips. The group had a hard time keeping a drummer, but found Mark Herndon at a club in Florence, South Carolina, in 1978. Mark's mother had been working at the club and heard the group needed a drummer. Mark joined in 1979.

They were able to play their own material and test it in front of the crowds. They'd return to The Bowery every Easter Weekend and play through Labor Day weekend.

The band later opened for The Doobie Brothers, and started to focus more on recording an album, and getting a single out.

When Randy turned twenty three, he met his soon-to-be wife, Kelly, who was fifteen at the time. Kelly had been to The Bowery, and the two met and quickly fell in love. Randy wanted to marry her, but her mother objected due to her daughter's age. Kelly eventually went to Germany for two years, before returning to the states. Kelly's friends had staged a car wash to raise money to buy Kelly a ticket home. The two were married soon after.

The Alabama Band[edit]

In 1977, they signed a contract to record a one shot record with GRT (General Recorded Tape, Inc.), and changed their name from Wildcountry to The Alabama Band at GRT's request. The Bowery had small signs that wrapped around the stage with the names of the fifty states on them. The band grabbed the Alabama sign and put it on the wall behind them because that was where they were from. Wildcountry didn't have any signs or banners, just the sign that read "Alabama" hanging on the wall behind them. When it came time to rename the band, Randy looked no further than the sign on the wall.

The Alabama Band recorded "I Want to be With You Tonight", which broke the Top 80. A year later GRT declared bankruptcy. Surprised to find that a contractual clause forbade them from recording with another label, the band bought out their contract, touring in a beat up van they called, "The Blue Goose" working for more than a year to raise the funds to buy out their contract. Due to all of the financial woes the band had faced, Randy decided that Teddy, Jeff and he should be equal partners in the band, although future hired members would be entitled to royalties if their work and image were portrayed as a contributing member.

They eventually recorded "My Home's in Alabama" and attempted to sell it to local radio stations. In 1979, the band self-recorded an album and hired a promoter to help get radio airplay for their single, "I Wanna Come Over". The band hired Wade Pepper in Atlanta to promote the single regionally. Band members and wives wrote hundreds of letters to radio stations begging them to play the song.

The band's manager, Larry McBride, took the song to Dallas, Texas-based MDJ Records. MDJ signed Alabama to a management contract. MDJ agreed to release the single, which peaked at 33 on Billboard's country chart. Randy states in his book, "Born Country" that the band paid almost $2 million to get out of their management deal with Larry McBride.

The band had also recorded, "My Home's in Alabama" and due to the success of that song, the band was invited to a New Faces show where several bands came together to play for DJ's and music executives. At that show, Alabama had to perform with a house band. The band wasn't allowed to play their own instruments, and drummer Mark Herndon was told to sit in the audience. Randy, Teddy and Jeff sang My Home's in Alabama, and "Tennessee River." Randy impressed Joe Galante who at that time was the head of marketing for RCA. Randy told the crowd that if the house band didn't know the songs, they would sing a cappella. The band felt they had performed horribly, but actually had three labels interested in them, RCA being one of them. (Reba McEntire was also performing at this show)

The band had recorded three albums before signing with RCA; Wildcountry (1973), Deuces Wild (1977), and Alabama 3 (1978). RCA bought the album, "My Home's in Alabama" from MDJ and re-released it. Alabama wanted to sign with RCA, because Elvis Presley had recorded with the label.

On April 21, 1980, the group signed with RCA Records. The follow-up, "My Home's in Alabama", became their signature song and reached the Top 20 in March 1980. Both songs are on their first album (with RCA), My Home's in Alabama. Alabama had a rapid rise to fame, selling over 4 million albums in their first year with RCA.

  • Alabama played Music Man guitars, and used music man amps in the early eighties. Mark Herndon used Gretsch drums.

The 1980s[edit]

In the 1980s, Alabama released an album each year.

  • Dick Clark booked Alabama on American Bandstand during the show's country week, on October 4, 1980. The band continued to have a great relationship with Dick Clark, which proved to benefit them, since Dick was a huge powerhouse in the music and television world.
  • On October 10, 1981, Alabama guest starred on Hee-Haw. The band played "Feels So Right."
  • Alabama was named instrumental group and vocal group of the year, at the 15th Annual CMA Awards, hosted by Entertainer of the Year (for that year), Barbara Mandrell. The show aired on October 12, 1981.
  • In the 1980s Alabama was a major force on the Billboard 200 album charts. In a ranking of the top artists in the first half of the decade the band ranks at #7.[5]

My Home's in Alabama[edit]

The lead-off single to their first album for RCA, "I Wanna Come Over", reached No. 33 on the US Country Charts in 1979. In 1980, the album's title track, which still remains one of their most popular songs to date reached No. 17. Then, finally, "Tennessee River" was released, thus becoming their first number one hit. "Why Lady Why" also went to No. 1.

In 1980, after appearing on the New Faces Show at the Country Radio Seminar, (which also featured newcomer Reba McEntire), RCA's Joe Galante came back to his office raving about a young band he'd seen.[6]

Feels So Right[edit]

Their 1981 album produced the singles "Old Flame", "Feels So Right", and "Love in the First Degree". "Feels So Right" became the band's first gold record.

  • The band performed on the hit TV series "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell sisters", created by Sid and Marty Krofft in 1981. The band performed to a backing track to, "Love in the First Degree."
  • In 1981 Alabama won the ACMA Top vocal group of the year.

Mountain Music[edit]

Their 1982 album produced the singles "Mountain Music", "Take Me Down", and "Close Enough to Perfect".

  • The band was named CMA Entertainers of the year for 1982. The band played, "Mountain Music" at the awards show.
  • The band took home the AMA for favorite country group. Marvin Gaye was one of the presenters.

Alabama Christmas[edit]

Their popular holiday single "Christmas in Dixie" went to No. 35, and still remains a holiday favorite during Christmas time. Other titles on this album include: Santa Claus, Joseph and Mary's Boy, Happy Holidays, Christmas Memories, Tonight is Christmas, Thistle Hair the Christmas Bear, Tennessee Christmas, A Candle in the Window, and Homecoming Christmas.

The Closer You Get...[edit]

Their 1983 album produced the singles "Dixieland Delight", "The Closer You Get", and "Lady Down on Love".

  • Alabama won the ACM Award for entertainer of the year in 1983, as well as top vocal group.

Roll On[edit]

Their 1984 album produced the singles "Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)", "When We Make Love", "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)", and "(There's A) Fire in the Night".

  • In 1984 Alabama won the AMA award for favorite country group of the year. Donny Osmond presented. The band also took home the award for favorite country video for, "Dixieland Delight." The band also won favorite country album. Rick James presented.
  • Alabama took home the ACMA album of the year award for, "Roll On."

40 Hour Week[edit]

Their 1985 album produced the singles "There's No Way", "40 Hour Week (For a Livin')", and "Can't Keep a Good Man Down".

  • In 1985 Alabama won the ACM award for Entertainer of the year.

Greatest Hits[edit]

They released their first Greatest Hits album in 1986, which included the new song "She and I", which was released as a single, and went to number one.

Alabama's dominance in the early- and mid-1980s is evidenced by 21 of their single releases having reached number one on Billboard's country singles chart. This streak also included a holiday single called "Christmas in Dixie", which ranked in the low Top 40's. The flip side of this single was Louise Mandrell and RC Bannon singing "Christmas Is Just a Song for Us This Year".

The Touch[edit]

Their 1986 studio album only produced two singles "Touch Me When We're Dancing", and "You've Got the Touch."

Also, Lionel Richie's 1987 single, "Deep River Woman", featured harmony vocals from Alabama.

  • In 1986 Alabama won the ACM award for Entertainer of the year. Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider presented the award.

Just Us[edit]

The lead-off single to their 1987 album "Tar Top" broke their long streak of 21 number one singles when it peaked at No. 7. The album's next two singles were "Face to Face" and "Fallin' Again" (the former a duet with K.T. Oslin) were both No. 1 hits.

Alabama Live[edit]

In 1988 Alabama released their very first live album, Alabama Live.

Southern Star[edit]

Their 1989 album produced four singles, which were "Song of the South", "If I Had You", "High Cotton", and "Southern Star." All were No. 1 hits.

The 1990s[edit]

Pass It On Down[edit]

They began the 1990s album, which produced the title track single. The album's following singles were "Jukebox in My Mind", "Forever's as Far as I'll Go," "Down Home," and "Here We Are."

Greatest Hits Vol. II[edit]

They released their second Greatest Hits package in 1991, which included two new songs that were singles "Then Again," and "Born Country."

American Pride[edit]

Their 1992 album produced four singles "Take a Little Trip", "I'm In a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)", and "Once Upon a Lifetime", and "Hometown Honeymoon."

Cheap Seats[edit]

The lead-off single was "Reckless." The album's next two singles were "T.L.C. A.S.A.P.," and "The Cheap Seats." "Angels Among Us" charted from unsolicited airplay as a partial Christmas single.

Greatest Hits Vol. III[edit]

They released their third Greatest Hits package in 1994. It produced the two new singles "We Can't Love Like This Anymore", and "Give Me One More Shot."

  • In November 1994, the various artists' album "Skynyrd Frynds" debuted on the charts as a country tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The first track is "Sweet Home Alabama", performed by Alabama, which became the only performance on the disc to make the singles chart.

In Pictures[edit]

Their 1995 album produced the singles "She Ain't Your Ordinary Girl," "In Pictures," "It Works," "Say I," and "The Maker Said Take Her."

  • Alabama unveils its line of canned foods.
  • In April 1996 Alabama's Christmas Greetings TV special is taped by TNN. Tracy Byrd and Lari White are the group's guest stars.
  • The band played, "Say I" at the 1996 CMA Awards.

Dancin' on the Boulevard[edit]

Their 1997 album produced the singles "Sad Lookin' Moon," "Dancin', Shaggin' on the Boulevard," "Of Course I'm Alright," and "She's Got That Look in Her Eyes."

Alabama's Drummer Mark Herndon did not play on this album, instead Lonnie Wilson did.

  • During April 1997, the movie Major League 3: Back to the Minors premiers. It includes "Cheap Seats" on its soundtrack.

For the Record[edit]

Their 1998 compilation album included the two new singles "How Do You Fall in Love," and "Keepin' Up."

  • Alabama For the Record airs as a pay-per-view TV special live from the Las Vegas Hilton.

Twentieth Century[edit]

Their 1999 album produced the lead-off single, which was a cover of the N'SYNC pop hit called "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You" which provided harmony vocals by N'SYNC. The next three singles were "Small Stuff," "We Made Love," and "Twentieth Century."

The 2000s[edit]

When It All Goes South[edit]

The lead-off single to their 2001 album "When It All Goes South" was released in late-2000, and peaked at No. 15 in early-2001, and was the band's last top 40 hit. The album had two more singles. "Will You Marry Me", which was a duet with Jann Arden peaked at No. 41, while "The Woman He Loves" failed to chart.

In the Mood: The Love Songs[edit]

The lead-off single to their 2003 compilation album "I'm in the Mood" was released in late-2002, and it peaked at No. 48.

  • In May 2002 the band announced their "American Farewell" Tour at the Academy of Country Music Awards. During the program, the band introduced "I'm In The Mood" as their final single.
  • The music video for the song features actress Clare Grant.

Farewell tour[edit]

In May 2002, the band announced its "Farewell Tour", which took place across the US during 2003 and 2004. They released two albums of inspirational music in 2006 and 2007, but did not tour in support of these albums.

Teddy Gentry has produced albums for various artists, most notably Emerson Drive (Countrified) and Collin Raye (Selected Hits).

Jeff Cook now performs with the Allstar Goodtime Band.

Reunion[edit]

Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook reunited at the 2011 ACM awards when they performed "Old Alabama" on stage with Brad Paisley.[7] They are featured in Paisley's 2011 single, "Old Alabama", which sings about Alabama; in the song they sing several lines from the chorus of "Mountain Music". The band also performed at the 2012 Stagecoach Festival.

The band also appeared in August 2012 at the 30th anniversary of We Fest in Detroit Lakes, MN.[citation needed]

The 2013 "Back to The Bowery" tour celebrates the band's 40th anniversary.[8] On April 4, 2013, Owen, Gentry, and Cook performed at The Bowery prior to two nights of performances at Myrtle Beach's Alabama Theater.[9]

Number one singles[edit]

The No. 1 hits continued through April 1987, when "(You've Got) 'The Touch'" became their 21st chart-topper. After "Tar Top" peaked at No. 7 in the fall of 1987, Alabama started a new No. 1 string of six consecutively, and went on to have five more No. 1 hits through 1993's "Reckless." Additionally, Alabama scored a No. 1 hit in 2011 as guest vocalists alongside Brad Paisley on his single, "Old Alabama."

For the record, the 34 No. 1 songs according to Billboard magazine's country singles chart are as follows (other No. 1 singles from other trade magazines are not listed here):

While 32 songs reached the summit in Billboard magazine, the band's official website acknowledges 41 of its songs reached the top of the various charts (which included Cash Box, Gavin Report, Radio & Records, among others). Conversely, some of the songs that topped Billboard did not necessarily top these other charts. Furthermore, a best-of album, titled For the Record: 41 Number One Hits, was released.

Those songs that went the distance on other charts, but not Billboard (although all were top five hits on the Billboard chart), are "Here We Are" and "Then Again" (1991); "Born Country" and "Take a Little Trip" (1992); "Once Upon a Lifetime" (1993); "Give Me One More Shot," "She Ain't Your Ordinary Girl" and "In Pictures" (1995); "Sad Lookin' Moon" (1997); and "How Do You Fall in Love" (1998).

The band also recorded an original song for the 1985 children's film Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird called "All Together Now". While the song is only heard briefly in the film (on a car radio), it is available on the film's soundtrack.

Awards[edit]

Academy of Country Music

American Music Awards

Country Music Association

BMI Country Awards

  • 2000 President's Award

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Grammy Awards

Vocal Group Hall of Fame

Lawsuits[edit]

Mark Herndon[edit]

On May 9, 2008 the other members of the group sued drummer Mark Herndon for $202,670 in money allegedly overpaid to him three years earlier after the band's farewell tour concluded. This money was allegedly factored into the net profit and given to Herndon before accounting was completed, an allegation Herndon has denied. The band did not sue Herndon until he requested money from the multiple live albums and songs that the band had released but never paid Herndon for playing on. By filing the lawsuit, Alabama band attorneys mistakenly included copies of band contracts as exhibits along with their lawsuit papers, thus allowing fans a chance to look at the inner workings of the band and revealing that Herndon actually had a contractual full band share of the farewell tour.[10]

Since 1982, Herndon has been a paid employee of Wild Country Inc. as the drummer for Alabama, according to the court papers. In December 2002, a new contract was signed which provided that Herndon would be paid an annual salary of $100,000 and receive a 22.725 percent share of “net Live Performance revenue actually received by The Group, 'Alabama'."

The suit, which names The Group Alabama Inc. as the plaintiff, also states that Herndon demanded a payment of $65,047.01, which represents his share of an advance against anticipated sales of the The Last Stand CD, which was recorded live during the farewell tour and was sold by Cracker Barrel Restaurants.

The contract also states that Mr. Herndon is entitled to receive the same percentage of net revenues from new recordings on which he played. Herndon played drums on The Last Stand, but his likeness was digitally removed from the photo on the CD’s back cover upon release.

Alden Caswell[edit]

In 2010 Alan Caswell from Australia initiated a lawsuit when it was discovered that "Christmas in Dixie" had apparently used the melody of his copyrighted music from the television show Prisoner. This program was set in a fictional women's prison and Caswell wrote the music specifically for it. But when he heard the music of Alabama's song, he was forced to move to the courts.[11][12]

Philanthropy[edit]

From 1982 until 1997, Alabama held an annual "Alabama June Jam" in Fort Payne, Alabama. Proceeds from these events were distributed to various charities and school organizations and have also been used to set up an escrow account which continues to distribute money to worthy causes. Each of the band members is also active in fundraising for a charity of his choice, and several of them have set up their own charitable foundations.

In honor of their good works, the group has been the recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, Country Radio Broadcasters' Humanitarian Award, and the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award. They were also the inaugural recipients of the "Spirit of Alabama" medal awarded by Governor Bob Riley.

In their live shows, Alabama often made a point of recognizing the men and women in America's armed forces. They have volunteered to visit injured soldiers at military hospitals, and have participated in the "Laying of the Wreath" ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. For their efforts, they have been awarded the USO Rising Star Award and the Pentagon 9/11 Medallion.

Owen, and his wife Kelly Owen, were the primary benefactors for the construction of the Kelly Owen Women's and Children's Pavilion at DeKalb Regional Medical Center in Fort Payne, which was at the time a charitably-operated hospital of Baptist Health System of Alabama.

Discography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Alabama regroups". Country Standard Time. Retrieved June 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ Mansfield, Brian (2003-02-04). "For Alabama, this farewell tour feels so right". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  3. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Alabama: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ "HALL of FAME INDUCTEE ALABAMA". Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top Pop Albums 1955-1985, Record Research Inc., 1985, p. 481.
  6. ^ "Alabama: Career Biography". thealabamaband.com. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  7. ^ "Brad Paisley Brings The Old Alabama Back! « WQYK 99.5 Tampa Bay’s Country Station". Wqyk.radio.com. 2011-04-04. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  8. ^ Dauphin, Chuck (2013-02-19). "Alabama Turns 40 With 'Back to the Bowery' Tour, Possible New Music". Billboard. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  9. ^ Edge, Lisa (2013-04-04). "Alabama returns to The Bowery, where it all began". WPDE. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  10. ^ "Country group Alabama sues drummer for $200K". USA Today. June 7, 2008. 
  11. ^ AAP (May 8, 2010). "US group 'ripped off' Prisoner theme tun". The Australian. 
  12. ^ Brenden Hills (May 13, 2012). "Dixie band Alabama ripped off my song 'On the Inside', theme song to hit TV series Prisoner claims Aussie singer Allan Caswell". The Sunday Telegram. 

External links[edit]