Alabama is a country music and southern rock band from Fort Payne, Alabama, United States. The band was founded in 1969 by Randy Owen (lead vocals) and his cousin Teddy Gentry (bass guitar, background vocals), soon joined by Jeff Cook (guitar, fiddle, keyboards). In 1973, after Owen’s graduation from Jacksonville State University, they gave up their day jobs and weekend gigs.
The group, formerly known as “Wildcountry”, left Fort Payne and Lookout Mountain to explore the possibilities of the club scene in surrounding coastal South Carolina. The band is often credited with bringing country music groups (as opposed to solo vocalists) into the mainstream, paving the way for the success of today’s top country groups. Since its founding in 1972, Alabama has included Owen, Cook and Gentry. Mark Herndon was not the original drummer but was a member of the band throughout their period of fame and chart success.
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 Magazine charts to their credit and have sold over 73 million records to date.
In 1998, the band was honored with its own star in the fabled Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2000, it was presented with the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award. The band announced its farewell tour during the Academy of Country Music awards in 2002, and spent most of 2003 saying good-bye to the fans.
The Alabama Theater opened up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1993. Gaylord Entertainment (TNN, CMT, Opry Land) was brought in to help produce a nightly show, and a Christmas show. The band tried to open up a string of bar and grills in 1996. The first Alabama Grill is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, a second opened up in Myrtle beach in 1998. Another grill can be found in the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee.
Alabama sold its three publishing companies (Alabama Music/Maypop/Mountain Flower Music) to Sony-ATV for a reported $18 million in 1999, giving Sony an estimated 3,500 copyrights. Alabama then signed a five year writing contract with Sony/ATV Tree.
Alabama was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
The band parted ways with drummer Mark Herndon in 2008 during a very public and nasty lawsuit.
Alabama returned to the studio in 2010 to record “Are You Sure Hank Done It That Way” as part of a Waylon Jennings tribute album. ‘The Music Inside — A Collaboration Dedicated To Waylon Jennings Vol. I,’ which hit shelves in February 2011.
The band reunited in 2011, playing with Brad Paisley on his single, “Old Alabama” and playing the Bama Rising benefit. Alabama played the song live with Brad Paisley at the ACM Awards in Vegas. Images of drummer Mark Herndon were cropped out of band photos that were displayed on the large TV screens during the performance.
Alabama continues to have fan supported weekends for fans and fan club members wishing to travel to Ft. Payne, Alabama each June to see and sometimes meet their heroes. In June of 2011, each member of Alabama played their own concert.
Jeff Cook told the press in 2011 that the Farewell Tour didn’t end right. The band ended its farewell tour in North Dakota. Cook hinted at a possible reunion and new album in 2012, wanting the band to play its final show in Alabama.