American Jukebox: Alabama

Alabama is an American country and Southern rock 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, backing vocals). They were soon joined by another cousin, Jeff Cook (lead guitar, fiddle, and 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 following the chart success of two singles, were approached by RCA Records for a record deal.

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 21 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” (1988). The band’s popularity waned slightly in the 1990s although they continued to produce hit singles and multi-platinum album sales.

Alabama disbanded in 2004 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 bluegrass, folk, gospel and pop music gave it a crossover appeal that helped lead to their 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 41 number one country records on the Billboard charts to their credit and have sold over 75 million records, making them the most successful band in country music history. 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.”

Alabama was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2019 and were awarded with the first ever Life Time Achievement Award from this institution.

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