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Alabama's members are lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter Randy Owen; his cousin, bass player, songwriter and harmony vocalist Teddy Gentry; their distant cousin, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Jeff Cook; and drummer Mark Herndon. Owen, Gentry and Cook became professional musicians in 1973, taking up residence in a honky-tonk called The Bowery in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
There the band sometimes played for 13 hours a day, going through three drummers during the next six years. To survive, they not only played all the time, they played a little of everything -- rock, country, pop, dance music, R&B, whatever.
In 1979, the year Herndon joined, RCA Records signed the band. This was an unusual event at the time. Prior to the rise of Alabama, the concept of groups in country music was rather unfamiliar. Although common -- indeed, dominant -- in rock 'n roll, the idea of bands being stars in country was foreign. Alabama changed all that. Its stardom led to an infusion of bands into the genre in the 80s and 90s.
Alabama's string of No. 1 hits began in the summer of 1980 with Owen's song "Tennessee River." Its success made Alabama the first country group to top the chart with its first major-label release. The ballad "Why Lady Why" topped the charts as 1980 drew to a close. Then "Old Flame" followed suit. By the touring season of 1981, Alabama had three straight No. 1s. The members' long hair, dynamic onstage antics and country-rock sound made it the hottest "youth appeal" act on the country scene.
One recurring theme has been fidelity, commitment and enduring love. The first single to explore this was 1981's "Feels So Right." Since then, Alabama has returned to this kind of romance several times. "Face to Face," featuring a cameo appearance by K.T. Oslin, topped the charts in early 1988. "When We Make Love" (1984), "There's No Way" (1985), "(You've Got) The Touch" (1987), "Once Upon a Lifetime" (1993) and "Forever's As Far As I'll Go" (1990) also became chart-topping Alabama love ballads. In addition to going to the peak of the country hit parade, the mid-tempo love song "Love in the First Degree" became a No. 15 pop hit during Christmas Week in 1981.
Alabama returned to the Southern-rock style of "Tennessee River" in 1982's Grammy Award winning "Mountain Music." Other staples of the band's early repertoire that showcased Cook's rompin', stompin' fiddle style were 1984's "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" and 1983's "Dixieland Delight."
Alabama scored several of its biggest hits with working-man's anthems and homages to its Southern roots. "Roll On (18 Wheeler)" saluted truck drivers in 1984. Even more stirring was 1985's "Forty Hour Week (for a Livin')." The band's proud-of-Dixie songs include such No. 1 hits as "Song of the South" (1989), "High Cotton" (1989) and "Southern Star" (1990). "Down Home" (1991), "Hometown Honeymoon" (1993) and "Born Country" (1992) also mine this rural vein. The band has proved equally capable with sophisticated pop-rockers as Exile's "Take Me Down" (1982) and "The Closer You Get" (1983), Beth Nielsen Chapman and Vince Gill's "Here We Are" (1991) and the Dave Loggins tune "She and I" (1986). Alabama's 1985 favorite "(There's a) Fire in the Night" later appeared on the soundtrack of the Patrick Swayze movie Roadhouse.
One of the hallmarks of Alabama's career is its impressive ability to shift musical genres, production techniques and song styles from year to year. Thus, its No. 1 hits include honky-tonkers such as "Jukebox in My Mind" (1990), thoughtful meditations like "Then Again" (1991) and "Close Enough to Perfect" (1982), the lilting Carpenters pop tune "Touch Me When We're Dancing" (1986), the raucous "Can't Keep a Good Man Down" (1985) and 1983's insightful "Lady Down on Love." As different as those sounds are, they share one thing in common. They all became No. 1 hits.
By the close of the 1980s Alabama had smashed all records for chart dominance by a country group. The Academy of Country Music named Alabama its artist of the decade. Another major milepost along the way was "If I Had You." In 1989, it became the band's 25th No. 1 single. The group entered the 1990s with more audio personality than ever. The frenetic "I'm in a Hurry (and Don't Know Why)" (1992), the blue-collar rocker "Reckless" (1993), the bopping "She Ain't Your Ordinary Girl" (1994) and the energetic "Give Me One More Shot" (1994) all hit the No. 1 spot. Owen's favorite from this era is a fatherhood ballad, 1995's "In Pictures."
For many years, Alabama has championed and supported worthy causes, both in the national arena and in their local community of Fort Payne, Ala. In 1989, Owen and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., established the "Country Cares" fundraiser. The "Country Cares" radio network currently boasts over 160 stations nationwide. The country music industry embraced the cause, and through the combined efforts of the radiothon and other industry functions, "Country Cares" has raised a staggering $130 million for St. Jude. In 1997, Alabama participated in the recording of Country Cares for Kids, a holiday album to benefit the hospital. The band members have made countless appearances on the hospital's behalf.
Alabama's June Jam, held in Fort Payne for 15 years, was one of the premier country music concerts in the nation. Artists ranging from Garth Brooks to Vince Gill and Neal McCoy joined Fort Payne's famous sons for concert performances that raised more than $4 million for various organizations within the local community. One organization is The Big Oak Ranch, which helps children 6-21 who are orphaned, abused, neglected, homeless or have had minor trouble with the law.
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.
In 2005, they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The following year, they notched a No. 1 country album, Songs of Inspiration.
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