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Alabama

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Before Alabama, bands were usually relegated to a supporting role in country music. In the first part of the century, bands were popular with audiences across the country, but as recordings became available, nearly every popular recording artist was a vocalist, not a group. Alabama was the group that made country bands popular again. Emerging in the late '70s, the band had roots in both country and rock; in fact, many of Alabama's musical concepts, particularly the idea of a performing band, owed more to rock and pop than hardcore country. However, there is no denying that Alabama is a country band -- the bandmembers' pop instincts may come from rock, but their harmonies, songwriting, and approach are indebted to country, particularly the Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard, bluegrass, and the sound of Nashville pop. A sleek country-rock sound made the group the most popular country group in history, selling more records than any other artist of the '80s and earning stacks of awards. First cousins Randy Owen (born December 14, 1949; lead vocal, rhythm guitar) and Teddy Gentry (born January 22, 1952; vocals, bass) form the core of Alabama. Owen and Gentry grew up on separate cotton farms on Lookout Mountain in Alabama, but the pair learned how to play guitar together; the duo had also sung in church together before they were six years old. On their own, Gentry and Owen played in a number of different bands during the '60s, playing country, bluegrass, and pop on different occasions. During high school, the duo teamed with another cousin, Jeff Cook (born August 27, 1949; lead guitar, vocals, keyboards, fiddle), to form Young Country in 1969. Before joining his cousins, Cook had played in a number of bands and was a rock & roll DJ. Young Country's first gig was at a high-school talent contest; performing a Merle Haggard song, the band won first prize -- a trip to the Grand Ole Opry. However, the group was fairly inactive as Owen and Cook went to college. After Owen and Cook graduated from college, they moved with Gentry to Anniston, Alabama, with the intention of keeping the band together. Sharing an apartment, the band practiced at night and performed manual labor during the day. They changed their name to Wildcountry in 1972, adding drummer Bennett Vartanian to the lineup. The following year, they made the decision to become professional musicians, quitting their jobs and playing a number of bars in the Southeast. During this time, they began writing their own songs, including "My Home's in Alabama." Vartanian left soon after the band turned professional; after losing four more drummers, Rick Scott was added to the lineup in 1974. Wildcountry changed its name to Alabama in 1977, the same year the band signed a one-record contract with GRT. The resulting single, "I Wanna Be with You Tonight," was a minor success, peaking in the Top 80. Nevertheless, the single's performance was an indication that Alabama was one of the most popular bands in the Southeast; at the end of the decade, the band was playing over 300 shows a year. After "I Wanna Be with You Tonight," the group borrowed $4,000 from a Fort Payne bank, using the money to record and release its own records, which were sold at shows. When GRT declared bankruptcy a year after the release of "I Wanna Be with You Tonight," the bandmembers discovered that they were forbidden from recording with another label because of a hidden clause in their contract. For two years, Alabama raised money to buy out their contract. In 1979, the group was finally able to begin recording again. That same year, Scott left the band. Scott was replaced by Mark Herndon, a former rock drummer who helped give Alabama their signature sound. Later in 1979, Alabama self-recorded and released an album, hiring an independent record promoter to help get radio play for the single "I Wanna Come Over." The band also sent hundreds of handwritten letters to program directors and DJs across the country. "I Wanna Come Over" gained the attention of MDJ Records, a small label based in Dallas. MDJ released the single, and it reached number 33 on the charts. In 1980, MDJ released "My Home's in Alabama," which made it into the Top 20. Based on the single's success, Alabama performed at the Country Music New Faces show, where the band was spotted by an RCA Records talent scout, who signed the group after the show. Alabama released its first RCA single, "Tennessee River," late in 1980. Produced by Harold Shedd, the song began a remarkable streak of 21 number one hits (interrupted by the 1982 holiday single "Christmas in Dixie"), which ran until 1987; after one number seven hit, the streak resumed for another six singles, resulting in a total of 27 number one singles during the decade. Taken alone, the amount of chart-topping singles is proof of Alabama's popularity, but the band also won numerous awards, had seven multi-platinum albums, and crossed over to the pop charts nine times during the '80s. In the '90s, their popularity declined somewhat, yet they were still having hit singles and gold and platinum albums with regularity, and it's unlikely that any other country group will be able to surpass the success of Alabama. The group disbanded in 2006 following a farewell tour and two albums of gospel , 2006's Songs of Inspiration and 2007's Songs of Inspiration, Vol. 2, but reunited in 2011. A third gospel album, Angels Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites, was released by Gaither Music in 2014. In September 2015, Alabama further sealed the relaunch of their career, delivering Southern Drawl, their first album of all new material in 14 years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Albums by
Alabama

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    13 songs

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    Southern Drawl

    12 songs

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    Angels Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites

    15 songs

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    The Full Discover Package

    15 songs

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    Songs of Inspiration

    15 songs

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    When It All Goes South

    13 songs

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    Christmas, Vol. 2

    12 songs

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    Twentieth Century

    10 songs

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    My Home's in Alabama

    12 songs

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    Pass It on Down

    10 songs

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    The Touch

    11 songs

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    Dancin' on the Boulevard

    11 songs

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    In Pictures

    11 songs

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    Cheap Seats

    11 songs

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    American Pride

    10 songs

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    40 Hour Week

    10 songs

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    Mountain Music

    13 songs

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    Southern Star

    10 songs

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    The Closer You Get

    10 songs

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    Feels So Right

    9 songs

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    Just Us

    11 songs

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    Alabama & Friends

    3 songs

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    I Want To Be With You Tonight

    51 songs

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    Livin' Lovin' Rockin' Rollin': The 25th Anniversary Collection

    1 song

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    Wasn't Through Lovin' You Yet

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Top Songs by
Alabama

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Mountain Music
  3.   Old Flame
  4.   Born Country
  5.   I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)
  6.   Forty Hour Week (For a Livin')
  7.   Feels So Right
  8.   Love in the First Degree
  9.   Lady Down on Love
  10.   My Home's in Alabama
  11.   Song of the South
  12.   Dixieland Delight
  13.   Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)
  14.   When We Make Love
  15.   Take Me Down
  16.   Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
  17.   Why Lady Why
  18.   The Closer You Get
  19.   Down Home
  20.   High Cotton
  21.   Can't Keep a Good Man Down
  22.   Hometown Honeymoon
  23.   Take a Little Trip
  24.   If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)
  25.   Tennessee River
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Alabama

    On Air

    Country Love

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    Tyler Farr: I Am The DJ

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    Downhome Cookin'

    On Air

    Thompson Square: I Am The DJ

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    '90s Country

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    4th of July Celebration

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    Florida Georgia Line: I Am The DJ

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    Cruisin' Country

    On Air

    Classic Country

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    Eli Young Band: I Am The DJ

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    She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy

    On Air

    Luke Bryan: DNA

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    Kip Moore: I Am The DJ

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    Jon Pardi: I Am The DJ

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    Jason Aldean: DNA

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    Florida Georgia Line: DNA

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    Country Christmas

    On Air

    Alan Jackson: DNA

    On Air

    Sara Evans: I Am The DJ

    On Air