The band Alabama is gearing up for its 50th Anniversary Tour – which will kick off January 10th and run through mid-September at this point.
For those of you intent on doing the math and coming up short – Alabama actually began as Wild Country way back in 1969, changing their name to Alabama in 1977 – and, as they say, the rest is history.
They became one of the biggest names in country music – scoring 27 chart-topping singles, with 21 of those coming consecutively; eventually selling more than 73 million albums over the course of their career; they were named the “Country Music Group of the Decade” in the 1980’s; have been honored with countless awards; and they literally changed the landscape of music when they came on the scene with their blend of rock and country.
Almost 30 dates have been booked for Alabama band mates Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry and according to a press release guitarist and fiddler Jeff Cook, who has Parkinson’s disease will be performing on the tour as much as he is physically able.
Special guests on the upcoming tour will include Chris Janson, Exile, Restless, the Oak Ridge Boys and the Charlie Daniels Band among others.
Additional dates are expected to be added. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
- Jan. 10, Detroit, The Fox Theatre (with Chris Janson)
- Jan. 11, Indianapolis, Bankers Life Fieldhouse (with Restless Heart)
- Jan. 19, Atlantic City, N.J., Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena
- Jan. 20, Albany, N.Y., Times Union Center (with Exile)
- Feb. 14, San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
- Feb. 15, New Orleans, Smoothie King Center (with Tracy Lawrence)
- Feb. 28, Plant City, Fla., Florida Strawberry Festival
- March 1, St. Augustine, Fla., St. Augustine Amphitheatre
- March 14, Salem, Va., Salem Civic Center (with Oak Ridge Boys)
- March 15, Pittsburgh, PPG Paints Arena (with Tracy Lawrence)
- March 22, Springfield, Mo., JQH Arena (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- March 23, North Little Rock, Ark., Verizon Arena (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- April 5, Greensboro, N.C., Greensboro Coliseum (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- April 6, Charlottesville, Va., John Paul Jones Arena (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- April 12, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Mohegan Sun Arena (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- April 13, Hartford, Conn., XL Center (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- April 26, Providence, R.I., Dunkin’ Donuts Center (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- April 27, State College, Pa., Bryce Jordan Center (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- May 31, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. Cellular Center
- June 1, La Cygne, Kan.,Tumbleweed
- June 6, Myrtle Beach, S.C., Carolina Country Music Festival
- June 7, Macon, Ga., Macon Centreplex Coliseum (with Marshall Tucker Band)
- June 13-16, Grand Junction, Col., Country Jam (performance date TBA)
- June 15, Salt Lake City, Utah, Maverik Center
- June 26, Minneapolis, Target Center (with Charlie Daniels Band)
- June 27, Oshkosh, Wis., Country USA
- Sept. 14, Peoria, Ill., Tailgate N’ Tallboys
Artist Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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 band members’ 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 Wild Country in 1969. Before joining his cousins, Cook had played in a number of bands and was a rock & roll DJ.
Wild Country 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.