100 Greatest Men: #29. Alabama

Alabama100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

In the early eighties, a new kind of country band surfaced, structured like the rock bands that came before them, but deeply grounded in country instrumentation.  Alabama were the pioneers of the field, and they reached a level of superstardom beyond most bands of any genre during their peak.

Three of the four members of Alabama are cousins from the band's namesake state, though Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry, and Randy Owen first began performing as Young Country in 1969. The band went through a series of day jobs and a series of drummers while honing their sound on the local music circuit in Alabama and neighboring states.  After switching to Wildcountry in 1972, and settling on Rick Scott as their drummer in 1974, they finally took the name Alabama in 1977.

A series of minor hits on an independent label led to a contract with RCA, after a final lineup change replaced Scott with Mark Herndon.   When the band broke in 1980 with the top twenty hit “My Home's in Alabama”, what followed set a new bar for commercial success in country music.   The band scored a record consecutive 21 #1 hits, became the first act to win CMA Entertainer of the Year three times in a row, and released several multi-platinum albums, including the five million-selling Mountain Music in 1982.

Their success opened the floodgates for other country bands, eventually replacing vocal groups as the dominant non-solo sound in the genre.   Though they didn't receive much critical acclaim for their work, their relevance on the

commercial front was undeniable. Even as a wave of new acts in the nineties again raised the bar for what country acts could achieve, Alabama remained successful, consistently selling gold and platinum while radio continued to play their hits.

At the turn of the century, the band slowed down, even doing a farewell tour.   They still released music, however, scoring their first #1 country album in 17 years with Songs of Inspiration in 2006.  They also returned to the penthouse of the singles chart in 2011, scoring their 34th #1 single in support of Brad Paisley's “Old Alabama.”

They are currently recording and performing as a trio, with Herndon departing the group after a rift over royalties that led to a lawsuit. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and returned to the stage in 2013 for a fortieth anniversary tour.

Essential Singles:

  • Tennessee River, 1980
  • Love in the First Degree, 1981
  • Mountain Music, 1982
  • The Closer You Get, 1983
  • Forty Hour Week (For a Livin'), 1985
  • Song of the South, 1988
  • I'm in a Hurry (and Don't Know Why), 1992
  • How Do You Fall in Love, 1998

Essential Albums:

  • Feels So Right, 1981
  • Mountain Music, 1982
  • The Closer You Get…, 1983
  • Roll On, 1984
  • 40 Hour Week, 1985
  • Southern Star, 1989
  • Dancin', Shaggin' on the Boulevard, 1997
  • Songs of Inspiration, 2006

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9 Responses to 100 Greatest Men: #29. Alabama

  1. bobNo Gravatar

    Glad to see this feature resumed even though most of my favorites didn’t do that well.

    The song that hooked me on Alabama was “Old Flame”. Saw then at Westbury in the late 80’s. Beside some of your essential singles, other favorites for me include “Roll On”, ‘Touch Me When We’re Dancing”, “Jukebox in My Mind”, “Forever’s As Far as I’ll Go”, “Give Me One More Shot” and “Angels Among Us”.

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Apparently Herndon was never a member of the group, but merely an employee (as ridiculous as it sounds). I don’t know if I regard Alabama as a good or bad influence on the genre but there were many good Alabama songs (along with some real stinkers). Somehow most of my favorite Alabama songs weren’t their biggest hits

  3. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    I think most country music groups owe their existence more to Alabama than they ever did to the Eagles, or even many of the Southern rock bands of the 70s. Now, whether that is a good thing or not is, of course, in the ears of the beholder. But you can’t begrudge the enormous success that they had all those years (IMHO).

  4. RobNo Gravatar

    Although only a seasonal song, “Christmas In Dixie” is still a classic of theirs, in my opinion. They remain a favorite of my parents (who also saw them several times at Westbury, bob) and have grown into one of my favorites for nostalgic purposes as well as the quality of their music. Great to see them back out on tour again.

  5. I wouldn’t count myself as an Alabama fan per se, but I do love “Mountain Music,” “Song of the South,” “Jukebox In My Mind,” and “I’m In a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why),” and of course, their impact on the genre is undeniable.

  6. Tom PNo Gravatar

    I admit I was slow in warming up to Alabama. I was a very young kid when they came out and I just never got it. Looking back I can honestly say it really comes down to great songs and they most certainly had some great songs. She’s a Lady could possibly be my favorite.

  7. Tom PNo Gravatar

    Ok, Now I feel dumb. The title I was referring to was “Lady, Down on Love”.

  8. I’ve always been a HUGE Alabama fan. Their easily among my top 4 favorite groups/bands of all time (along with Dixie Chicks, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac). Their 80s music wasn’t always particularly country (i.e. “Why Baby Why,” “Feels So Right”) but it feels so good when it comes on the radio today.

    Randy Owen has a great, great voice.

  9. ^ “Why LADY Why”

    they’ve never covered the George Jones classic, at least to my knowledge