Jeff Cook, co-founding member of country band Alabama, dies at 73

Jeff Cook, a founding member of the influential Country Music Hall of Fame group Alabama, died on Monday at the age of 73.

In 2017, Cook made his diagnosis known to the public. He fought against Parkinson’s disease, an advancing condition of the nervous system that impacts mobility and results in shaking, for ten years.

A representative for the band confirmed his death Tuesday afternoon to the Tennessean. Cook died at his beachside home in Destin, Florida.

Alabama, with Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen as cousins and alongside the fiddle player and guitarist, helped sketch a blueprint for a hitmaking country band. Many now consider the band and their music to be essential listening for country music enthusiasts, as they filled their sketch with a slew of hits including “Song of the South,” “Mountain Music,” “In a Hurry,” “Dixieland Delight,” “Cheap Seats,” “My Home’s in Alabama,” and many others.

Jeff Cook of Alabama performs during the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam XX: A Tribute to Charlie at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, March 8, 2018.

The band Wildcountry, hailing from South Carolina, grew into the country rock genre by embracing the sensibilities of Southern rock and songwriting. Performing at local clubs like Bowery for long nights, they honed their cutting teeth in cities nearby, such as Myrtle Beach and South Beach. In the mid-1970s, alongside Gentry and Owen, Young Country emerged as their cousins, planting the seeds for what would later grow into Alabama.

In the annual Seminar Radio Country in Nashville, Gentry and Owen Cook accepted an invitation to showcase their music at the influential “New Faces” event. After a few years of moderate success on the radio, Mark Herndon decided to become a full-time drummer, and two years later, the band adopted a new name: Alabama, in 1977.

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What followed? It may also be the history of country music.

The band Alabama, which became a staple in the country music scene, had a remarkable run on the country charts between the spring of 1980 and the summer of 1982. During this time, they landed eight No. 1 songs, including crossover pop hits like “Mountain Music,” “Tennessee River,” “Feels So Right,” and “Love in the First Degree.” In 1981, the band signed a deal with RCA, marking the beginning of their successful career.

The band Alabama earned a plethora of awards during the period between 1980 and 1993, topping the charts in at least one country song every year. They received a number of trophies, including five Entertainer Awards from the ACM between ’81 and ’85, and three consecutive Year of the Entertainer awards from the CMA between ’82 and ’84. This success came after their early attempts at rocket-launching their career stalled.

In a city dominated by solo vocal artists, an instrument-playing band from Alabama proved that a few artists could forge a path to success in country music.

Members of Alabama, from left, Teddy Gentry, Jeff Cook, and Randy Owen, Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.

Stated in 2017, music historian Robert K. Oermann mentioned, “The outlaws capitalized on what the youth audience was gathering for, and I believe that’s when they began. Country music was always about individual artists.” He further stated, “Jeff was an instrumental wizard who could play the guitar and fiddle.”

Joe Galante, a former RCA executive who played a crucial role in guiding Alabama’s success, expressed that the band’s music made people want to dance everywhere. Cook contributed to the band’s melodic and welcoming tunes by playing the fiddle, guitar, and keyboards, while also providing harmonizing vocals during live performances.

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Galante informed the Tennessean in 2017 that those are distinguishing characteristics of records that will endure for a considerable period of time, “… When you pay attention for the catchy element, his contributions truly had a significant impact although he wasn’t in the spotlight constantly.”

During the formative years of his career in Alabama, Kenny Chesney, the hitmaker in country music, described Cook as a generous and wise entertainer who shared the stage with him and helped shape his friendship and showmanship.

Chesney stated on Tuesday, “That provided me with the courage to pursue this aspiration,” [Alabama] demonstrated to a young individual in casual attire that country music could encompass elements of rock, authenticity, and representation of individuals who resemble me. This occurred during my upbringing in East Tennessee.

William Shatner and “Star Trek” actor, Charlie Daniels, collaborated and went on tour together with their Allstar Goodtime Band. Cook also released several solo projects during his time apart from Alabama. The band’s home state, Alabama, came together again in 2011 for a charity concert supporting tornado victims, following their first farewell tour which ended in 2004.

Cook joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 as a member from Alabama, making him the most sought-after artist in the country music club.

Pop star Lionel Richie, center, sings his "Deep River Woman" with the help of Alabama members Randy Owen, left, and Jeff Cook during the CMA Awards show at the Grand Ole Opry House Oct. 13, 1986.

In 2013, Alabama embarked on a significant tour to commemorate their 40th anniversary. However, Cook reduced his participation in band performances four years later due to the continuing effects of his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

As of 2019, his bandmates guaranteed that his equipment was prepared before every performance, in case he desired to go on stage. He ceased touring with Alabama approximately in 2018.

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The legendary musician from the Hall of Fame found a fresh significance for the album titled “No Bad Days,” which eventually led to the collaboration on a comeback song in 2015.

I know there was a lot of praying going on. Prayer does work. It comes as a daily task and I just got to live it. You know, people don’t come up to me and say, ‘How are you feeling?’ I don’t know. People don’t come up to me. They write letters to me. They write emails, notes, and letters. They write emails, notes, and letters. They write emails, notes, and letters. They say, ‘No Bad Days,’ and they quote the song to me. People would say, ‘No bad days,’ and quote the song to me. After I got diagnosed with Parkinson’s.” Cook told The Tennessean in 2019.

Cook’s wife, Lisa Cook, has survived for 27 years. Instead of flowers, Cook’s family requests donations for the Jeff and Lisa Cook Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to promoting awareness for Parkinson’s disease.

A commemoration of life arrangement will be declared at a future time.

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