Jeff Cook, a founding member and lead guitarist of country band Alabamadied Tuesday at his vacation home in Destin, Florida, after a prolonged illness. Cook’s representative confirmed the death. He was 73 years old.
Born Jeffrey Alan Cook on August 27, 1949 in Fort Payne, Alabamahis teenage musical ambitions would eventually take him to the top of the country maps several times with Alabama classics like “Mountain Music”, “Take Me Down”, “Love in the First Degree” and “Dixieland Delight”.
Together with his cousins, vocalist Randy Owen and bassist Teddy Gentry, Cook formed a band called Wildcountry which gained popularity in the South. They were particularly popular in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and eventually moved there, playing popular gigs at a venue called the Bowery.
The group was renamed Alabama in 1977 and, with the addition of full-time drummer Mark Herndon, began to gain traction in the country music industry in the late 70s.
The band’s major-label career at RCA was nothing short of spectacular, beginning with eight number-one songs, including “Tennessee River”, “Feels So Right” and “Mountain Music”. In total, they landed more than 30 number-one country hits, including one a year from 1980 to 1993 – including classics like “Dixieland Delight”, “Song of the South” and “I’m in a Hurry (and Don I do not know why). Their album sales topped 75 million and they were the rare group to win the CMA’s Artist of the Year award, winning the coveted award in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Cook brought impressive guitar skills to the equation in Alabama, as well as the ability to play many instruments including keyboards, fiddle and mandolin, also adding vocal harmonies to Owen’s lead melodies. He even brought a touch of rock & roll showmanship to country music with his frequent use of a double neck electric guitar. In 2005, the group was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, shortly after announcing their retirement. They returned to touring, minus Herndon, in 2013.
Earning his broadcast license at age 14, Cook also spent time in radio and studied electronic technology at Gadsden State Community College. Later, he built his home studio, Cook Sound Studios, at his home in Fort Payne, where he worked with other budding musicians. Cook also launched a handful of solo projects from the mid-2000s, including those in 2008 just choose and 2011 2 Rock 4 Country.
In 2012, Cook was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and went public with the news a few years later in 2017. He maintained a busy touring schedule with Alabama until 2018 when he decided to retire. permanently remove from the road.
Brad Paisley, who collaborated with Alabama on his song “Old Alabama,” remembered Cook in a post on social networks. “One of the highlights of my life is being able to record and jam with you. You fought this terrible disease with grace, Jeff,” Paisley wrote. “My heart goes out to your wife, the boys and the band. we will miss you.”