Alabama’s Randy Owen & Teddy Gentry Remember Bandmate Jeff Cook

Alabama members Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry have spoken out about the death of their bandmate and cousin, Alabama co-founder and guitarist Jeff Cook, who died on Nov. 8 at his home in Destin, Fla. Cook was 73, and had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012.

“He lived to play our music we created together,” Owen said via a statement. “He could play any instrument he chose, but his harmonies I’ll miss the most. I’m thankful we got to create music together for over 50 years! Wish we could play ‘My Home’s in Alabama’ one more time. I’m hurt in a way I can’t describe! To Lisa, thanks for loving him and being there for him to the end. Play on, Jeff. Love you!”

Gentry added, “Closer than brothers, we lived together more than with our immediate families. Don’t think I’ve known anyone who loved playing more. Jeff, along with me and Randy, experienced the highs of undreamed success, as well as some very tough early years. None of us were perfect, but together we had something so special it will never die. No other guitar player I’ve known had the range of styles Jeff had. No one can take your place. Ever. Rest in peace till we get to jam again.”

The group, which featured Cook on guitar, fiddle, keyboards and backing vocals, and his cousins Owen (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Gentry (bass, backing vocals) as its longest running members, began playing together around the Fort Payne, Ala., area in a band they called Young Country in 1969 (which later changed to Wildcountry in 1972). They expanded their touring footprint, most notably becoming the house band at Myrtle Beach, S.C., venue The Bowery. In 1977, the band changed its name to Alabama, and two years later, drummer Mark Herndon began performing with the group on a more regular basis.

In 1980, they released the single “Tennessee River,” notching their first No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart. They went on to earn 33 No. 1 hits on the chart, among 51 top 10 songs between 1980 and 2011, with songs including “Tennessee River,” “Old Flame,” “High Cotton,” “Down Home,” “Jukebox in My Mind,” “40 Hour Week (For a Livin’),” and “The Closer You Get.”

The group also saw crossover successes, earning five top 10 hits on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary chart as well as three top 20 hits on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 with “Feels So Right,” “Love in the First Degree” and “Take Me Down.”

They were the first group to win the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year honor, an accolade they took home three times between 1982 and 1984, and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2019.

Cook is survived by his wife of 27 years, Lisa Cook, puppies Blazer and Blakely, his mother Betty Cook, his brother David Cook, Crystal Cook, his father-in-law Jerrial Williams, his brother-in-law Randy Williams and many nieces and nephews. Cook was pre-deceased by his father James Cook and his mother-in-law, JoAnn Williams.

A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

Jessica Nicholson