HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It is 589 miles from the Bowery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. It’s about a nine hour drive. But the journey has lasted 40 years for the boys from Fort Payne, Alabama.
The founding members of the country music group Alabama are in the middle of their “Back to the Bowery” tour. Jeff Cook, Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry are touring again to celebrate 40 years since they started playing at the Myrtle Beach bar. Along the way, the boys have enjoyed 43 number one singles and sold more than 73 million records. Randy Owen says the tour is the icing on the cake. “And I guess that`s why we’re so loose and happy,” said Owen. “You know, why shouldn’t we be happy. We’ve done everything there is to do.”
And that includes playing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville which can be an emotional time for them. Randy said, “For me, you almost break down some times. It’s like, am I really here at the Grand Ole Opry? My daddy, if he were still living, oh my Lord. It would be such a moment.” It’s a moment Alabama fans enjoy every time they take the stage in the Music City. Randy recalls, “Jeff’s daddy told me one time, he had a cigar in the side of his mouth and he’s like, well, you know, you ain’t been at the Opry yet.” Jeff chimed in saying, “That’s the bar right there.”
And it’s a bar the band continues to reach after playing together for 44 years. All three have dealt with health problems; something Teddy says has made them look at life a little differently. “I think it really makes you appreciate each one of these shows that we get to do together,” said Teddy. Years ago when they were running wide open, Teddy says they didn`t really have time to savor the moment but now “I think at this point in our life, we`re having the most fun I’ve ever had.”
And the boys are closer than they`ve ever been. Before the show at the Opry, Randy says, “I went over and talked to Jeff before the show and I asked him if he was alright. And I meant every word of that.” Teddy jumped in saying, “And we know Jeff`s never been right but we’re just making sure he’s alright.” They shared a laugh when Jeff responded by saying, “Let me get back with you on that.”
One thing they all agree on, they believe God has definitely had a hand in their success and He’s given to them, so they can give back. Randy says, “He knew that we probably had hearts and in spite of all the stuff, here we are today and we`re proud to be here.”
The end of the road is nowhere in sight. As long as they have their health and can play for their fans, they say they’re not going anywhere. Teddy told us, “It’s easier now than it’s ever been. You don’t have a record label trying to tell you what to do. You don’t have to worry about whether the deejay is going to play your song or not. We go out and do what we want to do, look at each other, enjoy it and have fun. Randy added, “Now we’re just here to play the music.”
The three original members have also been back in the studio. Their latest album, “Alabama and Friends” will be released Tuesday August 27th. It features some of country music`s hottest stars doing their own unique version of the band`s biggest hits. And there are two new tracks from Alabama, “All American” and “That’s How I Was Raised.”