FORT PAYNE, Ala. - Country music fans know this is the time of year that thousands of people used to journey to Fort Payne, Alabama for June Jam. While the music from the outdoor stage stopped years ago, the party never really ended.
From 1982 to 1997, the boys from Fort Payne drew quite a crowd to their annual outdoor music event at the foot of Lookout Mountain. But while the music at the field near the high school stopped years ago, Alabama is still showing its appreciation to fans.
“I love the state. I love people,” founding band member Randy Owen told us while sitting in the new museum at the fan club. “I love people all over.” Randy says as long as there’s breath in his body, he’ll continue giving back to the community. “Until I pass on,” he said. “My family knows how I feel so there'll be a part of me giving back 'til I'm gone.”
In fact, money from those 16 June Jams years ago is still being put to good use. “We’ve been given this really great opportunity to help people,” Randy said. “So why not do that while you’re alive in this world?”
Part of giving back includes still hosting events in their hometown during what’s now called “Fan Appreciation Week.” The guys also hope to hold a grand opening for their renovated museum at the fan club. “It will be beautiful,” Randy said with a smile.
It’s full of history. “There's some history there,” Owen said. “Over here is my FFA jacket. I was secretary of the Ft. Payne chapter of the FFA. And that's my letterman's jacket that I could not afford to buy when I was in high school.”
Randy and other founding members of the band, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry, are sharing personal items from their lives. “This ball glove here is the one that I used in high school when I was playing baseball.” Owen said proudly. “Allison used it playing softball in high school. My son used it playing baseball in high school and then he used it playing baseball in college at Samford University.”
The displays will also include important pieces of their music career. “This guitar over here is a Michael Frets,” Randy said. “That's the one that I used in Myrtle Beach at the Bowery when we first got over there.” It’s the same guitar that was on display recently at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
A number of the bands awards will also be out for fans to enjoy. “Over here's a Hollywood Walk of Fame star that we got,” Randy said. “Then the Bob Hope Humanitarian award is over there. That's just some of the stuff.”
Fan appreciation week kicks off Thursday night. Teddy Gentry will host a benefit event in Rainsville for the DeKalb County Children's Advocacy Center. Jeff Cook's Fan Daze is set for Friday night in downtown Fort Payne at the DeKalb Theatre.
There are also events scheduled for Saturday before a concert by the boys for fan club members that evening. Randy will host Fandemonium at his farm Sunday. For more on fan appreciation week activities, ticket prices and events, click on The Alabama Band and you’ll be taken to the band’s website.