Country group Alabama ready to host fan appreciation week

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It's June. And for country music fans, that brings back memories of when the country music group Alabama hosted June Jam in Fort Payne. The last one was in 1997. Teddy, Jeff and Randy still welcome fans to their hometown every year.

Alabama’s fan appreciation week starts Thursday with Teddy Gentry’s “Singing with the Stars” at Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville. Jeff Cook’s “Fan Daze” will be at the Dekalb Theatre in Fort Payne Friday. The band will do a fan appreciate weekend concert at the Alabama fan club and museum Saturday. Randy Owen wraps things up Sunday with “Fandemonium at the Farm” on Lookout Mountain. For ticket info and show times, click on thealabamaband to go to the band’s website.

We thought it might be fun to dig into our archives, blow the dust off the old videotapes and take you back to 1982 for a new look at life "On the road with Alabama."

Fort Payne has always been home, but when you’re on your way to recording more than 40 number one hits, you spend a lot of time rolling down the highway. We caught up with the band on the road in 1982.

They were heading to the University of North Alabama for two sold-out shows. Along the way, the boys stopped at TJ’s in Florence to thank the folks who made t-shirts and other merchandise sold at their concerts. After some autographs and photos, they headed off to Flowers Hall where they’d be playing that night.

The road crew as already hard at work setting up everything for the shows that night. The boys were holding a news conference with the people who would be writing and reporting on their visit to the Shoals. A half hour later, it was off to do a quick sound check to make sure guitars were in tune and to check audio levels for the concerts.

In ’82, the band was focused on recording number one records and selling out concerts around the country. “And whatever it takes to do that, you know, if we can do that, that's what we want to do,” Randy told us. “We're going to give it our best shot everywhere we go.”

It’s finally show time. From the opening song to the encore, Alabama made sure their fans enjoyed themselves. “We want them to feel like we're a personal friend of theirs and what we're doing is just our job like they do their job Monday through Friday and then they come see us on Friday night or Saturday night or Sunday, or whenever it may be,” Randy said.

When the three cousins started playing music 50 years ago, they never knew where the road would take them. “It was more for the fun of it,” Teddy recalled. “Well, thank God the fun is still there, the actual playing on stage. I still have just as big of a time as I ever did, walk out there and have fun.”

Randy added, “I couldn't have went on all these years had I not felt like we had a chance to do what I've always wanted to do and right now at this particular time in our careers, I'm doing exactly what I want to do.”

When we first did this story in 1982, Alabama already had five number one hits. The band put together a record 21 straight number one singles. Alabama had no idea back then how much success they’d achieve. They were on the road to leaving their mark on country music and being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

If you look at the credits on their albums, you’ll see the boys wrote a lot of their songs. And along the way, Jeff learned to play half a dozen instruments. “I wish you could have been around when I started learning how to play fiddle,” he said, “That was a trip.” “It didn’t sound very good,” I asked? With a smile, Jeff said, “That’s putting it mildly.” But it got better, much better.

The road to success for Alabama was long, but even back then, the boys knew what they wanted. “We want to play our music, have number one records, number one albums and sell out every hall that we play in,” Randy said.

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