FORT PAYNE, Ala. (WHNT) – – – Fort Payne has always been home to the band, ALABAMA. 

Jeff Cook, founding member and legendary guitarist of the country band, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012. He died Monday – something longtime friend and former road manager Greg Fowler said is still hard to believe.  

“When something like that, even though you kind of in a way mentally prepare yourself for maybe something to happen, but when it does…it’s an impact moment and it’s a reality and you reflect back on all the times and memories,” Fowler said. “He was a good guy. Mr. Cook was a good guy.”

The museum inside the Alabama Fan Club is filled with good times and memories.

Cook began playing lead guitar and keyboards in bands at the age of 13. After his 14th birthday, he worked as a disc jockey at a local radio station. After graduating from Fort Payne High School, he earned a degree from Gadsden State Community College.

Cook, along with his cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry, spent the summer down in Myrtle Beach South Carolina playing music at a bar.

“They played all night; I mean they played – you couldn’t dance in The Bowery…still can’t! They had to learn to entertain,” Fowler said.

It took the trio six years until they earned that major label deal they’d been dreaming of. They went on to sell 80 million albums and charted 43 No. 1 hits – making history in the country music world.

“He was the guy that coined the phrase for the group Alabama…’Aint we havin’ fun now!’ When they’d be performing, even back in the club days, the crowd would be going crazy and he’d go…’Aint we havin’ fun now!’…” Fowler said.

Outside of his music, Jeff loved bass fishing. In fact, five Alabama governors proclaimed him a ‘Fishing Ambassador’ of the state.

“He loved to fish! He loved to play music…whether it was on stage with Alabama or at some honkey-tonk after his show where he could get up and play with the house band…or go fishing. That was his drive I think,” Fowler said.

Jeff stopped touring with the band in 2018 because of declining health but he told his cousins, the show must go on.

“Teddy tells this story, and it’s true. The one agreement that they all agreed upon…Teddy, Randy, Jeff…was that we will never ever use the word quit. They never did, they never have, and they never will,” Fowlers said.

A ‘Celebration of Life’ will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, his family is asking donations be made to the Jeff and Lisa Cook Foundation: P.O. Box 680067 Fort Payne, AL 35968

You can also send donations through the foundation website, thejeffandlisacookfoundation.org.