HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Country music has lost a legend. Jeff Cook, a founding member of the country music group Alabama, died peacefully at his Destin, Florida home November 7th. Family and close friends were by his side. Jeff was 73.
Jeff’s musical journey began when he 13, playing lead guitar and keyboards in bands. He felt right at home behind a microphone whether it was singing or spinning records at a Fort Payne radio station.
Jeff and cousins, Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry started playing together more than 50 years ago. They spent summers in the 70’s playing for tips at the Bowery bar in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Their dream of signing with a major record label finally came true.
Victor Shamah owns and operates the Bowery. “They left here in July 12th, 1980,” he said, “I was very proud of them and very happy for them.” Like so many others, Victor is mourning the loss of Jeff saying, “He was just an extraordinary guy to get to know and to know him. Stardom never really hit Jeff Cook.”
When Jeff wasn’t on stage, you could find him in the recording studio he built at his home on Lookout Mountain, or at a lake fishing for bass. Five different governors named him Alabama’s fishing ambassador.
The group reeled in 43 number one hits and sold more than 80 million albums. Greg Fowler was on the road with the boys in the band for years. He handled everything from public relations to road management duties. He’s missing his friend Jeff as well. “He was the guy that coined the phrase for the group Alabama, ‘Ain’t we havin’ fun now,” he said with a smile, “When they’d be performing, even back in the club days, the crowd would be going crazy and he’d go, ‘Ain’t we havin’ fun now!’”
And the boys from Fort Payne never wanted the fun to end. In 2012, Jeff was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He stopped touring with the band in 2018 because of declining health. But he told Randy and Teddy, the show must go on. He never wanted the music to stop or the party to end.
Greg Fowler remembers, “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.” Their music will live forever.
A date for a celebration of life will be announced later. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking donations to be made to the Jeff and Lisa Cook Foundation. You can do that through thejeffandlisacookfoundation.org website or mail a check to P.O. Box 680067, Fort Payne, AL 35968.