Jeff Cook, a founding member of the groundbreaking country band Alabama, died on November 7, 2022. He was 73. Born on August 27, 1949, in Fort Payne, Alabama, Cook spent his teen years playing guitar and keyboards in bands and hosting a local radio show. Alabama evolved out of a band named Wildcountry, which Cook formed with Fort Payne musicians Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry while they were still teenagers. By 1980, two of Alabama’s independent singles reached the Top 40 at country radio, prompting an invitation to perform at the CRS New Faces Show and a contract with RCA Records.
Alabama immediately set itself apart in country music as a self-contained band, in contrast to popular vocal groups who used a backing band. With immediate momentum, Alabama claimed five ACM Entertainer of the Year trophies (1981-1985), six ACM Top Vocal Group awards (1980-1985), and three ACM Album of the Year honors. Alabama was named ACM Artist of the Decade for the 1980s. By 1999, the band had charted 50 Top 10 singles for RCA. In addition to vocal support and playing fiddle and guitar in Alabama, Cook co-wrote their enduring holiday classic, “Christmas in Dixie.”
Alabama’s numerous honors include the 2002 ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and a 2005 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. After initially retiring from the road in 2003, the group returned to No. 1 at country radio in 2011 as guests on Brad Paisley’s “Old Alabama.”