Home / Retro Redux: Alabama’s Randy Owen Is Only Human

Retro Redux: Alabama’s Randy Owen Is Only Human

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Holy Cow. Randy Owen, the lead singer of country group Alabama, has turned into a geezer! I happened to be scanning with the TV remote last night — a common occurrence, I'm forced to admit — and spotted him singing solo in what appeared to be a recent appearance. He'll turn 58 this year and pretty much looked it, but speaking on behalf of geezers everywhere I'd just like to say that we're all getting older, folks. It's only human.

Country music is a genre that's always interested me, and it's a variety of music that —  like many others — has undergone lots of changes through the years. I guess it probably originated as a combination of immigrant folk music and tunes handed down by early Americans, which would have included everybody from hillbillies to cowboys. It has evolved in a variety of ways, and has cycled through sounds from soft to hard and everything in between, and instrumentally from washboards and harmonicas to fully modern.

Alabama could certainly be classified as a transitional group. I've been a fan of theirs for a long time, and believe it or not they've been around for something like 30 years. And although they have roots in both rock and pop, they are most definitely considered a country band. In fact, they're one of the most popular country groups in history and during the 1980s their records outsold everyone. In doing that they broke new ground because country music bands have seldom been known as superstars in record sales. It was mostly the vocalists who became the mega-sellers.

Randy and his cousin Teddy Gentry grew up together on neighboring cotton farms in rural Alabama (the state, not the group), and were interested in music from a very young age. As they reached their teens, they began to play and sing in various groups — sometimes together, sometimes separately — and in the late 1960s joined up with another cousin, Jeff Cook, to form a trio they called Young Country.

After high school, their musical career was put on hold for a while as Randy and Jeff both went to college, but after graduating they again began to perform, changing the group's name to Wildcountry, which eventually became Alabama. Along the way they added a drummer to the mix, although it ended up being a position of uncertainty as they went through several before finally settling on Mark Herndon.

Alabama owned the 1980s, building the band's popularity until they were the biggest thing in country music with 27 number one singles during the decade. Their list of hits is endless, but a few you might recognize include "Feels So Right," "Tennessee River," "Dixieland Delight," "My Home's In Alabama," and my favorite, "Mountain Music".

The number of platinum albums generated by the group boggles the mind, as does the awards they've won. (Although my mind is easily boggled, but that's beside the point.) Even in the 1990s they continued to sizzle, although things were inevitably slowing down a little. The group eventually dissolved in 2003, but with over 25 years of stardom their legacy is assured.

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  • Reggie Harris

    Two other facts about Alabama that boogle the mind. Many artist go their whole career striving for a #1 hit. Alabama had a streak where every one of their releases went to #1, a streak of 21 IN A ROW! Incredible. To top it off, they had 41 #1’s before they retired. It may be decades, or never, before any artist equals or exceeds those figures by Alabama.

  • Good stuff to know, Reggie – thanks!