The country/Southern rock sound has reverberated up the charts for 50 years, since cousins Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook banded together in 1969 in Fort Payne, Ala., and blazed a trail that will lead Friday night to the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
They came on strong in the ’80s, with a string of No. 1 hits including “Tennessee River,” “Love in the First Degree,” and “Mountain Music,” building on their country/rock crossover appeal. They’ve continued charting hits, and in 2011, hit the top again with Brad Paisley on “Old Alabama.” Hoopla caught up with bass player Teddy Gentry, who weighed in on the following questions via email.
Q: In a 1991 Gazette interview, Teddy Gentry said: “Longevity is the biggest award that you can get.” Now at the 50-year career mark, to what do you attribute your longevity, and how does it feel?
A: I feel that we have worked very hard for the last 15 years and been fortunate to have had 43 No. 1 records, and the reason is the fans. That is why our music still stands up today.
Q: What will we hear in your upcoming concert — a hit parade or will you be shaking things up a bit?
A: You will hear half of the hits that we have had in our shows. We do about 18 to 20 songs during the show. Wish we could do all 43 but not possible in one night! So if you love Alabama music, you’re going to have a great time.
Q: Your online bio says “Alabama is the band that changed everything.” Could you please elaborate on what you changed, and how you did that — was it a conscious decision or did it just spring from the sound you created together?
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A: Well, we did shake up country music. We were the first country/rock band. We had long hair and wore jeans, T-shirts and tennis shoes, and played loud music with all the bells and whistles of sound and lights and pyro in our production. We bought our first arena sound system from Bob Seger.
Q: How did you handle not just stardom, but superstardom? What keeps you grounded?
A: Superstar status is in the mind of the beholder. We look at ourselves as three cousins that love to write and play music. We all still live in our hometown of Fort Payne, Ala., and two of us have cattle ranches.
WHAT: Alabama 50th Anniversary Tour, with Dusty Slay opening
WHERE: U.S. Cellular Center, 370 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (5/31)
TICKETS: $35 to $129.50, center box office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or Uscellularcenter.com/events/
BAND’S WEBSITE: Thealabamaband.com