After a protracted illness, a founding member and lead guitarist of the country band Alabama passed away on Tuesday at his vacation home in Destin, Florida. The death was confirmed by Cook’s agent. He was 73.
On August 27, 1949, in Fort Payne, Alabama, Jeffrey Alan Cook was born. His youthful musical aspirations eventually led him to the top of the country charts many times with Alabama classics including “Mountain Music,” “Take Me Down,” “Love in the First Degree,” and “Dixieland Delight.”
Cook founded the Wildcountry band with his cousins, singer Randy Owen and bassist Teddy Gentry, and the group enjoyed considerable success in the South. They became especially well-liked in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and eventually moved there, performing at the Bowery, a popular club.
The group changed its name to Alabama in 1977, and at the end of the 1970s, it started to achieve popularity in the country music market after Mark Herndon joined as a full-time drummer.
With eight Number One singles, including “Tennessee River,” “Feels So Right,” and “Mountain Music,” the group launched their major-label career at RCA, and it was nothing short of sensational. They achieved over 30 Number One country hits in total, with one from 1980 to 1993. These include timeless songs like “Dixieland Delight,” “Song of the South,” and “I’m in a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why).” They were a rare group to receive the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year Award, bringing home the prized award in 1982, 1983, and 1984. Their album sales exceeded 75 million.
Cook’s guitar playing was remarkable, and he also played a variety of other instruments, such as the mandolin, fiddle, and keyboards. He also added vocal harmonies to Owen’s main melodies in Alabama. He even injected a little rock & roll theatrics into country music by playing a double-neck electric guitar frequently. Shortly after announcing their retirement, the trio was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2013, they resumed their tour without Herndon.
Cook, who obtained his broadcasting license at age 14, also worked as a radio personality while attending Gadsden State Community College to study electronic technology. Later, he constructed Cook Sound Studios at his Fort Payne residence, where he collaborated with other aspiring musicians. Beginning in the middle of the 2000s, Cook also released a few solo albums, including 2008’s Just Pickin’ and 2011’s 2 Rock 4 Country.
Cook received a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 2012, and in 2017, he announced the news to the world. Through 2018, he continued to tour often with Alabama before deciding to give up touring altogether.
In a statement on social media, Brad Paisley, who worked with Alabama on the song “Old Alabama,” paid tribute to Cook. “Getting to record and jam with you guys is one of the pleasures of my life. Jeff, you fought this awful cancer with dignity,” Paisley wrote. “My thoughts and prayers are with your wife, the boys, and the band. You are missed by us.