Jeff Cook, Alabama’s Grammy-winning founding guitarist, keyboardist, and fiddler, died Tuesday at his home in Destin, FL, according to a band rep. Alabama is one of the most successful country groups of all time, with 33 No. 1 country hits, including 21 in a row. He was 73.
In 2017, Cook was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Cook, who was born in Fort Payne, Alabama on August 27, 1949, co-founded the band in the early 1970s with his cousins — singer-guitarist Randy Owen and bassist Teddy Gentry — and drummer Bennett Vartanian.
After spending several summers performing in a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a bar called The Bowery and renamed Alabama in 1977, the group broke through with “My Home’s in Alabama,” which peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1980. Except for a 1982 Christmas song, the quartet’s next 21 singles all charted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
“Our longevity is a tribute to the hard work we did in selecting songs because it’s the songs that people remember,” Cook says on the band’s website.
From 1980 to 2011, the Southern rock band amassed more than 50 Top 10 country singles, including such timeless classics as “Song of the South” and “Jukebox in My Mind,” as well as 20 platinum albums. According to the RIAA, they have sold nearly 50 million albums in the United States, ranking them as the 31st best-selling act of all time.
According to Billboard, the group was the No. 5 country act in the 1980s and No. 6 in the 1990s. It was the 17th best-selling act in Hot Country Songs’ 68-year history as of 2012.
“Love in the First Degree,” its biggest crossover single, peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981.
Alabama also won back-to-back Grammys in 1982 and 1983 for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the albums Mountain Music and The Closer You Get…, respectively
It received more than a dozen Academy of Country Music Awards, including two career nominations, two Entertainer of the Year wins, and Artist of the Decade for the 1980s. The group also won 17 American Music Awards, including 12 for Favorite Country Band/Duo/Group, which it won eight times in a row from 1991 to 1999.
Mountain Music is Alabama’s best-selling studio album, having been certified five times platinum, but two of its hits compilation discs have also sold 5 million or more copies.
Cook, Albert Lee, and Steve Morse were named the top three guitarists in a reader poll conducted by Guitar Player magazine in 1985.
Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eli Young Band, Florida Georgia Line, Jamey Johnson, Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts, and Trisha Yearwood cover their songs on their 2013 album and video, which was recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
In 2005, the band was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and they have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Cook went on to find Cook Sound Studios in order to assist local musicians in sharing their music. ” According to Jeff, “this area DeKalb County has its share of talented musicians,” and “now the opportunity is there for each of them to cut demos, records, etc., at an affordable price.” It’s also nice to be able to share your dreams with others.”
Cook recorded eight albums and toured with the Allstar Goodtime Band after Alabama left in 2004. This year, Alabama reunited for a 50th-anniversary tour.
Lisa Williams, Cook’s wife of 27 years, survives him.