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The Catalyst interview: Alabama’s Randy Owen

Bill DeYoung



Randy Owen, left, and Teddy Gentry today. Publicity photo.

Jason Aldean called Alabama “The Beatles of Country Music,” and he wasn’t far off: With 21 consecutive chart-topping singles (and 41 No. 1’s in all), the trio of long-haired cousins from Fort Payne, Alabama set all kinds of records.

But it was more than that. In the 1980s, Alabama demolished boundaries that divided “classic country” and the pop/crossover blends popularized by the likes of Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell; their songs were catchy and singable while still remaining true to the music’s Appalachian roots. Grandad liked them as much as the young ‘uns did.

Lead singer Randy Owen’s muscular-yet-vulnerable baritone voice gave life to “Old Flame,” “Love in the First Degree,” “Mountain Music,” “My Home’s in Alabama,” “Dixieland Delight” and countless others. The most successful band in country music history, Alabama sold more than 75 million records.

Jeff Cook died in 2022, leaving Owen and bassist/singer Teddy Gentry to carry on. Alabama performs Friday (April 5) at the BayCare Sound amphitheater (find tickets here).

Owen, 74, graciously agreed to answer a few questions via email. 


St. Pete Catalyst: In the 1980s, Alabama was the biggest thing going in country music. You came to my town, Gainesville, every year, and there was always a pre-show press conference. What was that road/fan/airplanes experience like to live through – did you literally feel like you were traveling in the eye of a hurricane? Was time off a precious commodity?

Randy Owen: For me personally, there was always something going on. I never had much time for myself, but the time with my family was precious. When I was with my family, I absolutely didn’t do music.


While fans couldn’t get enough of you guys, critics were rarely kind to Alabama. Particularly when the wave of “new traditionalists” arrived. Was this something you were aware of, thought about, cared about?

I lived in Alabama, did the shows and did the recordings, and I wasn’t really aware of what the industry thought about the group Alabama. I gave everything I had to give musically to the concerts and to the recording studio, and that was it.


You and I spoke once after the band broke up, I guess for your first solo record. I think you said ‘Everybody was tired.’ That HAD been an amazing long run. Can you tell me, here in 2024, why the band ended when it did – and why you subsequently put the solo thing on hold and re-launched Alabama?

For me personally, I never felt like Alabama broke up. I looked at myself as a part of the group Alabama then and today. Of course everybody was tired. The solo thing was just something to do. I never felt like Alabama ended anywhere. Still don’t … Doing a couple of solo things was just that … solo.


Talk to me about Jeff. What’s it like playing these songs, and being Alabama again, without him?

Just speaking for myself, I feel like me and Teddy are doing what Jeff would have done had one of us passed away.


Can you name one song, or one album maybe, that you’re most proud of? And tell me why.

I can’t name one song or one album I’m most proud of. I did my best on every project; to be creative, and in some cases do something unexpected. I am truly blessed to be part of the “Alabama Story.”

I came from a small, farming family and have been blessed to continue living my dream. It’s very important, to me, for everyone that buys tickets or recordings to know, I truly appreciate everyone!





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    Donita Dacus

    April 2, 2024at9:05 pm

    I have loved this band and this man for over 4 decades.They were absolutely amazing. I wasn’t particularly a country music “fan” but there was something about Alabama. My kids grew up hearing and seeing their momma singing their songs. Love you RYO!

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