PHOTO: Jeff Cook, founding member and legendary guitarist of the supergroup Alabama, passed away peacefully Monday, Nov. 7, with his family and close friends by his side at his beachside home in Destin, FL. He was 73. He was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Musicians Hall of Fame, Fiddlers Hall of Fame, and Gibson's Guitarist of the Year.
Taniesa L. Sullivan | The Weekly Ledger News
Breaking News - Co-founding member of the Country Music Hall of Fame band Alabama, Jeff Cook, died Monday at age 73.
PHOTO: Members of Alabama, from left, Teddy Gentry, Jeff Cook, and Randy Owen, Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.
The publicist for the Alabama band confirmed Cook's death Tuesday afternoon to The Weekly Ledger News. Cook passed away peacefully Monday, November 7 surrounded by his family and close friends at his beachside home in Destin, Florida.
Cook has battled Parkinson’s disease for a decade. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2012. Parkinson's is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and causes tremors. In 2017 Cook publicly disclosed his diagnosis.
A native of Fort Payne, Alabama, Cook began chasing his love of music on radio airwaves as a disc jockey in his hometown. In 1969, he co-founded the band Young Country alongside Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry.
In 1977 the band adopted a new name, Alabama. The band inked a deal in 1980 with RCA, beginning a remarkable run on the country radio charts. Alabama landed eight No. 1 songs on the country charts between the spring of 1980 and the summer of 1982, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. That run included pop crossover hits "Love in the First Degree" and "Feels So Right," as well as "Tennessee River" and "Mountain Music" — staple Alabama songs that the group continued playing for decades to come.
Between 1980 and 1993, at least one Alabama song topped the country charts every year. The band earned a slew of awards in that time, including a three-year run at CMA Entertainer of the Year from 1982-1984 and five ACM Award Entertainer of the Year trophies from '81-'85.
In a city dominated by solo artists and vocal groups, Alabama proved an instrument-playing band could forge a path to country success matched by few artists at the time.
“Country music was always about solo artists, and I think they capitalized on what the outlaws had started, which was amassing a youth audience for the genre," country music historian Robert K. Oermann said in 2017. He added, "Jeff was the instrumental wizard who could do fiddle and guitar."
On stage, Cook held down fiddle, guitar playing, and keyboards, adding layered backing vocals to the band's smooth, inviting melodies. His playing? It sent "people dancing all over the place," said Country Music Hall of Fame member Joe Galante, a former RCA executive who helped shepherd Alabama's career.
"... while he wasn’t front and center all the time, his contributions really made a difference when you listen for the hook," Galante told the Tennessean in 2017. "Those are hallmarks of records that will last well beyond our lifetimes."
After an initial farewell tour that wrapped in 2004, Alabama reunited in 2011 for a charity concert benefitting tornado victims in the group's namesake state. In his time away from Alabama, Cook released a handful of solo projects. He toured with his Allstar Goodtime Band and released collaborations with Charlie Daniels and "Star Trek" star William Shatner.
Cook entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 as a member of Alabama — joining the most sought-after club in country music.
Alabama returned to touring in earnest with a 40th-anniversary celebration in 2013. Four years later, Cook scaled back performances with the band due to the ongoing impact of his Parkinson’s diagnosis.
He stopped touring with Alabama around 2018. As of 2019, his bandmates told the Tennessean they ensured his gear was set up before each show — just in case he wanted to step on stage.
He co-wrote a song on the 2015 comeback album called "No Bad Days" that in time took a new meaning for the Hall of Fame musician.
“After I got the Parkinson’s diagnosis, people would quote the song to me and say, ‘No bad days,’ Cook told The Tennessean in 2019. “
"Fans would write me letters, notes, and emails and they sign ‘No Bad Days.’ I know the support is there. They join me. People I don’t know come up to me and say, ‘How ya feeling?’ You just got to live it every day and take it as it comes. Prayer does work. And I know there was a lot of praying going on, said Cook.”
Cook is survived by Lisa Cook, his wife of 27 years. In lieu of flowers, his family asks for donations to the Jeff and Lisa Cook Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness for Parkinson's disease.
A celebration of life plan to be announced at a later date.