Jeff Cook, Guitarist and Fiddle Player for Alabama, Dead at 73

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images)

Jeff Cook, co-founding member of the iconic country music band Alabama died on Monday. He was 73 years old. Aside from being a founding member of Alabama, Cook was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame, and the Fiddlers Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was named Gibson’s Guitarist of the Year. According to a statement from the band, Cook died peacefully in his home in Destin, Florida. He was surrounded by family and close friends.

Jeff cook had been battling Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade. However, he kept his diagnosis under wraps until 2017. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that comes on slowly. At first, it causes tremors in the hands and fingers and some muscle stiffness. It may also cause stooped posture and the loss of some automatic movements like blinking. The later stages of the disease make it almost impossible for patients to live alone. However, Parkinson’s is not directly fatal. Instead, it makes those patients suffering from the disease more likely to die from falls due to movement issues or pneumonia due to internal symptoms.

Jeff Cook Formed Alabama with His Cousins

Jeff Cook was a vocalist, guitarist, and fiddle player. He teamed up with his cousins – Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry – to form a band in their hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama in 1969. In the beginning, they called themselves Young Country. Before long, they changed the band’s name to Wildcountry and started playing in nearby cities, honing their craft, and finding the balance between country music and southern rock that would later define their sound.

In 1977, Jeff Cook and his cousins changed the band’s name again. As a nod to the state that raised them, they called the band Alabama and it stuck. It took some time, but the band found massive success.

How Alabama Changed Country Music

According to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Alabama “took more than thirty records to the top of the Billboard country chart and sold millions of albums,” between 1980 and 1993. The classic tune “Tennessee River” started their climb to the top. During their heyday, Alabama was one of the most popular bands in the world. Their massive success drew countless new listeners to country music and southern rock.

Alabama called in session musicians to fill out their albums. However, they largely kept the band a family affair on the road. Jeff Cook played fiddle and shared guitar duties with Randy Owen. Teddy Gentry played bass and Mark Herndon sat behind the drum kit. That was all they needed. At the time, this approach was unheard-of for country acts. The only self-contained bands on the road in those days were rock bands.

As a result, Alabama blazed a trail for later acts like Sawyer Brown, Shenandoah, Lonestar, and even newer acts like Turnpike Troubadours.