Tim McGraw Honors Late Alabama Co-Founder Jeff Cook With Heartfelt Message

by Suzanne Halliburton
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Tim McGraw likened the super country music group Alabama to his “lifelong sound track” as he mourned the death of Jeff Cook.

McGraw was like so many other country music stars who were heartbroken to hear that Cook had passed away. Alabama announced the news, Tuesday, in a social media post, that their co-founder who played the guitar and fiddle in so many hit songs had died.

Tim McGraw wrote: “ALABAMA has been one of my favorite bands for as long as I remember. Yesterday, founding member Jeff Cook lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease. His fiddle and guitar playing has been a huge part of my lifelong soundtrack, and my heart is heavy for the ALABAMA family!!”

As McGraw mentioned, Cook had Parkinson’s disease. He’d been living with his diagnosis for more than decade, although he didn’t confirm it publicly until 2017. Cook and his cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry founded their country group in 1969. Eventually, the group morphed from Wild Country to Alabama, a name that honored their state of birth. The group’s best decade likely was the 1980s, when Cook and his famous cousins reeled off hit after hit.

You can imagine a kid like Tim McGraw loving the music and how Alabama could be the soundtrack of his teen years spent in Louisiana and then his early 20s trying to be a country star. McGraw didn’t mention a favorite Alabama song. Maybe it was “Love in the First Degree” or “If You’re Going to Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).” Or maybe it was a simply beautiful song like “Tennessee River.”

So many Tim McGraw fans added their favorite memories of Cook and Alabama. One wrote: “Awww hadn’t heard this news. Sad! My 20’s and 30’s were spent listening to them. So many hits and such great songs.”

Another wrote: “Great band! Saw them when I was at Louisiana Tech university in 1983. Always had a crush on Randy Owen.”

As we mentioned earlier, Tim McGraw wasn’t the only country music superstar to offer their Jeff Cook and Alabama memories. Blake Shelton called Cook an “absolute legend.”

Meanwhile, Kenny Chesney remembered the early days, when as a young country artist, he had the honor of going on tour with Alabama. Chesney posted on Instagram: “Jeff Cook, and all of the guys in Alabama, were so generous
with wisdom AND fun when I got to tour with them as a young artist… But maybe even more, they showed a kid in a t-shirt that country music could be rock, could be real, could be someone who looked like me. Growing up in East Tennessee, that gave me the heart to chase this dream.”