‘Mountain Music’ by Alabama: Story Behind a Transcending Country Classic

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

The song, “Mountain Music” is synonymous with the legendary country music group Alabama. It was one of their earliest hits and remains a classic country song to this day. At first, however, there were doubts about how successful the song could be.

According to lead singer Randy Owen, the tune took him years to complete. In it, he focuses on the past – looking back at his years growing up. The reference to “skinnin’ cats” in the song is an example.

“I got a little trouble out of this song, too, because some of the lyrics were not discernible,” Owen has said. “Skinnin’ cats, to me, when I was growing up, was an exercise that me and the other boys did on hickory trees: We’d bend ’em [the trees] over, and then we’d chin ourselves and turn ourselves inside out, because we didn’t have the kind of playground equipment that you folks see today.”

The song also references “playin’ baseball with chert rocks.” Alabama has said this lyric is also often heard incorrectly.

Alabama, which also includes Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook, co-produced “Mountain Music” with Harold Shedd for RCA Records in 1981. The song was the title track and was released as the first single from the band’s sixth studio album. The song smoothly blends southern rock and bluegrass.

Watch Alabama Perform ‘Mountain Music’ at AMAs in 1982

The album version of the song was four minutes long. The song was trimmed to three minutes and 30 seconds for the single version. Cut from the single version was a spoken introduction by the character of a wise, old mountain man.

According to Owen, the record label was concerned about how the song would perform on the radio due to its drum solo. This was very rare for a song playing on the radio at the time.

“I had written this song, and I was so excited about it. I told the folks at RCA, ‘I’ve written a song, and it’s got a drum solo in it!’ They were like, ‘Radio’ll never play that,'” Owen said. “The reason that I wrote the drum solo part of it was so that Jeff [Cook] would have time to put the guitar down and pick up the fiddle.”

The song was a hit for Alabama. It topped both Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles lists. It was also a hit in Canada. The song won Album of the Year accolades from several organizations. These included among others, Radio & Records, Cashbox Programmers Choice Awards, and Music City News.

Much of the band’s success came in the 1980s. Alabama had 21 consecutive No. 1 singles and sold 73 million albums. The band has also been selected for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Hollywood Walk of Fame.