To celebrate Randy Owen’s 365-day trip around the sun, we’re taking a look back at the former Alabama frontman’s journey that made him one of the greatest country music legends of all time.
Randy Owen’s Start: A Family Affair
Exactly 71 years ago today, Randy Owen was born in Fort Payne, Alabama. Like many country artists, Owen wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His parents raised Owen with his two younger sisters in a farmhouse in rural Dekalb county.
In the late ’60s, Owen and his cousin, Teddy Gentry, spent their time playing music together. Later, Owen and Gentry recruited another cousin, Jeff Cook, to start a band. They realized they might have a chance to succeed as musicians when the cousins entered their high school talent show and won.
After Owen earned an English degree from Jacksonville State University, Owen and his two cousins moved to Anniston, Ala. in 1972 to pursue music full-time. In 1976, they made their radio-debut as Alabama when they released “I Wanna Come Over.” The song climbed to the top 40 of the “Billboard Country” chart.
Alabama: Most Successful Band in Country Music History
In 1980, the Southern boys would finally get their break when they signed to RCA Records. That same year, they released another single titled “My Home’s in Alabama,” which reached the Top 20 chart.
Later in 1983, the band dropped the certified platinum album, The Closer You Get…. The album also won the Grammy for Best Country Performance. The album produced significant hits for the band, including “Dixieland Delight,” “The Closer You Get,” and “Lady Down on Love,” which went No. 1 in both the U.S. and Canada.
“Song of the South” was another smash hit for the group, making it to the top of both the U.S. and Canada charts. In 1989, Billboard declared Alabam as “Country Artist of the 1980s,” and the ACA voted the band “Artist of the Decade.”
For over two decades, Alabama pioneered an updated, fresher movement for country music. The band was able to attract a younger, more diverse generation of fans when they crossed over into pop radio. The band proved to country music and the world that the genre was on its way to evolving.
The band’s ability to incorporate a mixture of traditional country music and Southern rock while utilizing elements of bluegrass, folk, gospel, and pop music gave the band a unique edge that contributed to their success.
After 41 No. 1 country records on the Billboard charts and 75 million albums sold, Alabama is considered the most successful band in country music history.
Today, the band has 21 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums, 43 No. 1 singles, and has sold over 73 million albums.
Owen’s Charitable Heart
Even though the band retired in 2002, Owen continues to make music for his fans. In 2008 he released his first and only solo album, One on One. When he’s not on stage singing Alabama’s classic hits, Owen likes to spend time working on his cattle ranch, which he dubbed Tennessee River Music.
Besides music, Owen also has devoted much of his life to philanthropic ventures. He is an active supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In 1989, he created an annual radiothon called “Country Cares for St. Jude Kids,” aiming to raise money for St. Jude’s cancer research. As of today, the event has raised over $800 million for the organization.
Owen also spends time helping disadvantaged children. In addition to his work with St. Jude, Owen started an annual golf tournament to benefit the Alabama Sheriff’s Department’s Youth Ranches and has raised over $1 million.