Released this day 39 years ago, Alabama’s Mountain Music was the sixth studio album by the band.
The title track of the same name and lead single became number six of their 21 straight No. 1 hits. The song became a hit as it takes listeners back in time, giving them a glimpse of southern experiences from cousins Randy Owen, Jeff Cook, and Teddy Gentry.
“Mountain Music,” adds to the Southern rock and modern country element while combing bluegrass and gospel hints.
As with “Tennessee River” that came before it, the lyrics to “Mountain Music” tell the story of Owen’s rural upbringing.
“It took me three years to write it, and I wanted to get my own experience of growing up in the mountains in the lyrics,” Randy Owen wrote in his autobiography, Born Country: How Faith, Family and Music Brought Me Home. “This came together in such very specific lines. Take, for instance, the stanza that begins ‘swim across the river, just to prove that I’m a man.’ When I was a kid, if you could make it across the Little River and back in one fell swoop, well, that was a big deal. It doesn’t look that wide today, but back then it seemed like an Olympian challenge.”
As beloved as the song eventually became, the band’s label gave them pushback about whether or not “Mountain Music” would succeed on the airwaves.
Alabama’s Unconventional Ways Pay Off Big
They pointed to the track’s use of a drum solo, which was unheard of for a country or bluegrass single during 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.'”
However, Owen’s incorporation of the solo was not by accident.
“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,” Owen said. “I got a little trouble out of this song, too, because some of the lyrics were not discernible. ‘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.”
As it turns out, Owen’s somewhat controversial decision paid off. “Mountain Music” became a No. 1 country single the same week the group won the ACM’s top prize, “Entertainer of the Year.”
Today, the song still gets plenty of airtime and ranks up there with “Feels So Right,” “The Closer You Get,” “Love in the First Degree,” and other hits from the band.
Alabama’s Mountain Music was certified 5× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.