Jeff Cook, a co-founding member of Country Music Hall of Fame band Alabama, died on Monday (Nov. 7). In 2017, the 73-year-old revealed that he had been diagnosed about four years prior with Parkinson's disease. The Tennessean confirmed his death on Tuesday (Nov. 8).
Cook played guitar, keyboards and fiddle in Alabama and split vocal duties with his cousins, fellow co-founders Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry. Initially known as Young Country and Wildcountry, the band formed in 1969 in Fort Payne, Ala. Playing venues around Lookout Mountain — as covered in the autobiographical song "My Home's in Alabama"— gave way in the early '70s to a stay in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where the group built a following at a bar called The Bowery.
Alabama signed with RCA Records in 1980. That move began an unprecedented run of Nashville success. The cousins, drummer Mark Herndon and producer Harold Shedd fine-tuned a mix of country and rock elements that netted 21 straight No. 1 hits, beginning with 1980's "Tennessee River." In total, the group charted 36 No. 1s with songs ranging from the folksy "Mountain Music" to Cook's in-studio highlight as a fiddle player, the hot lick-filled "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)."
"Few bands are more ubiquitous in country music today than Alabama," shared CMA CEO Sarah Trahern in a press release. "Jeff was instrumental to Alabama's high energy stage presence and authentic Country sound. My deepest condolences to Jeff's family, friends and the band."
Though Parkinson's disease limited Cook's touring activity, he was on the road earlier this year as part of Alabama's 50th Anniversary Tour. After Alabama went on hiatus in 2004, Cook formed the duo Cook & Glenn as well as the Allstar Goodtime Band (AGB). A longtime Star Trek fan, Cook also recorded an album in 2018 with William Shatner titled Why Not Me?
Back home on Sand Mountain, Cook owned a recording studio, Cook Sound Studios, and local radio station WQRX-AM. The latter brought things full-circle for the musician, who'd worked as a disc jockey while he was a student at Fort Payne High School.