Top 10 Alabama Songs

Alabama Songs

Our Top 10 Alabama Songs list presents the best Alabama songs like “The Closer You Get,” “Mountain Music,” “Love in the First Degree” and many more. Before Alabama found stardom as one of America’s all-time greats in the country music industry, Randy Owen and his cousin, Teddy Gentry, grew up on cotton farms on Lookout Mountain, the infamous plateau that stretches across three states. Their fellow cousin, Jeff Cook, was also born and raised in the area. While all three of these cousins served as the terrific trio of Alabama, the band was technically founded by Owen and Gentry first. Cook, who already became a broadcast engineer at fourteen years old, became a high school disc jockey at the same high school his two cousins attended.

Owen and Gentry both learned to sing and play guitar by the time they were each six years old as members of the same church. Although their Alabama country roots run deep in the Fort Payne area, both musicians performed mostly bluegrass and pop tunes before Cook joined up with them in 1969. The trio became a four-man band when another cousin, Jackie Owen, joined them as a drummer. As a group, they performed and won a high school talent competition that earned them the opportunity to visit the Grand Ole Opry. Despite the win, these boys weren’t quite ready to pursue a musical career just yet. Randy Owen was still in high school while Teddy Gentry was a carpet layer, and Jeff Cook was working in his engineering field with Western Electric.

From School to Stage

After high school, Randy Owen attended Jacksonville State University, as did his cousins before him. After he graduated, he joined Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry in Anniston and the trio rented an apartment together. Now 1972, the trio was finally ready to reform their band and take this musical pursuit to the next level. Bennett Vartanian replaced their cousin, Jackie Owen, as their drummer. The start of the young men’s musical career had them struggle to make ends meet in what felt like a music career moving too slowly for their liking. Despite the struggles, come 1973 the trio became determined to officially go pro.

As they played in various venues throughout the American Southeast, the trio picked up and moved to South Carolina. This positioned them in a better location to be able to perform six nights a week at one of Myrtle Beach’s clubs, making a name for themselves by covering music previously recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Merle Haggard. Despite the growth in popularity and their talent, these three cousins were not able to convince a record label to sign them up. This resulted in the group borrowing money to produce their own recordings that would be sold at the concerts they performed.

When the group signed with GRT Records to produce their debut album in 1977, Alabama learned there was more interest in their songwriting skills than in actually recording music. As fate would have it, GRT declared bankruptcy and the band found themselves stuck in a contract clause that prevented them from being able to sign up with another label just yet. It would take about two years before the band could raise enough money to buy themselves out of the clause and record music again.

Becoming Alabama

Although the cousins played together as a band since high school, it wouldn’t be until 1980 that they would officially call themselves Alabama. This was when they would recruit Mark Herndon as their drummer. It would be at this time, after finally winning over enough attention to earn themselves a recording contract, they would sign up with RCA Records. Once this happened, the band finally achieved what they had been working so hard for all this time. In fact, instead of becoming American country stars, they reached superstar status on a global level in what seemed like no time at all. The down-home country-style music Alabama performed won over more than just a younger audience in the country music scene but also made quite an impact on the pop charts as well. To call Alabama an influential band that has paved the way for music to become the way it is today is an understatement.

Clean through most of the 1980s, Alabama established itself as more than just some country band named after its home state. Thanks to the rise in popularity, Alabama left Myrtle Beach’s Bowery venue after regularly performing there for approximately seven years. At first, the cousins felt their first taste of success was by chance and it was difficult to wrap their heads around the reality that they would become so much more than fly by night country stars. However, with the string of number one hits, along with recording sessions and touring schedules, Alabama came a long way since its humble high school beginnings. “Tennessee River” was the first of forty-two number one hit singles the band would realize. While with RCA Records, Alabama had a tremendous amount of creative freedom that allowed the band to stay true to their roots while entertaining what became so much more than a nationwide audience.

Feels So Right

In 1981, after Alabama released its second album from RCA Records, it became something of an enigma. Feels So Right had a Billboard 200 presence that lasted for more than three years and remains one of the most successful Alabama recordings of all time. It was the year when there were very few music fans who didn’t hear of Alabama, regardless of what genre of music they preferred at the time. In 1981, Alabama was named New Group for the Year by Billboard Magazine. Radio & Records announced the five-man band as Group of the Year while the Academy of Country Music awarded the title Vocal Group of the Year. It was also in 1981 that the Country Music Association Awards named Alabama Instrumental Group of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year.

It seemed at the time nothing could diminish the shine of Alabama as superstars in the music industry. However, when Randy Owen learned his father died unexpectedly while he was on tour, this had a profound impact on the singer-songwriter. Despite the tragedy, Alabama released its third major-label studio album, Mountain Music in 1982. Just like Feels So Right, it established a powerful presence on the Billboard 200 and even surpassed its multi-platinum status as a four-time RIAA certified seller to five-time. From 1982 until 1984, Alabama won the Entertainer of the Year Award with the Country Music Association, which was a brand new award at the time. Alabama’s run as a dominant force in the music industry constantly saw chart-topping hit after another without fail. When The Closer You Get… was released in March 1983, those cult-favorite hits just kept on coming. Just like the previous two albums, it also became a multi-platinum success story.

In 1984, Roll On became Alabama’s fifth studio album with RCA Records. History repeated itself again as it became a four-time RIAA-certified seller. This time, however, while three of Alabama’s previous albums also became certified platinum in Canada, Roll On was the first to earn this recognition twice over. In Canada, Alabama was already insanely popular among the music fans of that nation but the hit single, “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)” was an all-time Canadian favorite. It was heavily used as a trucker’s anthem during the 2022 Canadian Freedom Convoy, along with Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah.” These are also used among similar trucker convoys that are still protesting against political policies that seem to have little regard for what the men and women who drive for a living do.

After Alabama released 40-Hour Week in 1985 as the group’s sixth major studio album, the train of success still continued. Clearly, the fans still highly favored this band’s brand of music as the album became double certified platinum by the RIAA, as well as single platinum in Canada. It happened again with Alabama Christmas, an album that was released a few months later that same year. At this point, with more than enough material to work with, RCA Records brought forth the band’s Greatest Hits compilation album in 1986. This became the second occasion Alabama would earn a five-time platinum certification with the RIAA. Again, it also became platinum in Canada.

After Alabama recorded and released The Touch in 1986, it was followed by Just Us in 1987, then Southern Star in 1989. Each of them became certified platinum by the RIAA, as did the five out of eight studio albums the band produced during the 1990s. While most stars and superstars tend to have their shine diminish considerably after releasing one or two albums, this was not the case for Alabama. Although they were not nearly as popular in the 1990s as they were in the 1980s, they still had a fierce fan following. Most of those fans are still just as loyal to this day. As of 1999, the RIAA also recognized Albama as Country Group of the Century.

Alabama Legacy

In 1989, the Academy of Country Music declared Alabama as Artist of the Decade. Like a feather to the band’s cap, they also have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During the 2002 Academy of Country Music Awards, Alabama announced they were officially going into retirement. Three years later, they became inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The discographic portfolio of Alabama has twenty-six albums to their credit where all but five of them at least earned anywhere from a gold to a multi-platinum certification with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Of the flurry of singles, the group released, forty-two of them topped the music charts where some of them have at least become certified gold sellers. Alabama also has six live albums, twenty-one compilation albums, and a tribute album.

Aside from the tremendous contribution, the group delivered to the country music industry, they also made solid names for themselves in other genres as well. With hits also making their mark on the pop charts and R&B charts, this demonstrated just how diverse Alabama’s musical performance has been. Although the group never officially disbanded, even after announcing their retirement in 2002, the band continued to make studio recordings until 2017. When Alabama announced its retirement, it was a decision to simply recover from the exhaustion each band member experienced after twenty years’ worth of an intensely busy schedule between recording music and touring.

While Alabama took a break as a band, Randy Owen focused on his career as a solo artist. Even after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, this wasn’t enough to put the man down. As soon as he recovered, Alabama came opted to come out of retirement. In 2011, after the band’s home state was devastated by a series of tornadoes, the group held a benefit concert in Birmingham that raised over two million dollars. It was then realized by the group retiring from the music scene was not for them.

With over seventy-five million recordings sold worldwide, Alabama has firmly established itself as one of the world’s best-selling musical acts of all time. This band is credited for bringing to the country music industry a brand of music that triggered at least a new generation of fans that couldn’t help but fall in love with pretty much anything and everything the trio of cousins did. Although the band was technically a four, sometimes five-man show, it was Randy Owen, Jeff Cook, and Teddy Gentry that were the mainstays. From 1979 until 2004, it was drummer Mark Herndon that gave the group the signature sound that played an instrumental role in the band’s musical fame.

What also made the formula of Alabama work so well was the mix of material that appealed to the younger audience while still maintaining a conservative style that won over the older. Prior to Alabama, the majority of country singles that became hits on the charts were either solo or duet performances. What Alabama did as a group broke the country music mold in a similar manner as the 1970s “outlaws” of country music did. Oddly enough, while the fans around the world simply couldn’t get enough of Alabama, the music critics in the industry seemed to hate them. In the end, however, it is the opinions of the fans that always matter the most as they are the ones who buy the records and spend money on the concerts and memorabilia.

Top 10 Alabama Songs

#10 – (God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You (featuring N Sync)

In 1999, Alabama covered “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You” which became a number one hit in Canada and a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It also peaked as high as number twenty-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100. A 1998 NSYNC original, Alabama’s version was intended as the band’s attempt to maintain a strong fan base.

Instead, the unexpected happened and it became a much bigger hit for the group than anticipated. This incredible love song is that perfect tune to play for that special someone in your life that serves as a testimony that God not only spent extra time on them but on you as well for gracing your life with their presence. When Alabama and NSYNC have their performances of this beautiful song combined, it catapults the beauty of it to an even higher level.

 

#9 – Lay Down on Love

In 1983, Alabama released the single, “Lay Down on Love” and it became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. The inspiration behind this song came to Randy Owen after witnessing a group of women spending a night on the town, celebrating the divorce of one of their friends. Unfortunately, the divorced woman was not so celebratory as she was mournful. This triggered Owen to write a song about it. The first half of the song was performed from the woman’s point of view before angling it from the man’s during the second half. The classic tale of what could have been laid out was a beautiful, yet somber reality of what became. If there was a song of despair with just enough soul to bring out a good cry, “Lay Down on Love” would be it.

 

#8 – Tennessee River

“Tennessee River” was the first number-one single on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart after it was released in 1980. This was also the case with the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. The album, My Home’s in Alabama, was the first major-label recording the band released and it was a huge success, becoming double-platinum by the RIAA. This fiddling favorite was a celebratory number that also highlighted the reality there really is no place quite like home. When Alabama chose its name as a group this already illustrated the love all three of its core members had for their home state. That love is still there as Randy Owen has since made good on his lyrical promise about “Tennessee River.” He has a cattle ranch he proudly calls home, not far from where he and his cousins, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry, grew up.

 

#7 – Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)

In 1984, Alabama released the single, “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)” as a song that not only became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart but an official anthem among truckers worldwide. This awesome song about a man spending so much time on the road as a way to earn a living to support his family has served as an inspiration, especially in an industry that understands what a professional truck driver sacrifices on a daily basis.

 

#6 – When We Make Love

The 1984 ballad, “When We Make Love” was a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. For Alabama, it was the final single to make an appearance on the US Billboard Hot 100 until 1998’s “How Do You Fall in Love.” It peaked at number seventy-two while on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart it peaked at number eight. The soulful and sultry love ballad was yet another beautiful illustration of how talented the three cousins from Alabama happened to be as an act the fans couldn’t help but fall in love with.

 

#5 – Take Me Down

In 1980, Exile released “Take Me Down” as a single but it only served as a minor hit for the group. As for Alabama, its version became the band’s seventh number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It was also a crossover hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 as it peaked at number eighteen there. In Canada, this single became a number one hit on its Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart and its RPM Adult Contemporary Songs chart. The popularity of Alabama wasn’t just growing on American soil, but in Canada as well.

 

#4 – Feels So Right

“Feels So Right” became more than simply one of many number one hit singles for Alabama since it was released in 1981. As one of their signature tunes, “Feels So Right” topped the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as the Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary chart. On the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart, it peaked at number five while on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart it reached number nine.

The US Billboard Hot 100 peaked “Feels So Right” at number twenty in what would be the first of three occasions Alabama would realize a top twenty hit on its chart. This powerful ballad became a fan favorite at weddings once it first came out and is still a popular choice today. “Feels So Right” has literally become a cult classic, especially among Alabama fans who find their music doesn’t just feel right but sounds so right at the same time.

 

#3 – Love in the First Degree

On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as Canada’s RPM Country Tracks chart and RPM Adult Contemporary chart, “Love in the First Degree” became a number one hit. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, it peaked as high as number five, and on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number fifteen. For Alabama, it was its third number-one single from the multi-platinum album, Feels So Right. This powerful ballad beautifully bridged country and pop together as polar opposites destined to become one.

Just like the majority of hit singles from Alabama’s repertoire, “Love in the First Degree” became a huge part of the band’s signature sound that set them apart from the rest of the musical acts clean through the 1980s and the 1990s. Just like “Feels So Right,” “Love in the First Degree” became a popular song at weddings for couples and still has a place among romantics to this day. It’s amazing how awesome a love song can be when sung from the perspective of an imprisoned, lovestruck narrator.

 

#2 – Mountain Music

“Mountain Music” was a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart, and the Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary chart after it was released as a single in 1982. For the sixth time in a row, “Mountain Music” topped the American country charts and has since become one of the signature tunes that does more than define Alabama as a group. “Mountain Music” is that one song in the country music genre that is guaranteed to get the crowd revved up for more. What grandma and grandpa used to play is still being played, thanks to the timelessness behind this incredible hit and the men behind it.

 

#1 – The Closer You Get

In 1984, “The Closer You Get” won a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. In 1983, it became Alabama’s tenth number-one single in a row on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. The song was written and first recorded in 1980 by Exile before Don King and Rita Coolidge did the same in 1981. Between the two, King’s version was a number twenty-seven hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. When Alabama released its modified version of “The Closer You Get,” it became one of the band’s most beloved hits of all time.

“The Closer You Get” became a crossover hit for Alabama as it peaked as high as number thirty-eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was a number nine hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. In Canada, “The Closer You Get” became a number one hit on its RPM Country Tracks chart and on its Adult Contemporary chart. This hit single was the title track from the album and served as an instrumental key to its success as a multi-platinum and multi-award-winning phenom.

Feature Photo: Olga Steckel / Shutterstock.com

Top 10 Alabama Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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