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Alabama co-founder, 73, dead after Parkinson’s battle

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Jeff Cook, a co-founder of the pioneering modern country band Alabama, died Monday at age 73.

For a decade, Cook battled Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and causes tremors. He publicly disclosed his diagnosis in 2017.

A representative for the Country Music Hall of Fame band confirmed Cook’s death Tuesday to The (Nashville) Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network. He died at his beachside home in Destin, Florida.

As a guitarist, fiddle player and vocalist in Alabama, Cook alongside cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry helped sketch a blueprint for what a hitmaking group can achieve in country music. He and the band scored a slew of hits now considered by many to be essential country music listening: “Song of the South,” “Mountain Music,” “I’m In A Hurry,” “Cheap Seats” and “My Home’s In Alabama,” among many others.

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Jeff Cook of Alabama performs during the 2018 Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam XX, a tribute event at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

A native of small-town Fort Payne, Alabama, Cook began chasing his love of music on radio airwaves as a disc jockey in his hometown. In 1969, he co-founded the band Young Country alongside Owen and Gentry, planting the seeds for what later grew into Alabama. By the mid-1970s, the cousins performed as Wildcountry, embracing a balance of country songwriting and Southern rock sensibilities.

The band adopted a new name in 1977: Alabama. Two years later – after a run of modest radio success and adopting full-time drummer Mark Herndon – Cook, Owen and Gentry accepted an invitation to play the tastemaking “New Faces” showcase at the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.

What came next? It might as well be country music history.

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Teddy Gentry (from left), Jeff Cook and Randy Owen of Alabama, photographed in Nashville in 2017.

The band inked a deal later that year with RCA, beginning a remarkable run on the country radio charts. Alabama landed eight No. 1 songs on the country charts between spring 1980 and summer 1982, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. That run included pop crossover hits “Love In the First Degree” and “Feels So Right,” as well as “Tennessee River” and “Mountain Music” – staple Alabama songs that the group continued playing for decades.

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