Alabama to reunite

Country music star Randy Owen and the rest of the Alabama band members bid farewell to the music industry eight years ago when they played their last tour. This Friday at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, they will play their first full concert since their farewell tour, and proceeds for the concert will go to tornado relief.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. with special guest Jon Pardi opening the show. The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra will perform with Alabama in four pieces.

“Alabama chose to come back and play for Tuscaloosa because of the extent of the pain and disaster the community experienced after the tornado hit last spring,” said Alabama’s publicist Fletcher Foster. “The history of Alabama goes back thirty years. No other band in their format is as relevant as they are today. This is not only because of their number one records, but because of their professionalism and humanitarian work for places like St. Jude Hospital and now for the people of Tuscaloosa.”

Foster began working with Alabama in preparation for the Bama Rising concert that took place in Birmingham on June 14, a concert that also raised $2 million for tornado victims.

As teenagers in the late 1960s, cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry from Fort Payne, Ala. began making music with their friend Jeff Cook. In 1979, drummer Mark Herndon joined the trio. By 1980, Alabama was signed with the industry giant RCA and were on their way to stardom.

Because of Alabama’s casual style, blue-collar attire, intense stage energy and fresh musical talent, they appealed to a mass number of people across the nation.

With 42 number one singles, 17 platinum records and more number one records than any band in country music history, Alabama ranks among the ten biggest selling bands of all time (ahead of Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Pink Floyd and The Who).

“We made it by following our hearts and our feelings. We did it all just by being ourselves,” Owen said on the band’s website.

Alabama also takes the concept of “Southern generosity” to a whole new level. For years, the band has used their success to reach out to those in need on both a national and local level. From visiting wounded soldiers at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, to raising $150,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina, to donating $100,000 to the Fort Payne city school system, Alabama is always willing to lend a helping hand.

Elizabeth McGuire, executive director of the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra, grew up in Georgia and said she was always aware of the band.

“When I first met them, they were so nice and friendly. Just like talking to your neighbor,” McGuire said.

McGuire and the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra first accompanied Alabama at the Bama Rising benefit concert earlier this summer.

Alabama has always played their music to benefit the weak and suffering, and this past spring, the community of Tuscaloosa fit that description. This Friday night, Alabama will play a full concert for the first time in eight years to help heal the city.