Alan Messer Jeff Cook
According to a press release issued by Cook's representatives, the iconic guitarist and Country Music Hall of Fame member died on Monday at his Destin, Florida home while surrounded by family and close friends.
While his exact cause of death is unknown, Cook long battled Parkinson's disease and was diagnosed with the condition in 2012. Five years later, he released a statement announcing his diagnosis and revealing he'd be stepping back from touring with Alabama due to its effects.
Born in Fort Payne, Alabama on Aug. 27, 1949, Cook started playing guitar and keyboards as a young teenager before working as a local radio DJ and later owning radio and TV stations — all before graduating high school. He then went to Gadsden State Community College to study electronic technology and admired how working in radio combined his interests in music and electronics, per the press release.
Cook and two of his cousins, guitarist Randy Owen and bassist Teddy Gentry, formed a band in the late '60s before officially co-founding Alabama a decade later. They released three albums in the '70s — Wild Country, Deuces Wild and Alabama Band No. 3 — that largely flew under the radar before signing to RCA Records to craft their major label debut, 1980's My Home's in Alabama.
Over the course of their career, the band notched 36 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart including 1982's "Mountain Music," 1983's "Dixieland Delight," 1988's "Song of the South," 1990's "Jukebox in My Mind" and 1992's "I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)," among others.
Alabama embarked on a farewell tour in 2003 and 2004, with Owen telling The Tennesseean in 2011, "I just think everybody needed some time. After the last show … I was, just, gosh, just so wore out."
After a tornado hit the band's home state in 2011, however, Alabama reunited for a benefit concert that raised over $2 million for the cause and realized they missed performing together. "I guess we realized that maybe we missed the playing … and five or six years had gone by and we were like, 'Maybe that wasn't as bad as we remember it being,'" Gentry told The Tennesseean at the time.
The band began touring again in 2013 and released Southern Drawl, their first album of new music since 2007 and most recent project, two years later. In 2017, Cook announced he'd be performing less due to his battle with Parkinson's disease.
"This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors," Cook wrote in a statement at the time. "For me, this has made it extremely frustrating to try and play guitar, fiddle, or sing. I've tried not to burden anyone with the details of my condition because I do not want the music to stop or the party to end, and that won't change no matter what. Let me say, I'm not calling it quits, but sometimes our bodies dictate what we have to do, and mine is telling me it's time to take a break and heal."
Rick Diamond Alabama
As Cook took a step back, Alabama continued touring. Earlier this year, he reunited with the band for a 50th-anniversary tour. Currently, Alabama has a string of North American shows scheduled through August 2023.
Cook is survived by his wife of 27 years, Lisa Cook, mother Betty Cook, brother David Cook, Crystal Cook, father-in-law Jerrial Williams and brother-in-law Randy Williams, among several nieces and nephews.
Following the news of Cook's death, several country stars paid tribute to the musician.
"Jeff Cook, and all of the guys in Alabama, were so generous with wisdom AND fun when I got to tour with them as a young artist," Kenny Chesney, who also covered the band's "Lady Down On Love" in 2013, wrote on Instagram. "But maybe even more, they showed a kid in a t-shirt that country music could be rock, could be real, could be someone who looked like me. Growing up in East Tennessee, that gave me the heart to chase this dream."
Jason Aldean took to Twitter and paid tribute to Cook. "So sad to hear of the passing of Jeff Cook. I spent a lot of my life listening to him play guitar, what an iconic sound he had," he wrote. "I got a chance to perform with him multiple times over the years and I will never forget it."
In a follow-up tweet, Aldean continued, "RIP Mr. Jeff, you are a legend to many of us and your influence will be felt forever in country music."
The wife and son of the late Charlie Daniels also wrote a heartfelt post about Cook on Twitter. "Heaven gained another guitar/fiddle player today. Mom and I were saddened to hear about the passing of @TheAlabamaBand's Jeff Cook after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease. Prayers for his family and many fans," he tweeted.
Grammy winner Travis Tritt complimented Cook's non-musical skills in his tribute tweet, writing, "Sending out my deepest condolences to the family, friends and band mates of Jeff Cook from @TheAlabamaBand. Such a great guy [and] one heckuva bass fisherman. He will be truly missed."
Sending out my deepest condolences to the family, friends and band mates of Jeff Cook from @TheAlabamaBand. Such a great guy an one heckuva bass fisherman. He will be truly missed.
— Travis Tritt (@Travistritt) November 8, 2022
Fellow Country Music Hall of Fame members The Oak Ridge Boys also posted on Twitter to share a post about Cook. "Heartbreaking news … friend and brother Jeff Cook of @TheAlabamaBand has passed … goodbye Jeff .. rest easy many … the battles have ended … #RIPJeffCook," wrote the group.