NEW YORK – Guitarist Jeff Cook, who co-founded the country group Alabama and steered them up the charts with such hits as “Song of the South” and “Dixieland Delight,” has died. He was 73.
Cook had Parkinson's disease and disclosed his diagnosis in 2017. He died Tuesday at his home in Destin, Florida, said Don Murry Grubbs, a representative for the band.
Tributes poured in from country stars, including Travis Tritt who called Cook “a great guy and one heckuva bass fisherman,” and Jason Aldean, who tweeted: “ I got a chance to perform with him multiple times over the years and I will never forget it.” Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, added: "Everything he did was rooted in his deep love of music, a love he shared with millions.”
As a guitarist, fiddle player and vocalist, Cook — alongside cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry — 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 the pop crossover hits “Love In The First Degree” and “Feels So Right,” as well as “Tennessee River” and “Mountain Music.”
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
The band had a three-year run as CMA Entertainer of the Year from 1982-1985 and earned five ACM Award Entertainer of the Year trophies from 1981-1985. He stopped touring with Alabama in 2018.
Cook released a handful of solo projects and toured with his Allstar Goodtime Band. He also released collaborations with Charlie Daniels and “Star Trek” star William Shatner. He entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 as a member of Alabama.
A song he co-wrote in 2015, “No Bad Days,” took on new meaning after his diagnosis. “After I got the Parkinson’s diagnosis, people would quote the song to me and say, ‘No bad days,’” Cook told The Tennessean in 2019. “They write me letters, notes and emails and they sign ‘No Bad Days.’ I know the support is there."
Survivors include his wife, Lisa.