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Alabama’s Jeff Cook Shares Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis

Jeff Cook birthday
Paul Morigi, Getty Images

Alabama‘s guitarist and fiddle player Jeff Cook has revealed that he has Parkinson’s disease. The artist, one-third of the iconic country group, recently shared his diagnosis with the Tennessean and announced that, due to the effects of the disease on his body, he will no longer be touring with the band.

According to the Tennessean, Cook was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about four years ago; he and his bandmates, Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry, elected to keep his diagnosis private until now. Parkinson’s disease, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation explains on its website, is “a chronic and progressive movement disorder” that affects nearly 1 million people in the United States and for which there is no known cure, only treatment options to manage the disease’s symptoms, which include tremors, impaired balance and coordination, body stiffness and slowed movements.

“This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors. For me, this has made it extremely frustrating to try and play guitar, fiddle or sing,” Cook says. “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 … 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.”

Cook first realized that something was wrong with his body when he began having trouble casting a fishing line, then struggling with guitar notes. He thought it was a pinched nerve, he tells the Tennessean, while Gentry and Owen thought it was a stroke. In recent years, when people speculated that Cook’s issues were due to drugs, his triomates fought to protect him from the rumors while keeping his diagnosis a secret.

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“That’s the part that hurts so bad, for people to think that he’s intoxicated or something,” Owen says. “He’s not … we wanted to say a lot of things to these people.”

Adds Gentry, “I did tell one guy one time it was none of his damn business. I couldn’t help it.”

As of April 29, save for a May 27 concert in Orange Beach, Ala., and a fan event in June, Cook will no longer tour with Alabama; however, he hopes to come out on the road and sing when he’s feeling up to it, the Tennessean reports. Other musicians will cover his parts during Alabama’s live shows.

“We could hire 10 people, but we can’t replace Jeff Cook in the group Alabama,” Gentry says. “Alabama has surpassed what any of us ever dreamed of, but I still love to play more or as much as I did [yesterday], and I know Jeff does, too.”

Cook plans to continue to join Alabama in the recording studio, and Owen and Gentry hope to have Cook back out on the road regularly, should his health improve.

“Whenever he can come be there, he will,” Owen says. “And I think he will. I believe he will. I don’t see the future, but I feel the future.”

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