Alabama Call Country Music Hall of Fame Exhibit ‘the Greatest Honor’
Alabama are the latest country music act to have an exhibit in their honor open at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Alabama: Song of the South features numerous mementos and artifacts from throughout the band’s 40-plus-year career, including instruments, photos and personal items from members Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook.
“This is the center of the history of country music, and to be in the Hall of Fame is the greatest honor we’ve ever been a part of,” Gentry told The Boot and other reporters after seeing the exhibit for the first time. “To be able to have an exhibit that features three guys from Ft. Payne, Ala. … It can’t get any better than this. We’ve been pinching each other to see if it was real or not.”
Several items on display as part of the Song of the South exhibit date back to Alabama’s early days, when they played at the Bowery in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as the house band.
“It’s very unbelievable to come in here and walk down memory lane,” Gentry adds. “This has got to be a dream come true for some guys from Alabama who just wanted to go to Myrtle Beach and play some music for a little bit. To wind up here among our heroes, people that inspired us … is really the greatest honor we could ever achieve.”
For Owen, one of the most special items in the exhibit is a Gibson J-50 acoustic guitar, originally owned by his father and used on several of Alabama’s recordings: “We’d have to go back and go through all of that and refresh on what all we did play on all those songs,” Owen shares, “but that’s a very special guitar.”
Cook was also pleased by the numerous guitars on display: “I was surprised to see some of these in here,” he admits, adding that he has more than 190 guitars in his collection.
Gentry’s most prized item, meanwhile, is a radio on which he used to listen to country music while living in his grandparents’ house.
“We didn’t have a TV when I was growing up, so radio was our connection to the world,” he explains. “It was the first place I heard country music. The first time I sang along, my mother was singing with a Hank Williams song on the radio, and I started singing harmony with her … When my grandpa passed away, the kids let me keep it.”
As Alabama toured the exhibit, they even saw some things that they forgot they owned — mementos dating back to their childhoods. The trio says that representatives from the Hall of Fame went to Ft. Payne to look through their possessions and selected what they thought would work best in the exhibit.
“Some of the stuff, it’s the first time I’ve seen it,” Gentry admits, “and it would be the same thing with Randy and Jeff, because some of the stuff we had has never been on display before.”
Other items on display include several awards, clothing worn onstage and the original, handwritten lyrics for “Born Country,” written by Byron Hill and John Schweers.
“Alabama went from American Legion Hall bandstands to American bandstands. They sang about a southern star and wound up with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” says Country Music Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young. “I’m proud of this museum’s new exhibit, Alabama: Song of the South. It explores Alabama’s rise from a regional curiosity to a popular ubiquity through blood harmony and southern grace.”
Incoming Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Daniels (who will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame in October) performed a few of Alabama’s songs during a reception held in their honor on Monday (Aug. 22) to celebrate the exhibit’s opening.
Alabama: Song of the South is open now through June 12, 2017; more information can be found on the Country Music Hall of Fame website.
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