Alabama’s 40th Anniversary, New Music Review and Twitter Chat..

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My Favorite Post this week

I can’t tell you when I started to like country music but I can tell you when I fell in love with it.

Back in 1975 on a highway somewhere between Chicago and Philadelphia, a little old van caught my eye. In the window was a poster of a Dixie flag and the word Wildcountry.

A few years later, in a record store (remember them) an album cover caught my eye. It was a Dixie flag and had the word Alabama. I have no idea why but it reminded me of that van. I was not a huge country fan but did like some of the music. Living in the Philadelphia area it wasn’t as if we had the chance to hear much.

Alabama first Album

I bought that album and listened to it every day.

I fell asleep one night listening to a basketball game on the radio. I woke up to Tennessee River on the radio. I fell in love with Alabama.  I also could not believe my ears. Philadelphia finally had a country music station. It was only part time, they aired basketball games at night but it was a start.

My neighbor and friend, Tina and I called the station every morning trying to win albums, tickets and other country paraphernalia. We won often in those days. We always asked them to play an Alabama song for us.

I worked for the local newspaper and considered myself so lucky because nobody wanted to cover country anything so I was the go to country writer and loved every minute of the job.

We wanted to see Alabama live and longed for the day they would come to Philadelphia.

When Alabama’s tour finally brought them to Philadelphia, we quickly realized we were not alone.  Alabama fans came out of the woodwork and we found ourselves camping out for tickets on the sidewalk of the Spectrum. We had no choice but to band together to battle the ticket scalpers who would use any trick they could to get in front of us. We usually ousted them by asking them to name the guys in the band. When tickets went on sale for Valley Forge Music Fair in King of Prussia, Pa. we camped out during a blizzard. There were hundreds of us. A local restaurant was kind enough to supply us with hot chocolate coffee tea and take out food. I don’t even remember being cold. I just remember listening to Alabama music and dancing all night long.

Alabama Jan and Doe in Blizzard*Jersey Jammer Jan top and myself bottom camping out at Valley Forge Music Fair

I had press passes and could see any and every show I wanted but it wasn’t the same as being an Alabama fan and experiencing the show with other fans.

Our first June Jam in 1985 is one of my best memories. We were staying in Huntsville until a chance meeting with Kelly Owen and a Fort Payne shop owner who insisted we stay with her and her husband. We stayed with them for every Jam after that first one. We could not have been blessed with better friends. They wanted us to have the best possible ‘Alabama’ experience. They made sure we found our way to the picnics, Randy’s Golf Outing, Jeff’s fishing Tournament, Celebrity Softball Tournaments and so much more. We felt like the luckiest fans in the world.

Alabama Randy's FamilyWe met several Alabama football players at one of the celebrity softball games. They were so nice we all became lifelong ‘Roll Tide’ fans.

My small kids were such big fans they begged me to take them to Myrtle Beach for vacation.  I cannot believe I drove those kids to the Bowery by myself. There was no GPS and no cell phones back then. They still talk about that vacation today.

My kids and I grew up with Alabama. At a hotel in Philadelphia, Mark Herndon and John Dittrich (Restless Heart) taught mine, and my girlfriend’s kids to play air drums while jumping on the beds. They left them with signed drum sticks and we gave them a bucket of ice.

Meeting Randy at the elevator in a hotel in Allentown, Pennsylvania after a performance at the Fairgrounds we asked him about his baby daughter. He had the biggest new Daddy grin and was happy to tell us how cute she was.

As we grew up, school activities and jobs got in the way of camping out in the snow and flying to Chicago or Nashville to see concerts just because we could. We still loved the boys, still bought the music and went to every Philadelphia show.

Every Alabama song is attached to a personal memory for me, Feels So Right came out when I purchased my first home, and Lady Down on Love when my heart was shattered due to divorce, Falling Again of course when I fell again and again. Angels Among Us helped me grieve the murder of my younger brother and to be strong for a special needs grandson.  I could go on and on…

That little country radio station in Philadelphia grew into a big country music station and now they seem to only play the top 20 songs.  It’s just not personal anymore. I will always love the station but I could not be happier that I found Prime Country on Sirius XM.

I was so excited when I heard about Alabama & Friends. I pre-ordered the CD . I’m not sure it’s even fair for me to do a review so I will just tell you I popped it into the disc player and drove off to run some errands. Jason Aldean’s Tennessee River made me smile. I was happy whoever decided, decided to keep the songs as close to the originals as possible. Luke Bryan’s version of Love in The First Degree was so good, I turned it up. Rascal Flatts, performing Old Flame caught me completely off guard and memories just flooded my mind. When Kenny Chesney started singing Lady Down on Love, I cried. He did a beautiful job. Kenny and Randy are the only singers, ever to touch me enough to cause tears. Randy did it with Carolina Mountain Dew and a few others and Kenny with Where Would You Be Today and now this. The Eli Young Band nailed The Closer You Get. I love Trisha Yearwood and was thrilled to hear she was included in this project. I agree with Randy, she sang Forever’s as Far as I’ll Go like an angel. It was perfect timing for Toby Keith to sing She and I, a much more up beat song. I’m In A Hurry performed by Florida Georgia Line was a good choice. The brand new That’s How I Was Raised sounded like classic Alabama.  The also brand new All American was heartfelt and timely. Jamey Johnson did a beautiful job with My Home’s In Alabama.

I had not realized how much I missed these guys. I am so happy to have them back and to thank them for 40 years of memories and tell them how much I am looking forward to their 50th anniversary.

The pictures are not the best, but here are a few more from my scrapbooks…

Alabama & Friends is available:

Itunes – http://itunes.apple.com

Amazon-  http://amzn.com/B00DPKQBFK

Join Alabama for a twitter chat on Monday 9/2 with @JessicaNorthey  9:00 p.m. EST  #CMchat

Alabama Bowery

 *Jimmy and Jillian (and Thistlehair) at the Bowery

 Alabama Pat and Jackie Fan Club

 *Pat and Jay at the Fanclub in Fort Payne

Alabama Pat Jackie PlainPat and Jay on that awful small plane flight from Nashville to Chatanooga. The second leg of our June Jam journeys.

Alabama Softball ticketAlabama Fave Jeff Photo*A Favorite pic I took of Jeff

Alabama Favorite Randy Photo* One of the favorite shots I got of Randy

Alabama Fave Teddy

*Favorite all time of Teddy and one I took

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