What’s your favorite song by Alabama? As fans of the country band from Fort Payne will tell you, it’s tough to pick just one.
Alabama has released so many hits over its long and impressive career — more than 20 No. 1 singles, for example — that creating a list of, say, 10 essential songs can be quite difficult. We gave it a shot, though, in anticipation of the band’s headlining appearance at Rock the South.
Lead singer Randy Owen, bassist Teddy Gentry and their touring ensemble will be on stage Friday night at the music festival in Cullman. (Guitarist and fiddler Jeff Cook, a founding member of Alabama, has Parkinson’s disease, and performs with the band when his health allows.)
In anticipation of Alabama’s 10 pm set, here are 10 songs we’d love to hear them play — at Rock the South or any other tour stop.
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released: 1982, as the lead single from an album with the same title.
Written by: Randy Owen.
Kudos: “Mountain Music” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs. Alabama won a Grammy Award for this song in 1983, in the category of Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.
Good to know: “Alabama originally received from pushback from their label about whether or not ‘Mountain Music’ would succeed as a radio hit,” says The Boot website. “For one thing, the track includes a drum solo, which was virtually unheard of for a country or bluegrass single at the time.”
Key lyrics: “Oh, play me some mountain music/Like grandma and grandpa used to play/Then I’ll float on down the river/To a Cajun hideaway.”
released: 1983, as the lead single from “The Closer You Get…” album.
Written by: Ronnie Rogers.
Kudos: “Dixieland Delight” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs. Alabama won an American Music Award for this song in 1984, in the category of Favorite Country Video.
Good to know: The song is a favorite with Crimson Tide fans during football games at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. “Dixieland Delight” was nixed from stadium playlists in 2014, after fans added some colorful lyrics to the chorus — including a profanity bashing Auburn University — and that version became the norm. The song made a triumphant return in 2018, however. “It was nice to hear it again,” linebacker Christian Miller said after the game. “I still kinda heard some of the students singing it the wrong way, which I thought was kind of selfish, but I guess people are going to do what they’re going to do but everybody else did a good job of overshadowing that with the correct way of signing it. Hopefully, we can still continue the tradition.”
Key lyrics: “Spend my dollar/Parked in a holler/’Neath the mountain moonlight/Hold her up tight/Make a little lovin/A little turtle dovin’ on a Mason-Dixon night.”
“SONG OF THE SOUTH”
released: 1988, as a single from the album “Southern Star.”
Written by: Bob McDill.
Kudos: “Song of the South” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs. “The music video was equally impactful,” says the Wide Open Country website, “featuring classic footage of Dust Bowl farmers and out of work Southerners juxtaposed with the few wealthy who could still manage to smile during the nation’s toughest economic times.”
Good to know: Alabama’s version is the most famous one, but the song was recorded by Bobby Bare in 1980, Johnny Russell in 1981, and Tom T. Hall and Earl Scruggs in 1982.
Key lyrics: “Song, song, song of the south/Sweet potato pie and shut my mouth/Gone, gone with the wind/There ain’t nobody looking back again.”
released: 1980, as a single from the album “My Home’s in Alabama.”
Written by: Randy Owen.
Kudos: “Tennessee River” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs. It was the band’s first chart-topper, but definitely not the last.
Good to know: Alabama recorded the song with Jason Aldean for a 2013 reunion album, “Alabama & Friends,” and performed it with Aldean in concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Key lyrics: “Oh, Tennessee River and a mountain man/We get together anytime we can/Oh, Tennessee River and a mountain man/We play together in Mother Nature’s band.”
“MY HOME’S IN ALABAMA”
released: 1980, as a single from an album with the same title.
Written by: Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry.
Kudos: “My Home’s in Alabama” never reached No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart — it topped out at No. 17 — but it became a signature song for the band. Alabama recorded the tune with Jamey Johnson for a 2013 reunion album, “Alabama & Friends,” and performed it with Johnson (an Alabama native) in concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Good to know: The song dates back to 1978, and a longer version was included on an independent release, “The Alabama Band #3.” “I remember (when) me and Teddy had just written ‘My Home’s in Alabama’ and we performed it, this big ol’ guy that was like a wrestler — he was one of the waiters — walked up to the stage and said , ‘That’s the best Southern rock song I’ve ever heard in my whole damn life!’,” Owen said in an interview with No Depression magazine. “We didn’t look at anything except it’s just music. It was a song that me and Teddy had written and we practiced it and worked on the arrangement.”
Key lyrics: “Oh I’ll speak my Southern English just as natural as I please/I’m in the heart of Dixie, Dixie’s in the heart of me.”
“I’M IN A HURRY (AND DON’T KNOW WHY)”
released: 1992, as a single from the album “American Pride.”
Written by: Roger Murrah and Randy VanWarmer.
Kudos: “I’m in a hurry” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs.
Good to know: Alabama recorded the tune with Florida Georgia Line for a 2013 reunion album, “Alabama & Friends,” and performed it with the duo in concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. “One of reasons I love ‘I’m In a Hurry’ so much is I can hear my dad singing that song, and just goofing off in the front — usually, we were driving,” Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line said in a DVD recorded in tandem with the concert. “But the first thing that pops into mind is just him going down the road and singing and, me being a little kid, just being embarrassed by him and just laughing at him. But that’s always a good memory for me.”
Key lyrics: “Don’t know why/I have to drive so fast/My car has nothing to prove/It’s not new/But it’ll do 0 to 60 in 5.2.”
“LOVE IN THE FIRST DEGREE”
released: 1981, as a single from the album “Feels So Right.”
Written by: Jim Hurt and Tim DuBois.
Kudos: “Love in the First Degree” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs. It crossed over onto the pop charts, as well, peaking at No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Good to know: DuBois has said the song was inspired by a radio report that referenced a crime and used the term “murder in the first degree.” “Nothing uncommon about that,” says a Facebook post by Classic Country Music Stories, “but on this particular morning, the phrase struck a creative nerve with DuBois, and right then he began fashioning the basis for ‘Love In The First Degree.’ ”
Key lyrics: “Baby, you left me defenseless/I’ve only got one plea/Lock me away inside of your love/And throw away the key/I’m guilty of love in the first degree.”
“THE CLOSER YOU GET”
released: 1983, as a single from an album with the same title.
Written by: J. P. Pennington and Mark Gray of the rock band Exile.
Kudos: “The Closer You Get” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs, and crossed over to the Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at No. 9. Alabama won a Grammy Award for this song in 1984, in the category of Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. “The Closer You Get…” album was also a winner, earning Album of the Year accolades from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, and Favorite Country Album at the American Music Awards.
Good to know: The song was first recorded by Exile, then by Don King and Rita Coolidge. Producer Harold Shedd evidently had a significant influence on Alabama’s version of the tune. “Shedd beefed up the production with distorted guitars, a more elaborate arrangement and an altered vocal sound, using differently-constructed echo techniques,” says a Facebook post from Classic Country Music Stories.
Key lyrics: “The closer you get, the further I fall/I’ll be over the edge now in no time at all/I’m fallin’ faster and faster and faster with no time to stall/The closer you get, the further I fall. ”
“ROLL ON (EIGHTEEN WHEELER)”
released: 1984, as the lead single from the album “Roll On.”
Written by: Dave Logins.
Kudos: “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs.
Good to know: It’s a storytelling song about a long-distance trucker and his family. There’s an accident; the father is missing; the mom and kids anxiously wait for news. In the end, all’s well and the man calls his family to report that he’s safe. In some versions, the song begins with a CB radio call that says, “How about ya, Alabama, roll on.” The tune was also recorded by Randy Parton, David Allan Coe, Aaron Tippin and Saddle Tramps.
Key lyrics: “Roll on family, roll on crew/Roll on, Mama, like I asked you to do/And roll on, eighteen wheeler, roll on.”
“IF YOU’RE GONNA PLAY IN TEXAS (YOU GOTTA HAVE A FIDDLE IN THE BAND)”
released: 1984, as a single from the album “Roll On.”
Written by: Murry Kellum and Dan Mitchell.
Kudos: “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s chart for Hot Country Songs. Alabama also earned a 1985 Grammy nomination for this song, in the category of Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Good to know: As you might expect, this song provided a chance for fiddler Jeff Cook to showcase his instrumental skills on stage. Alabama still plays the tune in concert, with Megan Mullins Owen playing fiddle.
Key lyrics: “So we dusted off our boots and put our cowboy hats on straight/Them Texans raised the roof when Jeff opened up his case/You say y’all all want to two-step, you say ya want to do-si-do/Well , here’s a fiddlin’ song before we go.”
“High Cotton,” “Sad Lookin’ Moon,” “Born Country,” “Take Me Down,” “Feels So Right,” “She Ain’t Your Ordinary Girl,” “Southern Star,” “Lady Down on Love, ” “Dancin’, ‘Shaggin’ on the Boulevard.”
IF YOU GO
rock the south 2022 — officially known as Pepsi Rock the South — is set for Aug. 5-6 at York Farms, 1872 Cullman County 469 in Alabama. Tickets are $150 for two-day general admission at the gate. A weekend parking pass is $50. Car camping is $200. RV parking costs $550-$650.