With apologies to Harper's Index:

Alabama's rank among the 50 states in population size: 23rd

In level of overall pollution: 10th

In per capita personal income: 45th

Percent of population living below the federal poverty line: 14.7

Annual income level at which a family with two children must pay state income tax: $4,600

Percent of children living at or below 200% of the poverty line: 49.3

Percent of counties with unemployment rates higher than national average: 82

Ratio of 1999 bankruptcy filings to total population: 1:143

Average age of science books in Alabama libraries, in years: 19

Average number of print magazine subscriptions per school library: 11

Increase in discharge of air pollutants in one year (1997-1998): 50%

Rank among the 50 states in volume of toxic metals discharged into waterways: 1

Rank in number of extinct species: 2

Number of species that have become extinct in Alabama in the last few years: 96

Change in funding of state environmental protection agency from 1990 to 1999: -40%

As the immortal Lynrd Skynrd once sang:
Sweet home Alabama,
Where the skies loom so gray,
Sweet home Alabama,
Another Ozone Warning Day.

... or something like that.

Sources: Census Bureau; Alabama Virtual Library; Anniston Star; Alabama Commerce Commission; American Bankruptcy Institute; Arise Citizens Policy Project.

A wildly popular country music band, having received more accolades than any other country group, including "Country Artists of the Decade" in the '80s, and "Country Group of the Century." Celebrating 25 years of music with their Farewell Tour in 2003.

Randy Owen - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Jeff Cook - Vocals, Lead Guitar, Keyboards, Fiddle, Bass
Teddy Gentry - Vocals, Bass Guitar
Mark Herndon - Drums, Percussion

Perhaps one of the most influential country music bands of the last century, and certainly the most successful, Alabama has made an impact that will last for decades after they're gone.

In the late 60's country music was mostly dominated by singers backed by groups rather than bands. In fact, at the time, bands were not really accepted in country music at all, but were seen as an artifact of "that other music": rock and roll, but cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry saw differently. Randy and Teddy had grown up on separate cotton farms in Alabama, but they learned to play guitar together and even sang together in church. Together, the duo went through a number of different groups, playing bluegrass, country (and even a little pop), before meeting up with another cousin, the multi-talented Jeff Cook. In 1969 the three formed a band known as Young Country, although their real sound didn't start coming together until '72, when they added a drummer, Bennett Vartanian. Changing their name to Wild Country (a name they still use for their corporate identity), and relocating to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to be the house band for a club known as The Bowery was a major milestone in their story. Seven years they played there, gaining a large local following, but going through several drummers before Rick Scott joined in 1974.

In 1977, the group finally saw a measure of their success when they recorded their first album with GRT Records. The resulting single, "I Wanna Be With You Tonight," rose into the Top 80, which albeit a minor success, proved that the country music band sound had merit. This same year, they decided to change their name to Alabama*, in honour of their home, and at the same time discovered the now-bankrupt GRT had inserted a hidden clause into their "one record" contract preventing them from recording with any other labels. It would take two more years and cost them their drummer before they were able to buy themselves out of the contract.

Fortunately for the band at that time, a rock and roll drummer named Mark Herndon got pointed to the right place a the right time. His harder style was just the sound the group needed - if only they could prove it to a recording studio. Self-recording an album, and hiring their own promoter, the band mounted their own popularity campaign, writing to DJs and program directors across the country. The brought them to the attention of Larry McBride, founder of MDJ Records, a small record label in Dallas, Texas, who released their single, "I Wanna Come Over." It reached 33 on the charts. The next year, MDJ released "My Home's In Alabama" which soared into the top 20. It was time for them to hit the big leagues.

The Country Music New Faces Show in Nashville, Tennessee would prove to be their big break. Although convincing the show managers to let their drummer on stage was difficult, once their sound was heard by an RCA talent scout they were signed on the spot, and from then on, things only got better.

It's easy to gauge their popularity - awards were practically raining down on them. The Country Music Association named them Vocal Group of the Year in 1981 and again in 1982, (the same year they were given Grammies for Entertainer of the Year and Group of the Year, as well as for the album "Mountain Music") and again in 1983. Also in 1983, they once again swept the Grammy awards and it didn't stop there - they were the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year five years in a row.

With albums reaching double- and triple-platinum, the group continued to release hit after hit, including the consummate hit, "If You're Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle In The Band)" which has been covered by more bands than any other country song. And the awards just kept coming. Starting with their first RCA single in 1981, "Tennessee River", the group had an amazing streak of 21 number one hits, followed by another streak of six hits before 1990, making them the most popular country music band of the 80s. Seven of their albums went multi-platinum, and their music even crossed over onto the pop charts nine times during that decade.

They continued to record hits even into the 90's, despite declining popularity. In 1990, they released "Jukebox in my Mind," which became their biggest chart record ever, then followed that in 1992 with "I'm In A Hurry (And Don't Know Why)," which stayed at number 1 for two straight weeks. A few more number ones followed, but it was apparent that the fire had gone out for the Twentieth Century's greatest country artists. Not even the honour of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (given in 1998) could revive their former glory.

Statistically speaking, Alabama is one of the all-time greatest bands ever. They are the ninth-greatest selling band, even beating out rock legends like The Who and Pink Floyd, and are second only to Conway Twitty for number one records. They have over 65-million albums sold worldwide, 12 American Music Awards as the public's favorite country group, over 40 Billboard No. 1 hits, more concert tickets sold than any country band in history and more than 200 major show-biz awards. They were even named Recording Industry Association of America's Country Group of the Century. Despite it all, however, they remain the proverbial "good ole boys," raising money for charities with their June Jam in their native Fort Payne, Alabama, and keeping close to their country roots with music like their 1995 album In Pictures.

All good things must come to an end, however, and in 2003, the end comes for Alabama. Celebrating their silver anniversary, the band begins their American Farewell Tour, to play across the country one last time.

RCA Discography:
My Home's in Alabama (1980) - Double Platinum
Feels So Right (1981) - 4x Platinum
Mountain Music (1982) - 5x Platinum
The Closer You Get (1983) - 4x Platinum
Roll On (1984) - 4x Platinum
40 Hour Week (1985) - Double Platinum
Alabama Christmas (1985) - Double Platinum
Alabama Greatest Hits (1986) - 5x Platinum
The Touch (1987) - Platinum
Just Us (1987) - Gold
Alabama Live (1988) - Platinum
Southern Star (1989) - Platinum
Pass It on Down (1990) - Platinum
Greatest Hits Vol. II (1991) - Platinum
American Pride (1992) - Platinum
Cheap Seats (1993) - Platinum
Greatest Hits Vol. III (1994) - Double Platinum
In Pictures (1995) - Platinum
Alabama Christmas Vol. II (1996)
Dancin' On The Boulevard (1997) - Platinum
For the Record (1998) - 4x Platinum
Twentieth Century (1999)
When It All Goes South (2001)
In the Mood: The Love Songs (2003)

The Official Alabama Band website - http://www.alabamaband.com/
The Alabama Fan Club - http://www.alabamafanclub.com
RCA Records - http://rcarecordslabel.com
Roughstock's History of Country Music - http://www.roughstock.com/history/urban.html

*They actually changed their name to The Alabama Band, but there seems to be little distinction between the two names, and indeed, they seem to be used interchangeably even today.

This node dedicated to my stepmother, Gay, Alabama's biggest fan.

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