1982 Alabama – Love In The First Degree
Guitar player Randy Owen and his cousin bass player Teddy Gentry grew up in Alabama and began playing and singing Country music in various groups in the early sixties. A third cousin, guitar player Jeff Cook, joined the group in 1968 and they began calling themselves Young Country. They recruited a fourth cousin (Jackie Owen) to play drums for the group.
In 1972, Bennett Vartanian replaced Jackie as their new drummer and the group changed their name to Wildcountry. Four more drummers came and went while the group moved to South Carolina and began working as full-time musicians. By 1974, Rick Scott was the drummer for the band.
The band send demos to a long list of record companies and finally signed with GRT Records for one record. The label convinced the band to change their name to The Alabama Band, which they later shortened to Alabama.
Their first single did not reach the top forty on the Country chart, and GRT Records went into bankruptcy. Unfortunately, their contract prevented the band from recording for any other label until they had saved up enough money to buy themselves out of their contract. The band began recording again in 1979, after which Rick Scott left the band. They hired rock drummer Mark Herndon to play drums for them although he never became an official member of the group.
Randy and Teddy wrote My Heart’s In Alabama and their single reached #17 on the Country chart. That success led the group to sign with RCA Records. Randy wrote their first single on RCA, Tennessee River, which came out in 1980 and quickly reached the top of the Country chart. That was the first of 21 consecutive Country number one singles.
While the band was not attempting to record music that would crossover to the pop charts, three of their singles in 1981-82 successfully reached the top twenty on the Hot 100 and the top ten on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart.
The most successful of those records was the single Love In The First Degree.
The single peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 and number 5 on the AC chart in 1982.
Bananarama released a single entitled Love In The First Degree in 1988 which reached the Hot 100, but it was a completely different song.
By 1984, Alabama had stopped recording songs that easily crossed over to pop. They only returned to the top forty on the Hot 100 one last time. In 1999, the band recorded God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You with some vocal background help from ‘N Sync. Their single reached #3 on the Country chart and #29 on the Hot 100 in 1999. They even appeared live with ‘N Sync to perform the song together a few times.
By 2004, Alabama had disbanded and its members moved on to solo projects. A few reunions have taken place, and the band (with help from yet more studio drummers) has even recorded a few more albums. Their most recent new recording was 2014’s The Classic Christmas Album.
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