Country artists often contribute to their communities in ways that extend far beyond their musical talents. They find rewards in helping people, rewards that far exceed the awards they earn for their professional achievements. Such was the case tonight (June 15) when country music’s most-awarded group, Alabama, received the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award during the Country Weekly Presents the TNN Country Awards, held in Nashville at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Presented this year by Charlie Daniels, the Minnie Pearl Award annually recognizes outstanding humanitarian and community efforts. Named after its first recipient, Minnie Pearl (the late Sarah Cannon), the award has been given since 1988. Past winners include Roy Clark, Reba McEntire, George Lindsey, Amy Grant, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Barbara Mandrell, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Roy Acuff.
“Tonight Minnie Pearl’s smiling down from heaven, and we’re all saying ‘Well done, guys,’” said Daniels to the surprised recipients. “My friends, you have been honorable men, you have been good stewards of your wealth and success and touched millions of lives. You’ve made our world a better place.”
Alabama has contributed for many years to worthy causes, both in the national arena and in their local community of Fort Payne, Ala. In 1989, lead singer Randy Owen and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., established the “Country Cares” fundraiser. The “Country Cares” radio network currently boasts over 160 stations nationwide. The country music industry embraced the cause, and through the combined efforts of the radiothon and other industry functions, “Country Cares” has raised a staggering $130 million for St. Jude. In 1997, Alabama participated in the recording of Country Cares for Kids, a holiday album to benefit the hospital. The band members have made countless appearances on the hospital’s behalf.
For 15 years, Alabama’s June Jam, held in Fort Payne, was one of the premiere country music concerts in the nation. Artists ranging from Garth Brooks to Vince Gill and Neal McCoy joined Fort Payne’s famous sons for a concert performance that raised over $4 million for various organizations within the local community. One organization is The Big Oak Ranch, which helps children 6-21 who are orphaned, abused, neglected, homeless or have had minor trouble with the law. In October Alabama will hold a benefit concert for the home.
Upon receiving the Minnie Pearl accolade, the group expressed their gratitude to the country music community.
“This is a very special thing to me,” said Owen. “What the men and women at country radio have done … I thank the artists, the songwriters. I’m so thankful that people all around the world people love children.”
“I don’t know what to say,” said drummer Mark Herndon. “I’m truly speechless. For all the bad that we hear on the radio out there, I hope people will go home tonight and remember what these children look like behind me. Each one of them is a great success story.”
Alabama has been lauded for their charitable efforts in the past. In 1990, they received the Humanitarian Award from the Country Radio Broadcasters. Also that year, they received the Distinguished Service Award from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.