Each week, another honoree is revealed on CMT Hot 20 Countdown .
Formed by cousins Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook in 1969, Alabama became a major force in country music during the ’80s with enduring hits like “Mountain Music,” “Dixieland Delight” and “Song of the South.”
The band endeared itself to country purists with sincere Southern songwriting, while also exciting a new group of young fans with their unabashedly rock-influenced personas. Arguably, Alabama helped usher in country’s music video era and, along with it, today’s generation of country stars.
“‘I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why),’ ‘Reckless’ — those are just two classic songs that literally just make you wanna take a ‘Cruise,’ ” says Florida Georgia Line‘s Brian Kelley. “[When] you think of country music, you think of Alabama.”
“They were huge when I was a kid, one of the biggest things in music,” Aldean said. “For me, I think it was the fact that it was country, but it also had a little bit of Southern rock flare to it. They just sounded so different than anything else that was on country radio at the time.
“They were, even to me as a kid, just really cool. And to see those guys being part of a band, that was part of me wanting to be in a band, and I thought that playing music was like, the coolest thing ever from watching those guys. I think Randy Owen, to this day, is probably one of the best pure entertainers I’ve ever seen.”
Bryan echoed that sentiment, saying the band spoke the language of its fans.
“Alabama embodies the South,” he said. “They were some of my first memories of music, and when you grow up in Georgia, Alabama spoke to you. They related to my hometown and my area so well. And the songs they wrote, I was always so amazed at how they were able to do a tender love song and something that’s really honest, then they were able to do ‘Dixieland Delight’ and songs that got people up and got them dancing. It was pretty incredible.
“Alabama never did anything wrong in anybody’s eyes in Georgia,” he continued. “When I started my band, we could have been an Alabama cover band. We did a lot of Alabama songs. So they were a huge, a huge influence on me and wanting to be a country singer.”
“I think for both BK and myself, we kind of grew up listening to Alabama,” Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard said. “I remember going on road trips — me and dad — just blaring Alabama and jamming out. They definitely paved the way for new artists [like us], and the way they stayed relevant over years and years of doing music, just writing songs and doing their thing. They’re just some of the best. We’ve definitely looked up to them a lot and have taken a lot of notes on them.”
Check out the rest of the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice list, and find out who will be announced next each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT on CMT Hot 20 Countdown.