Jeff Cook, a founding member of the band Alabama, is battling Parkinson’s disease and is stepping away from touring.
Cook and the band’s co-founders Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry made the announcement Tuesday morning (April 11) in an interview with The Tennessean< newspaper in Nashville.
With hits such as “Feels So Right,” “Mountain Music,” “Dixieland Delight,” “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band),” Alabama became members of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
In a video statement, Cook said he was diagnosed with the disease four years ago.
“This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors,” Cook said in the prepared statement. “For me, this has made it extremely frustrating to try and play guitar, fiddle or sing. I’ve tried not to burden anyone with the details of my condition because I do not want the music to stop or the party to end, and that won’t change no matter what.
“Let me say, I’m not calling it quits, but sometimes our bodies dictate what we have to do, and mine is telling me it’s time to take a break and heal.”
The band kept the diagnosis private even when people began speculating that the 67-year-old musician’s demeanor onstage was the result of a substance abuse problem.
“That’s the part that hurts so bad, for people to think that he’s intoxicated or something,” Owen told the newspaper. “He’s not, and me and Teddy waited back … we wanted to say a lot of things to these people.
Gentry added, “I did tell one guy one time it was none of his damn business. I couldn’t help it.”
Other musicians will be enlisted to cover Cook’s vocal and instrumental parts when the band’s tour resumes on April 29 in Stockton, California. However, Cook plans to perform at the group’s May 27 show in Orange Beach, Alabama, and during its Fan Appreciation Weekend taking place June 16-18 in Fort Payne, Alabama.
With shows scheduled in the U.S. and Canada through November, Cook plans to attend some shows along the way. Owen and Gentry said Cook’s microphone will always be onstage should he decide to join in the performance.
“We could hire 10 people, but we can’t replace Jeff Cook in the group Alabama,” Gentry said.
Cook plans to continue working with Owen and Gentry in the recording studio.
“If I’m healed overnight, I’ll be at the next show,” Cook told the newspaper. “I do believe in prayer, and I’m not giving up.”