Gary James' Interview With
Jeff Cook of

Alabama








Although Country music group Alabama retired in 2004, lead guitarist for the group, Jeff Cook, has not. In May of 2010, Jeff and his Allstar Goodtime Band released the CD "Shaken, Not Stirred" on Quest Records. It's Jeff Cook like you've never heard him before. He's certain to raise eyebrows with this CD.

Just for the record, Jeff Cook and Alabama signed with RCA Records in 1980. That band enjoyed 42 number one hits, received 2 Grammy Awards as well as 21 Gold, Platinum and multi-Platinum albums for sales of more than 78 million records. In November of 2005, Alabama was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. They are one of the top twenty best-selling acts of all time. But for this interview, we are concentrating on the solo career of Jeff Cook.

Q - Jeff, the title of your CD, "Shaken, Not Stirred", is someone a James Bond fan and would that someone be you?

A - No, not really. I like the James Bond movies all right, but I just thought it was a cool name and I was trying to go with some concept, even though it has nothing to do with the music that's on there.

Q - I think you actually may shake some people up with this CD because it's not what they might expect.

A - Exactly.

Q - I'm curious about your selection of material on this CD. You do covers of The Beatles' "She's A Woman", Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops" and The Dave Clark Five's "Because". You don't see artists recording those songs on a regular basis. Were you a fan of those artists when you were growing up?

A - Well, yeah. I like those songs when they went around the first time. If you time things right, it's new music for some folks.

Q - At the end of "She's A Woman", you start singing "She's About A Mover". Did you know that the Sir Douglas Quintet wrote "She's About A Mover" based on "She's A Woman"?

A - I did not know that.

Q - I thought for you sure you must've known that and that's why you decided to record "She's A Woman" that way.

A - No, but that sounds very interesting. I thought it was an original idea, but it may not be. (laughs)

Q - Well, now you know the story!

A - And I'm glad you did it. (laughs)

Q - When you sing a song like "She's A Woman", do you develop a new found respect for the songwriting talent of Paul McCartney?

A - It's nothing new. I've always felt that he was a great writer and performer. I just think he's a cool guy. I'm hopin' maybe someday to record something with him.

Q - Well, if anybody should, it should be you.

A - Well, that's the way I see it. (laughs)

Q - You're calling your band Jeff Cook and the Allstar Goodtime Band.

A - Yeah.

Q - Doesn't Ringo call his band the Allstar Band?

A - He may do that, but mine has that Goodtime in it. It's one of the requirements. You got to have a good time or you can't play in this band.

Q - To me, it's just one more nod to the British Invasion connection I see in your CD.

A - There's one thing that might lend a hand to that, is the fact that when I got into radio as a disc jockey in 1964, at the age of 14 and that's what was being played at time, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Dave Clark Five. Everybody was hitting the airwaves in America.

Q - Where are you planning to take this group of yours?

A - Well, we've got some casinos lined up. That's really what it was put together to do, to target the demographics of casino showrooms, festivals and fairs and that sort of thing.

Q - I'm guessing that even with all the credits you have to your name, you probably have to really work hard to get out and market this CD of yours, don't you?

A - At this point in time, and the way the whole radio business is, yes. You're exactly right. It's not something you can just sit back. You've got to work it just like it was your first time out.

Q - And how do you feel about that? Are you frustrated?

A - It's a little frustrating, but I'm not so concerned with hit records. I've been there and done that. I'm more concerned with the entertainment aspect of it and doing the 'live' shows and taking songs and doing things with 'em I hear in my head, whether I wrote 'em or not.

Q - Was there ever a time in your life when you wanted to throw in the towel and not pursue a career in music?

A - Maybe for about ten seconds.

Q - All of ten seconds?

A - Yeah. All of ten seconds. I was actually playing lead guitar in a group when I was 12, make that 13. Of course I got into radio and that combined the two things I liked, electronics and music.

Q - Did I read or hear that if the guys in Alabama didn't get a record by the time they were 30, it was over?

A - Actually, I don't think that was me. I think that was one of the other guys. I think they opened their mouth before they thought about it. I don't believe I would ever make a statement like that.

Q - As it worked out, I think everybody in the group was 29 when the record deal came through.

A - I'd have to take your word on that.

Q - One last question about your former band. Wikipedia has it that Alabama is credited with bringing Country music groups into the mainstream. Do you buy that?

A - I do if you explain it a little further. We had to hit at the right time. That was right after the Urban Cowboy days. But up until that point, it was always some guy with a back-up band, and there was a reason for that. Record companies didn't want to put money into bands and then have 'em break up. Now, RCA was more into building careers than having a hit record. I mean, of course they wanted that too. Here we are, four guys that play our own music and it's not one guy out front and whoever you could pick up to play guitar.

Q - So even though The Oak Ridge Boys had a big hit with "Elvira", they were a vocal group. They didn't play their own instruments.

A - Exactly. I think that's a little different vein right there.

Q - Or, I could mention Buck Owens And The Buckaroos, but maybe he had a backing band too? I don't know.

A - Well, I'll go ahead and mention this; In our current situation, I don't try to hug the spotlight. There's lots of other guys in the band that sing. That also enables us to do a wide range of music. We do Merle Haggard's "Working Man Blues" one minute and the next minute might be "Brick House" by The Commodores. We utilize the horns in places that maybe you normally wouldn't have horns.

Q - I can truthfully say I really enjoy the wide range of material you have on "Shaken, Not Stirred".

A - Well, if you liked "Shaken, Not Stirred", you'd probably like the one before it which was called "Ashes Won't Burn". It was a similar format. It had a Beatles song on it, "I Feel Fine" and it had some original stuff on it which kind of sounded like stuff out of Muscle Shoals. I think they're both kind of built on the same formula.

Q - As I listen to "Shaken, Not Stirred", the thought comes to mind that songs aren't being written the way they used to be, are they?

A - No. There are some things I wouldn't attempt because you ain't gonna get it any better than the original, with the exception of what the improvements are in electronics and the means of recording. If The Beatles came back today they would be a hundred time better just because of the technology. I will add one thing. Back in the beginning of our career we were actually compared to and referred to as "The Beatles Of Country Music" and there were a lot of similarities, even minor, little things. I always liked that because The Beatles were who I listened to.

Q - I always thought it must be very difficult for a band to measure up or be compared to The Beatles.

A - Well, by the time we made any noise in the record business, had any success, we had a drummer or two. Actually we had seven. (laughs) There was a drummer that happened we parted ways and then I was thinking about Pete Best and The Beatles situation. I don't know, it's just kind of one of those things. It's kind of interesting.



© Gary James. All rights reserved.


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