One third of Country Music Hall of Fame group Alabama is suffering from a crippling disease.
Jeff Cook, the band’s fiddle player, revealed to The Tennessean that he will have to step back from touring with the group as of April 29 due to his Parkinson’s disease. Cook, 67, was diagnosed four years ago with the degenerative disorder that affects movement and causes tremors. He and his bandmates, Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry, have kept the diagnosis secret until now.
“This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors,” Cook read from a 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,” he continued. Despite taking a step back in late April, Cook plans to perform at Alabama’s May 27 concert in Orange Beach, Alabama, as well as an upcoming fan event in June.
“We could hire 10 people, but we can’t replace Jeff Cook in the group Alabama,” said a tearful Gentry. “Like Jeff said, when this is all you’ve ever known and you love the music, you want to see it go on as long as possible. Alabama has surpassed what any of us ever dreamed of, but I still love to play more or as much as I did [yesterday], and I know Jeff does, too.”
The group has sold more than 75 million albums and singles, charted 43 number one songs and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame since debuting in 1980.
As Cook’s deteriorating condition became increasingly noticeable, people began speculating he suffered from substance abuse issues. Those rumours are ones the band struggled with while trying to maintain Cook’s privacy. “That’s the part that hurts so bad, for people to think that he’s intoxicated or something,” Owen said. “He’s not, and me and Teddy waited back… we wanted to say a lot of things to these people.”
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The Tennessean notes the love and commendatory between the band members. Cook struggled to open a bottle of water after reading his statement, only for Owen to reach across the table, pop the lid loose and hand it back to his friend.
“If I’m healed overnight, I’ll be at the next show,” Cook explained. “I do believe in prayer and I’m not giving up.”
“Whenever he can come be there, he will,” Owen added. “And I think he will. I believe he will. I don’t see the future, but I feel the future.”