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  • Posted September 2018

     

    IrleneMandrell001If you’re a baby boomer, no doubt you remember the hit TV show, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters. No doubt, you also remember the syndicated hit show, Hee Haw. 

    The common thread between those two iconic shows is none other than the lovely and talented Irlene Mandrell, the youngest of the three famous sisters.

    Irlene has remained quite active since those days on hit TV shows. Not only does she still perform, she also still records (with help by her producer-husband, Pat Holt) and is also a writer – not of songs but, as of recently, books.

    I recently spoke by phone with Irlene about her latest CD, Thanks To You, and her new book, God Rains Miracles. I asked her to bring us all up to speed with what’s been going on in her life.

    “Well, of course, you know about the CD (“Thanks To You”) – I sent that to you, too – a lot of that has us doing even more benefits. Before, I did a lot for military - the reason we chose to do the CD. But, I’ve also done events connected to police and first responders where they were getting awards and stuff like that. 

    “We’re booking a Christmas show with my kids – a family thing since Christmas is family and our family. These days, instead of performing as sisters, it’s our kids with family. Of course, Pat and I’s blended family is fun. My son’s a drummer. The girls sing. He actually sings but likes to stay behind the drums. Ha! Ha!”

    Irlene shared what the theme is of her latest CD, Thanks To You.

    “You can download the songs. They mean a lot to me. We’ve spent some time listening to words and putting together the songs that touched our hearts. When I say ‘our,’ it’s Pat (Holt, Irlene’s husband) and I with Patproducing it.

    “Of course, at our age, most of our dads were in World War II. That was the time everybody fought and joined together. Our dads were both World War II veterans and Pat is a Vietnam era veteran – and different people in our family. It meant a lot to us to put this CD together and to listen to the words.

    “The first one we put out as a single. We did a couple of singles, first, off the album. The first one was, We Will Stand. I won’t say ‘Pat’, but it made me cry – okay, it made Pat cry, too. When I perform it live, you can look around and there’s military vets – you can see it touches them so strong. 

    “Eric Horner – he’s a writer from Nashville – Pat was talking to him, ‘I wrote it in fifteen minutes when the towers fell because I just had that strong feeling. It just came out.’ I’m sure that’s what we hear in the words – what you feel.

    “Then, we put out a couple of other songs off the album that we liked. Then, we decided that the title of the album should be what we wanted to say to our heroes, which was, ‘Thanks to you!’ Thanks to you for different things but when people say, ‘Thanks to you for our freedom,’ I say, we wouldn’t even be here to have our freedom if it wasn’t for everybody fighting for us to keep them off of our land. That’s what my daddy always said. 

    “I said to him, ‘What do you think?’ and he said, ‘We fight to keep it off the homeland.’ If it hadn’t been for them, we wouldn’t be here at all. We wouldn’t have our country. So, it’s just saying, ‘Thank you!’

    And the response to the CD, so far?

    “People who hear the songs and, like I said, when I’m performing, you see reactions. The CD, Thanks To You – the single – that came out and did well on the charts. It stayed on the charts forever, which I loved. I’m not talking Billboard but Independent charts. I’m, like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I thought, for sure, it wouldn’t be in there but, the thing is, and I hate to say ‘country music’ because the group, KISS, how they defend our military – they’re very patriotic. There’s a lot of flag wavers and whether they served or not, usually people have had a friend or a loved one that served. I think they appreciate when somebody cares. This is truly from my heart. 

    “We went two years from the time we started putting songs out and trying to make the album because we were enjoying listening to songs. Pat has so many connections to incredible writers who come into his studio to do demos. He’d say that we were looking for patriotic songs. So, he would bring me songs after he would listen to it and what he liked for me to hear. We just loved it! We had more that we would’ve put on there from great writers with great songs. 

    “We had friends who set us up with Reviver Records. They told Reviver and they set it up where they could come to the studio and listen. They said, ‘Finish it up then we’ll put it out.’ We finished it in time for Veteran’s Day, so I could say, ‘Thanks To You’ at that time. 

    “Anyway, it was a great project and, at about the same time this year, something else I’ve been working on for quite a few years – just writing some things now and then, trying to remember miracles that have happened in my family that I’d heard about before I was born that I share with my kids those that have happened since I’ve been here. 

    “As you start talking to your friends about miracles and I started thinking about putting this into a book, then a couple of friends say, ‘Well, let me tell you . . .’ – even before I evenEverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited mention the book and share a miracle, I always get one back and I would remember it. I called a lot of people when it got time to do the book and asked them if I could share their miracle. 

    “I put them down on tape, so I got to hear it again. That was such a blessing as with the CD. Everything is about God, country, and family. So, getting to do the CD for our country; the people who are heroes; the reason we have our country; doing a book about miracles – some people can read the book if they want and just say, ‘Well, these are great stories and great things that happened to people.’ To me, they’re beyond coincidence – almost all of them. Some of them are stronger than others that you just go, ‘Wow!’ That was such a blessing putting that together. I had people coming to me who didn’t know I was writing the book – before I could finish that one, I was thinking, ‘I need to finish this up’ and someone would be talking and all of a sudden, there would be this miracle and I wouldn’t even mention one to them!

    “I met this one lady through a friend – see, the other thing is family. I have a granddaughter that will be turning two in December – our second grandchild. Then, she did, too, and she said, ‘My grandchild, let me tell you, she’s just a miracle!’ She told me the story. Oh my gosh! She gave me her daughter’s number to call. I got that story. 

    “The one thing I ask everybody, ‘It’s a miracle, regardless. But, let me ask you: were there any prayers?’ She goes, ‘Oh, my gosh, you gotta call my dad because he organized prayers with the church, where he worked, and this and that. It was in queue with the baby and they started praying for everybody’s baby. Everyone was praying for each other. That was all the stories. When I would find out, there would be these prayer groups. 

    “Anyway, that was such a blessing for me. This year has been so inspirational for me – and such a blessing, that I’ve been floating on the clouds.” 

    Ms. Mandrell has a stellar reputation for her generous work with various charities. I asked her to share a little bit about that work.

    “I’ve done so many different ones. The one that I did a whole show for recently because Many-Bears (Grinder) is the Commissioner of the V.A. for Tennessee and she introduced us to these people who ran the Joshua Chamberlain Society for Nashville. I wasn’t familiar with that one and they take on what they can – just a few people that are so – the V.A. may be operating on them but they’re so injured that there’s no way that they can fend for themselves ever again. So, they take on different ones each year that they know they can keep on doing because they take them on for life. That one’s incredible and I love them. So, we did a show for them in Franklin. 

    “And, then, before that, Nashville also has the Stand Down program. They take veterans off of the streets. There are so many good ones. They teach them. They train them. They help them get jobs and back on their feet where they can survive on their own. They take in clothes and stuff like Goodwill does. 

    “There’s Wounded Warrior. We’ve gone out and have done shows. We did one in Jackson recently where I just did some songs to tracks. I didn’t actually put the band together. 

    “One time, I did a shotgun shoot for Boy Scouts and Wish Upon A Star. Pat and I talked about it. There’s so many good ones right now. I don’t know. I’d like just doing benefits for different ones.”

    Circling back to chat about her book, I asked Irlene how long it took her to pull all of the stories together.

    IrleneMandrell002“I think about five or six months. I already had most of the stories together. I had written six or seven, actually, and I had read them to the people that they were from. It wasn’t like I came up with a story line or about things that had happened in my past like in a biography or something. I just knew all of these stories. 

    “Nowadays, it’s just so easy to record somebody. Even if I knew the story – other than the ones I had already written and read to them and knew that the people were happy with it – I wanted to make sure that I didn’t remember it a little wrong. So, I would record everybody telling it to me again. I would put it in my words coming from me but, still, it’s their story. I didn’t leave anything out. 

    “Like the girl I told you about that called about that baby, she said, ‘You’ve got to call my father.’ So, I called him and recorded his story about his side of it and the people who started to pray and stuff. Of course, you have to interweave the story. But I would do all of that as I was laying in bed at night and put in the ear things and listen to their story and start writing. 

    “Louise’s story - I knew so much – her story about Nicole. It’s so long and involved. I was in California and then came back and things had been going on without me there. We sat for a long time and she recorded everything that’d happened. Things that I had not been aware of. 

    “And Dennis Holt and the bicycle, where he had died? I was writing the book and I hadn’t really thought about him. I knew he had had a wreck. I had forgotten that it was so serious. The picture that I put in there – he was doing a song for me one day. He’s a drummer. He’s not related to Pat. They’ve been friends forever. He was in there and he goes, ‘Take a picture with me and show everybody that I’m back in the studio.’ He looked great!

    “I was, like, ‘Right! You had a wreck or something!’ He told me about it and he goes, ‘Let me tell you . . .’ and I go, ‘Oh, my goodness! I need to put this in my book!’

    “These things that came to me were not stories that I had already planned to put in there. They came like God said, ‘Okay, here’s this. It’s thrown in your face. You know what to do.’ 

    “I was at a Republican party and there was this lady. She’s a Republican and she’s from Memphis and she’s African-American. That’s hard in Memphis. She said that she was running for the Senate. She said that things had been kinda hard and she said, ‘I decided not to do that. I was actually starting another company. I was kind of sick one day and somebody needed a certain kind of walker.’ They didn’t have one and she had one. She was just going to drive over there and leave it on their back porch. 

    “On the way, a semi came and hit her head-on. She’s Charlotte in the book. She was dead. She was telling me goodbye. She did not know I was writing a book. I had only met her one other time. She’s saying goodbye and she goes, ‘You know, I wasn’t even going to stay in politics. I was getting’ outta there! It was getting really hard. But let me tell you what happened!’ I told her, ‘Let me tell you what I’m doing.’ So, we go sit down. Anyway, she was awesome to share the story with me for the book. We became really close friends. It’s like God said, ‘Here. You’re supposed to put this in there.’ That’s how easy it was.

    “And the title? I was alone, and I said, ‘I’m going to have to have a title. What should I name it?’ And it was, God Rains Miracles. It was that quick that it came to me. I knew it wasn’t me because I hadn’t really thought about it.’ I go, ‘Oh! That is so clever! Playing with the word ‘rains/reigns’. The point of the book is that miracles are just raining all around us. That was just how it was supposed to be – how easy it was because God just handed it to me. 

    “Later, right after the book just finished and I had signed a bunch to the people – everyone that was in the book I signed a book and gave it to them. I went to this Christmas partyIrleneMandrell003 that had to do with Pat and some people that are in business with him in music. I got it (the book) done just before Christmas and here’s the Christmas party and I walk in and it’s like the Wizard of Oz in my mind. I didn’t say this out loud but I’m, like, ‘You’re in the book and you’re here. You’re in the book and you’re here!’ It was like, there it is! There is the point of the title. That’s what it’s about.”

    Since Irlene alluded to hearing from God, I asked her to expound on it.

    “I’ve only heard His voice once. I figured it was His voice or He allowed me to hear in a man’s loud, strong, deep voice from a sound sleep. I was working in a charity and I was thinking, ‘Why is this person that is supposed to be helping me do this now that I brought in and I’m not there to make these decisions. Why is he making these terrible decisions? It just doesn’t seem right, and I know he’s smarter than that.’ That’s all I could think of. “Wow. He’s just overloaded, maybe.’

    “Then, I’m sleeping and all of a sudden this voice just said – because I had some problems with him before – it (the voice) just woke me up. It (the voice) told me, ‘He’s working with so and so.’ My gosh!

    “I told somebody else who I knew helping me who then checked out some things and it turned out . . . yeah, they were taking money.

    “So, I was warned in a man’s voice that I always said was God. I’ve also read where God lets you hear a certain voice – stronger and that’s different than yours. It may not be God’s ‘voice’ but it’s still from God. 

    “This one lady that I did an interview with who I had met because I was doing something for the CD for the police. She’s Major Michelle. She’s in Jackson, Tennessee, and her husband’s the sheriff there. She was from Texas. When I met her, I found out they use her film - where she was left for dead in Texas as a policewoman – for a training film saying how quickly something that seems okay can change. 

    “As I was talking to her after that, she goes, ‘You know? Can I just share a story with you that you might want to hear?’ 

    “I remembered that we had these floods in Tennessee. We have these terrible floods where a lot of people were killed. Because her husband being the sheriff, there was a call from a different sheriff in another county nearby. What had happened, they were doing a rescue with this guy – it turned out to be his family. The family was saved but here’s the deal that gave me goosebumps when she told me because I don’t hear God’s voice all the time, I hear – I call it the Holy Spirit within me. 

    “The teenage boy was face down in this river when it was flooding. He was trying to swim. He couldn’t tell which way was up. The water’s rushing. He later turned over because he said a guy yelled at him from the bank, ‘Turn over to your back! Turn over to your back!’ He did. He was right on the surface and he could breathe. Not only that, when he went by these guys, they put this limb in front of him for him to grab and they pulled him to the bank. 

    “When everything happened, he said, ‘I’ve got to meet these guys who saved me. It’s so great that they told me to turn over to my back because I was panicked.’ 

    “They’re, like, ‘What? Nobody yelled anything. We were right there. No one yelled anything.’

    “That’s when I got goosebumps because that was God telling him to turn over.”

    There are some great stories, so I asked Irlene which story she would use as a calling card to entice people to order a copy of the book

    IrleneMandrell004“The story that made me want to write the book and to keep track of the stories was one that I always share with my kids at Christmas. I would remind them that Christmas is about Jesus and Jesus’s miracles; and that things happen differently, sometimes. You have no idea what it would affect. This particular miracle, had it happened differently in this family. 

    “My mom and dad had gotten married. Mom was just sixteen and she was the youngest of ten kids. I think it wasn’t a big deal that she took off with my dad. He was from Arkansas. He had come in with his brother. Both my dad and my mom had brothers who were preachers. That’s how they wound up meeting. Of course, that was cool because they instantly had the same beliefs and all that. 

    “So, they got married and started travelling around to different places where they had family. They decided that they wanted to settle in Houston, Texas. In the meantime, Mom wound up getting pregnant. They did not really know anybody in Houston other than when they started working there. 

    “When they went into this hospital on Christmas Eve, Mom went into labor, so they went there. She really didn’t have family there with her. Everything was fine, though, until things changed fast. All of a sudden, something happened, and the doctor came out and told my dad that there was nothing he could do. He was going to lose my mom and his baby. Something went wrong. There was nothing. There was NO chance.

    “Dad was out front. He was praying to himself. He had been a pharmacist’s mate in the Navy during World War II. Even though my dad’s name was Irby, in the Navy, they kind of give nicknames. Because he was from Arkansas, they called him Arby. 

    “So, it was kind of weird for him to all of a sudden hear, ‘Arby?’ That was from out of left field. It turned out to be a doctor that he had served under in the Navy. He was the head of the hospital. 

    “He told Dad, ‘I don’t really know what I can do. This case belongs to somebody else but let me check on it and I’ll be back.’ He told Dad, ‘I’ll take over, but I want you to assist like you did in the Navy.’ If you think about during World War II, there’s some heavy duty assisting going on. So, they had spent their hours together. 

    “That was Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, not only was my mom saved, but my sister, Barbara, was born. The miracle is that that doctor out of nowhere showed up! God will put people in your life out of nowhere that are there to help you and you forget that that’s a miracle. Where do they come from?!”

    As for feedback on the book, Irlene said:

    GodRainsMiraclesCover“Quite a bit because what I do, I’m only selling it – unless I’m appearing somewhere – on my website,IrleneMandrell.com. What I do is I get these orders from PayPal. The CDs are different. They come from someone else. On the books, I don’t care. If anyone’s weird on e-mail, that’s fine. I’ll just delete it. I went ahead and put my e-mail address to the people I get an order from, I say, ‘Thank you for your order. If you would like it personalized, please let me know and I’ll e-mail them, and I’ll sign it that it’s me. If I don’t hear back from them right away, I’ll give them at least three days and then I’ll just sign it and send it out if I don’t hear back from them. 

    “It’s amazing to me how many times I have gotten an e-mail back after somebody has read it, saying, ‘It blessed me. ThanksToYouCoverThank you! It’s a wonderful book.’ Quite a few times. It blesses me when they do that!”

    While we know that God can still perform miracles, we may catch ourselves saying, “I know He can, but does He, still?” This book answers that question. It’s encouraging, inspiring, and uplifting. It gives hope and, if you’ll let it, you just might feel a nudge from our Maker as you read it and let yourself be open to it.

    You can order the book and CD in plenty of time for Christmas by visiting IrleneMandrell.com .

     

  • October, 2014

    (L-R) Jeff Cook, Randy Owens and Teddy Gentry

         

    In the very early eighties, as what would become classic rock arguably began to decline instature among the masses, country music was (like today) holding its own.  That is, until a group out of Fort Payne, Alabama, took country music stages across America by a storm. No, make that a countrified blitzkrieg.

    How’s this for accomplishments?

    • Have sold seventy-five million albums and singles (combined)
    • Over 30 number one country hits according to Billboard magazine
    • R.I.A.A. named them as Country Group of the Century in 1999
    • Seven platinum albums
    • According to Wikipedia, the band is considered the most awarded band in country music with over 200 awards from a plethora of organizations
    • They’ve been credited with single-handedly broadening the appeal of country music well beyond its then-established boundaries, directly responsible for its continued appeal today
    • Still touring and producing popular, relevant country music today

    To that latter point, Alabama has just released a brand spankin’ new concert DVD entitled, “Alabama & Friends At The Ryman,” and it, once again, shows how and why the iconic country band has the staying power that it does.

    I’ve known a person or two who have worked under the band in various positions such as security and other services. They spoke glowingly of the band’s kindness, generosity and creativity and I could tell that they were giving the band more than lip service.  Consequently, I have always wanted to interview one or more of the band. Because of this new release, I was afforded the opportunity to interview the band’s lead guitarist, Jeff Cook, and, of course, I jumped at the chance.

    I reached Jeff on his cell phone as he was heading to Birmingham, Alabama, on some business and, after a little chit chat asked him what the feedback has been like, so far, on the DVD.

    “The DVD hasn’t been out long enough, I don’t think, to get an accurate reading but just speculating, I think we’re going to have a pretty nice product here that people will want.” And what about comments from friends?  “Well, I haven’t talked to any of my friends who has it!”

    I was curious how the band determined who would perform with them and if the guest artists were friends of theirs. His answer reflected the mind of a man who has been in the business for a long time.

    “Well, I think we all had crossed paths at least once. A lot of it had to do with who could do it, contractually. There were some other folks who would’ve liked to have worked with us on it but couldn’t for a variety of reasons. There was no, ‘I like you better,’ kind of thing.”

    I used Cook’s comment to jump ahead to a question I had planned to ask later in the interview which was: How did he see the impact of the changes on the business side of country music?

    “This is a personal observation and opinion. I don’t think success can be achieved today as it was when it was our turn because the music and the industry is constantly changing. Methods of operation and everything that’s sometimes not always great.

    “The positive changes, the way I look at it, are the recordings – the technology – has come along and getting stronger every day - quality of the music, the technical quality, not the content. That’s always debatable. Now, the guy who wrote the song probably loves it but that don’t mean his buddy does.”
    Did the guest artists bring anything new to the songs?

    “We stressed to ‘em, ‘Do your own thing to put your twist on it. Let’s see what your interpretation is’ instead of, ‘Let’s copy Alabama.’ I think that turned out what we intended it to be.”

    Artists typically refuse to pick a favorite song of theirs because doing so would be akin to picking one’s favorite child. So, I asked Jeff which performance he would point to as a “calling card” for the video.

    “I think, probably, Trisha Yearwood did a great job on the song she did. That’s a good sample of the quality of these songs and the interpretations by the artists.”

    With such a wealthy catalog of additional great songs in their arsenal, I asked Jeff if there were any plans for any follow up concert videos like this one.
    “I guess anything like that is possible. It just depends on the marketing minds that are working on it now. I would like to see another one of these down the pike. We need to give this one time to do its thing. ‘Course, being filmed at the Ryman didn’t hurt anything, either. In fact, it was an honor to be able to play there with so many great artists who’ve worked there. I think we’ve played the Opry – in that building – twice. The first time we played on the Opry out at Opryland, my mother and daddy were having their fiftieth anniversary. We did a dry run because I wanted to show them how to get into the back in the parking area. While we were there, Minnie Pearl and her entourage comes up. It was all over then. They didn’t care if we played or not since they got to talk to Minnie Pearl!”

    While Jeff and I did share at length our admiration for various legacy country artists who were key to shaping and continuing the genre, I was curious who of the new crop of artists were commanding his attention.

    “Well, it depends on watcha call ‘new.’ I like Brad Paisley’s stuff. Of course, I think one of the best female singers is, of course, Trisha Yearwood. Also, Martina McBride, but she’s not on this DVD, unfortunately.”

    I shifted the course of our chat just a little by bringing up that the music industry (country, rock and other genres) seems to ignore the older talent that we still love to listen to its financial detriment, which makes no sense at all. I mentioned talent like the late George Jones as well as other Country Music Hall of Famers that seem to be virtually ignored by the industry. I asked Jeff what his take on it was.

    “Well, first of all, I’d like to say that I like the older stuff, too, as well. I was fortunate enough to have an invitation extended to play with George (Jones) and did several shows with him prior to his death. He still put it all on the stage. That’s George and the way George does it. And it’s true of a lot of other artists, too. Some of them haven’t had time to build a catalog or a performance record that others have. But it comes down to the business side of the business instead of the performance side that I think could be changed to actually revert back to some of the stuff that worked better, maybe.”

    That comment provoke my often asked question of artists: If you were made the Music Czar and given the mission to fix the industry, what would you do to fix it?

    “Have laws passed that you couldn’t have a monopoly on radio stations – corporately owned. When Alabama did it, we sat down and wrote letters and sent out 45’s – remember those? – sent out 45 RPM records to radio stations. We’d get up and drive three different directions from Myrtle Beach. You’d get wet if you kept going east.  We’d go north, south and west and reach as many stations as we could visit and write letters to because there were actually program directors and music directors in the building. It wasn’t just a title. They actually got to decide what was played and it’s not that way in a lot of cases, any more. You can’t get that one-on-one relation with the stations. That would fix a lot of things, right there.

    “If you’re any good at what you do, you can set up your own concerts and station visits and such as that. It’s gotten so complicated and full of

         

    (L-R) Jeff Cook, Randy Owens and Teddy Gentry

    red tape, too many hands out that it loses its personality. There’s a lot of things that could be changed or undone. You’ve got the people at the top who want to make all the money. Then you’ve got the people who are interested in the music and the performance.”

    Cook then answered my questions about tour plans and what was on Alabama’s radar for the next year and, maybe, a little beyond.

    “Oh, yes. We have been touring for the last two and a half years or so. We’ve already got fifteen shows booked into next year. We’re not going to do three hundred dates a year like we used to. But I think we’ll probably do twenty or thirty dates. We’re at a point in our career that we don’t have to play everyplace that’s offered. We can pick and choose. Is it going to kill us to get from Point A to Point B in x-amount of time?”

    As for the future for the band, Jeff said, “Yeah, we’re coming out with a new country album. Give it about six months. We’re still looking for material. We’ll probably write some of it and take some that’s submitted. Hopefully, it will be good. Ha! Ha!

    “Of course, we have the Cracker Barrel gospel album that we worked out with the Gaither people. That’s doing really well. They underestimated the sales by 209%. They’ve been sold out a lot. It’s a good thing but it’s a bad thing. Everybody buys the record at the first of the week. When the weekend comes and you get all the traffic through there that might see the signs to pick up a copy of the CD and there’s no product. But they’re working on that.

    “The story behind that CD is that, for years, we toyed around with the possibility of doing a gospel album with recognizable tunes – things that you heard growing up, in church, and such as that. Finally, we had the opportunity to work with Bill Gaither’s companies. They’re the people that seem to have the thing refined, now, as far as getting gospel music out there. For the month of September, it was exclusive for Cracker Barrel and you get three bonus songs that won’t be on the others that, as of October first, it will be at Wal-Mart, K-Mart and all the normal outlets. I’m sure that it can be downloaded, also.”

    Continuing about the gospel album, Cook said, “We picked from a list of songs suggested by the Gaither organization and then we added to it and got the top four new songs – new to me, anyway. One of them I wrote. I suggest to the people who might want a copy of this that they go to CrackerBarrel.com or pick one up at their local Cracker Barrel.”

    When I joked with Jeff about why he hadn’t sent me a review copy of the album, he said, “I had buy mine from a Cracker Barrel off of I-65 going to Nashville.  That sounds funny but that’s the way it happened! I got two copies so that I could listen to it in quadraphonic sound. Ha! Ha!”

    I asked Cook how the band’s upbringing (whether in or out of church) affected the song selection for the gospel album.

    “Well, for us and our generation – even older than that, some of them were played in church. Teddy’s mentioned several times that the first songs that he ever heard were in church and then country came along, subsequently. Teddy’s mother and aunts sang in church. That’s where he picked up playing guitar. Of course, Randy’s family had made records and such before and we played on those. It just seemed like the natural thing to do for us. We didn’t have a whole lot of problem with lyric sheets because we knew the words.”

    In the old days of Southern Gospel music, the groups and quartets had to pay for their own record production, handle their own marketing and sales and all other related activities. I commented to Jeff that it seems that up and coming acts are having to do pretty much the same thing and asked if that was an accurate observation on my part.

    “I think a lot of those responsibilities fall back on the band and management – the promotion, as well. Of course, social networks help promote things – an electronic word of mouth helps get the product out there – the promotions and such – to the right people.”

    As our time was winding down I asked Jeff if he had any solo work or other kinds of side projects going on.

    “We’ve all done solo things. I work with another band called “All Star Good Time Band” – an eight piece group with a horn section and we do a little bit of everything. And, then, Randy’s doing some solo stuff and Teddy’s got a group that he calls, “Rocket City,” that he does a few things with. That’s that and then there’s “Alabama.”

    My final question for Jeff Cook before we had to go was one that I ask many artists who have a long, distinguished career such as himself: How did he want to be remembered and what did he hope his and the band’s legacy would be?

    “We’ve had so many firsts in our career; it’s going to be hard for anybody to catch up. We all feel that we’re not going to kill ourselves touring. We kind of pick and choose what we need and want to do. Things are a lot better as far as the touring situation. You can hardly get Randy and Teddy on an airplane but I don’t want to go anywhere unless I go on an airplane. Just little things like that.

    “As far as being remembered, we’re the Country Group of the Century so we won’t be around to see who takes our place. So I guess I want us to be remembered as somebody who put out quality music, enjoyed life and made a lot of friends along the way.”