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Alabama launches their historic farewell tour with good times and history-making flair

Story by Larry Holden

Alabama is accustomed to making history and headlines. And now - as the most acclaimed and successful country music group ever has announced that they're leaving the road - they're doing both.

  • With the groundbreaking musical extravaganza of The American Farewell Tour, the group's string of blowout final concerts
  • With a just-released double-CD album, In The Mood: The Love Songs, featuring a revolutionary, interactive way to buy tour tickets before they go on sale to the general public
  • With an array of fan appreciation events, including 100 custom- made farewell tour guitars presented to fans at each concert
  • With a cool NASCAR connection to the tour, a unique tribute CD in October and a prime-time network TV special

The members of Alabama - Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, Jeff Cook and Mark Herndon - could never have imagined when they set out on their musical odyssey that they'd rack up 42 No. 1s, sell more than

70 million albums, take home some 150 major awards, raise millions of dollars for charity and become country music legends. But that's exactly what they've done.

And, make no mistake, the 'Bama boys are saying farewell to miles and miles on the road. But they're not saying farewell to country music, or to each other.

"Before the rumors start flying," declares Randy with a smile, "it's important that our fans understand that Alabama is not breaking up. And we're not mad at one another and we're not fed up with each other."

"We just felt like the time was right for us to end the touring part of our career," explains Teddy, "and do it the way we wanted to do it. So we're commemorating our Silver Anniversary in 2003 with a huge tour to reach all the fans who have been there for us the past 25 years."

Tour executive producer Marc Oswald of Land of Os, Inc., was approached by Alabama's management and record label in early 2002 about developing and promoting a massive tour.

"We've created a spectacular show," notes Oswald, "and we're taking Alabama coast to coast to say farewell to the road. We're handling all the details - so that Randy, Teddy, Jeff and Mark can just play the music they love and enjoy their time with the fans."

Randy thinks that's the perfect scenario. "The tour will be a celebration of our music," he explains. "We'll be looking back on some of our past songs as we go to the various cities on the tour. Playing those songs will be like going back and finding an old and very special friend who you haven't seen in a while and who you really care a lot about."

The farewell tour kicked off New Year's Eve at the posh Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Just before midnight - marked by $500,000 worth of fireworks exploding in unison from the top of several casinos - the Alabama boys were making musical fireworks of their own in front of more than 5,000 pumped-up fans.

The farewell tour's intricate set, sporting a huge steel-girdered mountain bridge, was the perfect backdrop to the show, which sizzled with the band's classic harmonies and standout solo performances. And millions watching the annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve from New York's Times Square were treated to a segment of Alabama's Vegas performance.

"There's also a concert at the famed Houston Rodeo March 16 and a special RCA tribute show during Fan Fair in Nashville in early June," explains producer Oswald. "At that tribute show, many artists will go onstage to honor Alabama by singing Alabama's hits. And the June 14 show in Nashville - a week after Fan Fair - actually launches the full run of the tour, which rolls until mid-November."

"Each show will be a one-of-a-kind experience," reveals Randy. "Because we're covering lots of music over lots of years, no two shows will be alike. We'll sing some songs in some cities that we won't in another. We may mix in a gospel tune at one place, a patriotic tune in another. And there may be special guests to sing onstage with us.

"We're just going to let our hair down and have a good time. And we're going to make the last show as energetic and high-quality as the first show."

Jeff agrees. "We're going to crisscross America doing some 40-plus shows - and our goal is to bring the fans the best performance possible. And we are going to have a lot of fun along the way!" "And we're definitely going to be sentimental on this farewell tour," notes Mark, "because all four of us have had such tremendous times out on the road."

The American Farewell Tour will add to those tremendous times.

"It's Alabama's silver anniversary," notes Oswald, "and a lot has happened in those 25 years - both in the career of the band and in life of America. So we're bringing to audiences a visual, film-type production on a movie theater-size screen that represents 25 years of Alabama's history interwoven with 25 years of America's history.

"Back in the early '80s," continues Oswald, "Alabama was the first act in country music to go on tour with the same kind of massive production that rock performers had. With their farewell tour, they're being innovative again."

One innovation is the just-released CD In The Mood: The Love Songs, a collection of the band's past music, plus new songs. But the CD isn't only music.

"For the first time ever," notes Oswald, "when fans buy the album, they get an enhanced CD they can pop into their computer, log straight on to the Internet and buy tickets to any show on the tour - without getting on the phone, waiting in line or being inconvenienced in any way. That allows the fans to connect right into the tour and bypass the normal on-sale ticket process. It's the most fan-friendly way any act has ever made it possible for their fans to get to a show.

There are exclusive Alabama and Farewell Tour details in the current (2/18/03 ) "Newsstand Issue" on sale now!