Alabama; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
LAUREN JO BLACK • APRIL 11, 2017 - 11:37 AM
Jeff Cook, fiddle player and guitarist for Country Music Hall of Fame group Alabama, has Parkinson’s disease.
The Tennessean exclusively broke the news to fans Tuesday morning (April 11) with a statement from Cook, who has been keeping his diagnosis under wraps for several years.
“This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors,” the 67-year-old shared, reading aloud from a previously 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.”
Cook and his bandmates, Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry, have kept the news of his condition a secret until now as he plans to take a step back from touring with the award-winning band starting April 29. While he may pop up at a few shows here and there, Cook plans to take time off to focus on his health.
His longtime bandmates are completely supportive of his decision, telling the publication that his microphone will always be set up on stage, whether he is there or not.
“We could hire 10 people, but we can’t replace Jeff Cook in the group Alabama,” Gentry told The Tennessean with tears in his eyes. “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 first signs of the disease came when Cook was unable to cast his fishing lure accurately. Later, he noticed that he was struggling to hit his guitar notes. That’s when he sought help and his doctor decided to test him for Parkinson’s disease. He said he felt “empty” after learning the devastating news.
Since rising to fame in 1980, Alabama has sold more than 75 million albums and singles and earned 43 chart-topping singles. The group holds eight Entertainer of the Year trophies and was crowned the Academy of Country Music Artist of the Decade in 1989.
Other notable celebrities who have suffered from Parkinson’s disease include Michael J. Fox, Robin Williams, and Muhammad Ali.