Alabama's Jeff Cook reveals that he has Parkinson's disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and causes tremors. Cook has been diagnosed about four years ago. However, he has decided to keep the diagnosis private until now. Because of how the disease is impacting his body, Cook is now choosing to step back from touring, effective April 29.
"This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors," Cook wrote in a prepared statement for fans that he read aloud to journalists from the USA TODAY NETWORK. "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 is planning to play the group's May 27th concert in Orange Beach, Ala., as well as an upcoming fan event in June. Other than those shows, Cook intends to drop in on the road and sing when he feels like it. However, the majority of the time, his instrumental and vocal parts will be covered by other musicians.
Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen, the other two Alabama members, stress that Cook's microphone will always be on stage - regardless of whether he's there to use it. "That's the part that hurts so bad, for people to think that he's intoxicated or something," Randy Owen said. "He's not, and me and Teddy wanted to say a lot of things to these people.
"He wants us to go on," Owen said. "We want the music to go on. I'm going to be very honest. I don't know if I have the fire. The only way I do, is knowing that Jeff is totally, 'Go get it.'"
The band holds out hope that Cook's health will improve and he'll be able to rejoin them on tour on a regular basis. They stress that his microphone will always be on stage - regardless of whether he's there to use it.
"Whenever he can be there, he will," Owen added. "And I believe he will. I don't see the future, but I feel the future."
Despite scoring 33 #1 country music hits, Alabama has also caused an impact on Christian music. Alabama's final two RCA Records albums "Songs of Inspirations" and "Songs of Inspirations II" both debuted at #1 on the Billboard Christian Album chart.