On Tuesday, November 19, during an intimate CMA Board reception at the Analog at Hutton Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, ALABAMA frontman Randy Owen was on-hand to present a special award, or so he thought. Owen and his wife Kelly traveled to Nashville under the impression he would be presenting radio vet Lon Helton with an industry honor. As the event unfolded, Owen realized he'd been fooled when Helton took the stage, surprising the Country Music Hall of Famer with the CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award.
"I'm truly surprised and grateful for this award," says Owen. "Hopefully, this will inspire other artists to follow their hearts to help the down and out, the helpless and especially sick children and families in need. I am so grateful to my longtime friend Lon Helton for presenting me with this award."
The CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award recognizes an individual who has served as a humanitarian through community leadership, financial support, personal volunteerism and advocacy. The individual honored has evidenced commitment to worthwhile causes that are important to the Country Music Association and the country music community.
In 1989, Owen was selected by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital founder, Danny Thomas, to get the country music industry involved in raising funds for the facility. As a result, Owen created Country Cares, one of the most successful fundraising campaigns in radio history. Since its inception, Country Cares has pioneered radio charitable fundraising, raising more than $875 million for the hospital. Owen is also involved in a variety of additional philanthropic endeavors including spearheading June Jam festivals, which have raised over $15 million for charities, Alabama Sheriffs Boys Ranch summer camps and celebrity golf tournaments as well as tornado and hurricane benefits. ALABAMA participated in a 2017 hurricane benefit, supporting the victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The event raised $40 million and drew five former U.S. presidents to attend: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
*Photo courtesy of CMA
It's been 50 years since Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen left the cotton farms of Fort Payne, Alabama to spend the summer playing music in a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina bar called The Bowery. It's a classic American tale of rags to riches. From humble beginnings picking cotton in the fields to international stars, ALABAMA went on to sell 80 million albums and change the face and sound of country music. Quality songs that have become the soundtrack for American life are the foundation for ALABAMA's stellar career. The group introduced rock style guitars, lights, pyrotechnics and sounds to the country audience that has inspired many of today's brightest country stars including Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. While their music continues to stand the test of time, their numbers and stats are beyond compare. Five decades since starting the band, ALABAMA has charted 43 #1 singles, including 21 #1 singles in a row, and have won dozens of CMA, GRAMMY®, and ACM Awards. They are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition, they are world-class philanthropists who have raised millions of dollars for various charities.