Alabama at the grandstand
HURON -- There are no mountains in Huron, but there's a good chance "Mountain Music" will be played there Friday night.
One of country music's longest lasting and most celebrated bands, Alabama, will perform as part of the State Fair's grandstand entertainment, and band member Teddy Gentry said the group is looking forward to it.
"I love the outdoor shows. The fairs are my favorite thing to play," Gentry said.
Alabama will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the grandstand on the South Dakota State Fair grounds in Huron. Tickets are $45 for general admission or $40 for standing room, and are available at (866) 605-3247, www.sdstatefair.com or at the grandstand box office. Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band will open for Alabama at 7 p.m.
Candi Briley, marketing/events coordinator for the State Fair, declined to release how many tickets had been sold for the concert by Wednesday, but said Alabama has outsold all other grandstand concerts for the past several years. She said the capacity for the show is more than 7,000.
Briley attributed the show's strong ticket sales to Alabama's status in the country music world as well as fan excitement about the group's return from retirement. Alabama retired in 2004, then returned to the stage in 2011.
"I think everyone is just excited for a group like them to come back and be able to play the State Fair," Briley said. "We usually do really well with this kind of country show."
Gentry said the group's return to performing started when band members did some shows for charity events.
"We said, 'Well, this was more fun than we remember -- let's go play some shows,' " Gentry recalled.
One of the band's original members, Gentry, and his cousins, Randy Owen and Jeff Cook, started Alabama. In the years since, the band has achieved 21-straight No. 1 singles and filled trophy cases with awards, including two Grammys, the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian award, entertainer of the year three times from the County Music Association and five times from the Academy of Country Music and the ACM's Artist of the Decade award. Members also were given places in the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"We've been so blessed to have the success that we've had," Gentry said.
He said it's humbling to know they still have a strong fan base after 41 years in the business, and credits the fans for providing the band to be flexible and try different things musically over the years. Though most prominently associated with country music, the band's repertoire also has hints of southern rock and bluegrass.
"We felt we had the freedom to be creative and not get stuck in a rut," he said. "You just try to put out a good piece of product and take pride in the shows that you put on."
He noted the tour schedule is more relaxed than in years past, with the band putting on maybe 25 shows this year, rather than spending the entire year on the road. He still lives in Alabama, where he raises beef, hogs and chickens.
"My roots are here, this is where I was raised," he said. "This is where I feel at home."
The band recently finished a new gospel album, which goes on sale Sept. 8, according to the band's website. Gentry said it's been more than a decade since Alabama recorded a gospel album, and the new one features many of the songs band members remember from their childhood, as well as some new tracks.
When the All American Tour 2014 arrives at the grandstand, Gentry said fans can expect a mix of up-tempo, ballads, old and new.
"We try to entertain the people and play a combination," he said. "We know what the crowd wants to hear most of the time, the songs that were most popular."