When Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook finished their sound check at The Bowery Thursday afternoon, they walked around the venue where they became the band Alabama as though walking down memory lane.
Gentry paused to look at photos and other memorabilia on the walls, as though he were reliving the time he spent at The Bowery from 1973 to 1980.
“It’s very emotional,” Owen said before the band was scheduled to perform the invitation-only show at The Bowery. “We’ve lost so many of our good buddies who worked here when we were here. We’re going to dedicate songs to them tonight.”
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All three band members remarked about how different Myrtle Beach looks compared to the time they served as the house band for The Bowery.
“I only think they left The Bowery here so we could have a place to play,” Cook said.
Gentry said one of the biggest changes has been the number of people in town pretty much year-round.
“The biggest change since 1973 is there were a lot less red lights,” Gentry said. “After the season, you could lay down in the middle of Kings Highway and not get run over. It’s a lot busier now.”
Owen said he was looking forward to spending some time in Myrtle Beach before heading off – they’re kicking off their “Back to The Bowery” tour Friday and Saturday at Alabama Theatre.
The band members have a strong connection to Myrtle Beach – Owen met his wife Kelly as she sat in the front row of The Bowery in 1973 and Gentry’s two children were born at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.
Owen said it was important for the band to kick off the tour celebrating 40 years in music business at The Bowery because their time in Myrtle Beach was spent like a close-knit beach family.
“Forty years,” Owen said. “We’re so thankful that we made it that long and survived so many almost unbelievable [challenges] to keep us from being successful.”
The city of Myrtle Beach braced itself for a large turnout of people who weren’t invited to the private event that was expected to seat 200 to 225 people, but a rainy windy day seemed to have kept some people away.
Kristen Clukey from Watertown, N.Y., positioned herself along a barricade in front of The Bowery’s open shutters hoping to catch some of the show. She is in town for baseball tournament that her son is in, she said, and when she learned Alabama would be performing in Myrtle Beach she was able to get a ticket to Friday’s show at the Alabama Theatre.
“I figured I’d see them twice,” she said. “If I could stay one more day I’d go Saturday, too.”
The rain had died down by about 8 p.m. when those with invites began to file into the venue. Clukey said she’d have been out there even if the weather hadn’t let up.
“I don’t care, I’d stand in the rain, thunder and lightening,” she said.
Mouse Rosenburg, who said he has worked at The Bowery since 1954, said Thursday night’s show would be the first time he’s seen the band perform together since they left in 1980 – and he was looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be crazy tonight,” he said before the show.