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How a Poor Country Boy Became A Superstar

“BORN COUNTRY” by Randy Owen with Allen Rucker. Harper One. 275 pages. $26.

If you’re looking for Randy Owen to dish on Alabama’s life on the road or what led to the lawsuit between drummer Mark Herndon and the rest of the band, you won’t find it here.

“Born Country” is Randy Owen’s autobiography, and the front man for the group that won eight Entertainer of the Year Awards from the Country Music Association is too much of a gentleman to sing and tell.

What you will find is the story of a man who loves his family homestead in Fort Payne so much that fame and fortune couldn’t tear his roots out of the North Alabama soil. He lives today on the same land that his family worked for generations.

Owen spends two-thirds of the book describing his childhood growing up on Lookout Mountain and his teen years in Fort Payne. The last third describes Alabama’s successful career —how they rose from a Myrtle Beach club band to country superstars — and charities close to Owen’s heart, most notably St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The son of a poor sharecropper, Owen credits his father for instilling in him values, faith and a love of music. His devotion to his late father is obvious as he writes how his father taught him to plant and taught him guitar. Working alongside his father also taught Owen respect for the land — “live on it, work it, protect it” — that he passed to his children and continues to instill in youth today with scholarships that help young Alabama farmers-to-be.

He tells of growing up with his cousin, Teddy Gentry, and a more distant relative, Jeff Cook, who lived in “the metropolis” of Fort Payne. He describes how the three teens got together at Cook’s house one afternoon and started fiddling around with a song Owen had written about an old girlfriend. From that tentative sound grew the band that played music together almost 40 years.

Owen tells his story in a straightforward style that is humble, honest and unassuming. He opens each chapter with lyrics from an Alabama hit he wrote and describes the story behind the song. Readers will be surprised at how autobiographical Alabama’s hits actually were.

Otherwise, there are no surprises, no big reveals, no gossip about any party-hardy escapades offstage as many tell-alls count on to up sales.

“Born Country” is just a look into the private life of a singer who lived a very public life and how his faith and family kept him grounded.