One of the highlights from the Tumbleweed Country Music and Camping Festival was when Randy Owen of Alabama held out the microphone and asked the fans to help sing “High Cotton.”

The Alabama band members suddenly numbered in the thousands for the set, which was performed Saturday, June 1, at Wildwood Outdoor Education Center near La Cygne as part of their special 50th Anniversary Tour.

They were the headliners for the three-day Tumbleweed country music festival that kicked off Thursday, May 30.

Cousins Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook have been playing for fans in honky tonks, state fairs, arenas, stadiums and in the pasture since 1969.

When they put the band together, they were called Wild Country, releasing Wild Country in 1976. Deuces Wild, the second album, recorded in 1977, featured eight tracks including songs like “Tennessee River” and “Lady Down on Love.”

The group later released a record as The Alabama Band No. 3 and performed more than 300 shows. Hits from the record included “Why Lady Why” and “My Home’s In Alabama.”

Shortly after the popularity of that album, RCA approached the band about signing them to a record deal and the rest is now 50 years of country music history.

“Tennessee River,” the first Alabama single for RCA released in May 1980, was the first of 21 consecutive No. 1 singles for the band. Other chart-busting hits to follow included “Feel’s So Right” (1981), “Mountain Music” and “Take Me Down” (1982), “The Closer You Get,” “Dixieland Delight” and “Lady Down on Love” (1983), “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas” (1984), “40-Hour Week” and “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” (1985), “You’ve Got the Touch” and “Fallin’ Again” (1986) and “Song of the South” (1988).

Owen and Gentry showed some American pride, paying tribute to the military and farmers and ranchers with “Born Country” and “Down Home” during their set at Tumbleweed on Saturday, June 1.

“Me and Teddy are so proud to be in the United States of America,” Owen said. “We are proud because here in America we have dreams. Those dreams can’t happen without our military. This song is dedicated to you all.”

The crowd applauded and began chants of “USA, USA, USA, USA.”

Farmers and ranchers also keep America rolling along, Owen said.

“Some of the people we love and truly admire are our farmers and ranchers, and our future farmers in the FFA,” he said. “They are great leaders for our country. They are strong, beautiful people.”

Marshall Tucker Band and Blackberry Smoke, among other groups, also performed during Tumbleweed.

Sports Editor Gene Morris can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or gene.morris@miconews.com.

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