Alabama 3 are a British band mixing rock, dance, blues, country, and gospel styles. Founded in Brixton, London, in 1996. In the United States, it is known as A3 to avoid a legal conflict with the well-established country music band Alabama. The group achieved international fame when the producers of hit TV series The Sopranos chose its track "Woke Up This Morning" for the show's opening credits.
The band is particularly notable for its fusion of styles, lyrics full of ironic intent, its deliberately humorous personas, and its outrageous live performances. Every member of the group has an alias by which they are known, the band's founding members adopting the personas Larry Love (Rob Spragg) and The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love (Jake Black).
The band formed when Jake Black met Rob Spragg at an acid house party in Peckham and they decided that a fusion of country music with acid house was a musical possibility. Other members of the band were accumulated over a lengthy period, but it is known that Rob Spragg was at university with Piers Marsh, the harmonica player and synth programmer for the band whilst Orlando Harrison, the group's current keyboardist, used to live with Jake Black. Prior to the formation of the Alabama 3 Jake had gone through his "wilderness years" period of which there is little or no recorded output. This creative gulch lasted years following the demise of The Jangletties.
Starting their act under the alias the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine (UK), the group eventually switched names to Alabama 3 and, after having been dismissed by the mainstream media as a novelty act, the group finally signed with One Little Indian Records in 1997 for the release of its debut album, Exile on Coldharbour Lane.
In August 2007, the group toured under the name of Alabama 3: Acoustic and Unplugged, with Harpo Strangelove and Devlin Love to promote its new album M.O.R. (released , 2007). Bassist John "Segs" Jennings apparently left the band, saying he is "busy elsewhere and have the time." The latest album M.O.R includes a cover of Jerry Reed's 1970s hit "Amos Moses" and features The Proclaimers on the track "Sweet Joy" plus piano parts on the country stomp version of the Gil Scott Heron song The Clan by Brian Jackson. In September and October 2007, the band toured the UK in support of M.O.R. with Irish band Republic Of Loose supporting.
On Friday 29 February 2008, Larry Love, Devlin Love and Mark Sams did an encore with Carbon/Silicon at the seventh and final Carbon Casino gig at the Inn on the Green, under the Westway. Mick Jones joined the group onstage to add guitar and backing vocals to a version of "Woke Up This Morning."
Larry Love of Alabama 3 on stage at Carbon Casino 7
Current band members/aliases
The members of the band are
Jake Black AKA The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love: vocals
Rob Spragg AKA Larry Love: vocals
Zoe Devlin AKA Devlin Love: vocals
Piers Marsh AKA The Mountain of Love: programming, keyboards, vocals and harmonica
Simon (The Dude) Edwards AKA Sir Eddie Real: percussion
Orlando Harrison AKA The Spirit: keyboards, keyboard bass
Mark Sams AKA Rock Freebase: guitar, bass guitar
Jonny Delafons AKA L. B. Dope: drums, percussion
Steve Finnerty AKA LOVEPIPE: production, additional guitar and additional vocals
Alabama 3's sound is a blend of country, blues, and acid house. Their songs have sampled Jim Jones in "Mao Tse Tung Said" and Birmingham Six survivor Patrick Hill in "The Thrills Have Gone." Trouser Press reviewer Jason Reeher wrote that A3's "debut is brilliant and shambolic...owing huge debts to both Hank Williams and Happy Mondays."
Alabama 3's music in TV and film
a remixed version of Alabama 3's song "Woke Up This Morning" (the original of which is featured on Exile on Coldharbour Lane) plays during the opening credits of the HBO television series The Sopranos.
A snippet of "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlife" can be heard at the beginning of the first episode of the third season of The Sopranos as Tony Soprano walks down the drive way to get his morning newspaper.
"Mansion on the Hill" featured on the Kurt Russell/Kevin Costner film 3000 Miles to Graceland.
"Too Sick to Pray", from La Peste, plays on the radio at one point in the film Gone in 60 Seconds and "Peace in the Valley" in A Life Less Ordinary.
A shortened alternate version of "Woke Up This Morning" can be heard for nearly 50 seconds in The Simpsons episode "Papa's Got a Brand New Badge", while Fat Tony and his gang are on the ride to the Simpsons' house. The sequence is a parody of the opening sequence of The Sopranos. "Woke Up This Morning" is also in the later Simpsons episode "The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer", which guest-starred Sopranos regulars Michael Imperioli and Joe Pantoliano.
"Sister Rosetta" from Exile on Coldharbour Lane can be heard in the film Barnyard.
Rapper Nas sampled "Woke Up This Morning" for his 2001 hit, "Got Ur Self A...."
Woke Up This Morning was also used in an episode of BBC series Top Gear, in which the team were driving through Alabama itself.
Alabama 3's song "Mao Tse Tung Said" from Exile on Coldharbour Lane was used in the first episode of the second season of Torchwood.
The song "Ain't Goin' to Goa" from Exile on Coldharbour Lane is featured in the motion picture Definitely, Maybe
The closing scene to first season Criminal Minds episode titled "Won't Get Fooled Again" (10/05/05) plays "The Night We Nearly Got Busted" from Exile on Coldharbour Lane
A snippet of "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" is in 'Some Voices'(2000) with Daniel Craig and Kelly MacDonald.
The band are also featured in the documentary We Dreamed America. Three of their songs are used in the film, which is about the influence of American Country music on British Artists.
Episode four of the BBC Three series "Being Human" features 'Too Sick To Pray' at its opening and 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlife' at its end. (2009)
Rob Sparagg (as Rob Love) wrote and recorded the theme to Welsh TV series Y Pris. He and John Hardy won the Best Original Music Soundtrack award at BAFTA Cymru 2008.
Mansion on the Hill, is used on the opening credits of Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanghs mockumentory Good Arrows in 2008
On the Region 4 DVD release of the Sopranos' first season, the case incorrectly cites the "Woke Up This Morning" music video included in the Special Features as being performed by "Alabama 5".