Alabama will be honored with an Award of Merit at the upcoming 30th annual American Music Awards ceremony for "outstanding contributions to the musical entertainment of the American public." Fellow co

Alabama will be honored with an Award of Merit at the upcoming 30th annual American Music Awards ceremony for "outstanding contributions to the musical entertainment of the American public." Fellow country artist Reba McEntire will present the award to the band at the Jan. 13 show, which will be hosted by the Osbournes and broadcast live on ABC.

The award's inscription will read, in part, "For over a quarter of a century, the energy and excitement of this band's music has brought them millions of fans, an amazing 42 No. 1 hits and the most awards in any category on the 'American Music Awards.'" Previous honorees include Bing Crosby, Irving Berlin, Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald, Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra.

Alabama made the announcement of their retirement in May at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards in Los Angeles. "After long thought and thinking very deeply, and while we still love one another, while we still care very deeply about one another, we want to announce to the fans all across the world that starting next year in 2003, it will be our farewell tour," lead singer/guitarist Randy Owen said at the time. The group is rounded out by bassist Teddy Gentry, lead guitarist/keyboardist Jeff Cook, and drummer Mark Herndon

As previously reported, Alabama will spend much of 2003 on the road with its American Farewell Tour, which began with a New Year's Eve show in Las Vegas, and will include a March 16 show during Texas' annual RodeoHouston event. The main portion of the planned 40-city tour will kick off in June and run through November, with tickets for most of the shows scheduled to go on sale to the public in mid-March.

According to the band's official Web site, its forthcoming interactive RCA compilation CD "In the Mood: The Love Songs" will allow purchasers the opportunity to take advantage of pre-sale opportunities for shows on the tour (the packaging will also provide passwords and information for those without a PC or Internet access).

In addition, VIP packages will offer such exclusives as front row seats, backstage passes, opportunities to meet the band, and even an autographed limited edition custom Gibson guitar. All fans attending a show on Alabama's final tour will receive a copy of the official commemorative tour program, which features 72-full-color pages.

Alabama's last studio album, "When It All Goes South" was released in 2001, and debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and No. 37 on The Billboard 200.

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