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Alabama Singer Surprised on 50th

December 1, 1999

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ Months of preparation were close enough to perfect to keep Randy Owen in the dark about a surprise party for his 50th birthday.

``This has to be the greatest practical joke of the century,″ Owen, singer for the band Alabama, said as 500 friends and relatives helped celebrate Tuesday night.

``How long have you known about this?″ he demanded of his cousin and bandmate, bass player Teddy Gentry.

``About three years,″ Gentry deadpanned.

The singer’s actual birthday is Dec. 13. Business associates helped Owen’s wife, Kelly, lure her husband to Birmingham on the pretense of a meeting.

She was relieved the secret was out. ``I’ve never had to lie to this guy before,″ Mrs. Owen said. ``I can tell him tonight that I’m not having an affair.″

Many guests came from Fort Payne, the northeast Alabama base of the band, whose hits include ``My Home’s in Alabama″ and ``Close Enough to Perfect.″

``I think everbody in Fort Payne knew about this but Dad,″ said Owen’s son, Heath.

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