There must be 10,000 stories about regional "mew-zi-shuns" heading to Nashville with flat-top guitars and just enough money for supper. You never hear much about the 9,900 who fail and return home to sell insurance and Tupperware.

But people can't hear enough about the ones who made it to the top.Take the group Alabama.

Twenty years ago Alabama - a four-man combo - was a generic bar-band playing down-and-out honky tonks throughout the rural South. They stayed in cheap hotels, ate cheap food and played almost for free.

"We'd get one room for all four of us," says Randy Owen, the group's lead singer. "Then at night we'd lie in bed till 3 a.m. and practice our harmonies. It was not a great time for us."

But the group had the three things that regional bands need to make it: Tenacity, talent and timing. They didn't have looks - they had a lead guitarist that was 80 pounds overweight and a bass player who looked like a string-bean hobo.

But they had Owens, who sang with heart - when he could hit the right pitch.

They pooled all their money and cut a record.

"They were playing in South Carolina when the record came out," says Country Joe of KSOP. "It was called `I Want to Be with You Tonight.' It didn't do much, but it was just enough to tempt MDJ Records to pick them up and release `My Home's in Alabama.' RCA got hold of that song, signed the group, and they hit with `Tennessee River' and `Why, Lady, Why?' "

It's not common for a group to go from nowhere to the Hall of Fame. But those few tales of glory are enough to keep local bands plugging away.