|Stylistic origins||Rock, blues, country rock, rhythm and blues, blues rock, rockabilly, rock and roll, swamp pop, Tulsa Sound, southern soul, gospel music, roots rock|
|Cultural origins||Mostly Southern United States during the 1960s early 1970s|
|Typical instruments||Bass guitar, drums, guitar/slide guitar, piano|
|Southern United States|
|Alternative country - Heartland rock|
Southern rock is a subgenre of rock music and a genre of Americana. It developed in the Southern United States from rock and roll, country music, and blues, and is focused generally on electric guitar and vocals. Although the origin of the term southern rock is unknown, "many people feel that these important contributors to the development of rock and roll have been minimized in rock's history." The most important figures of southern rock can be listed as The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, the Marshall Tucker Band, Outlaws and 38 Special.
1950s and 1960s: origins
Rock music's origins lie mostly in the music of the American South, and many stars from the first wave of 1950s rock and roll such as Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis hailed from the Deep South. However, the British Invasion and the rise of folk rock and psychedelic rock in the middle 1960s shifted the focus of new rock music away from the rural south and to large cities like Liverpool, London, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco.
In the late 1960s, traditionalists such as Canned Heat (from Los Angeles), Creedence Clearwater Revival (from El Cerrito, California), and The Band (Canadian, though drummer Levon Helm was a native Arkansan) revived interest to the roots of rock and to Southern themes in Americana music. See also Muscle Shoals Music, Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
1970s: peak of popularity
The Allman Brothers Band,based in Macon, Georgia, made their national debut in 1969 and soon gained a loyal following. Their blues rock sound on one hand incorporated long jams informed by jazz and classical music, and on the other hand drew from native elements of country and folk. Because a certain type of blues music, and essentially, rock and roll, was invented in the South, Gregg Allman commented that "Southern rock" was a redundant term, like "rock rock."
The Allman Brothers were signed to Capricorn Records, a small Macon label formed and headed by Phil Walden (former manager of Otis Redding) and partner Frank Fenter, former European Managing Director of Atlantic Records. Similar acts recorded on Capricorn included the Marshall Tucker Band from Spartanburg, South Carolina, Wet Willie from Alabama, Grinderswitch from Georgia (and composed of Allman Brothers' roadies) and the Elvin Bishop Band from Oklahoma.
Loosely associated with the first wave of Southern rock were acts like Barefoot Jerry and Charlie Daniels from North Carolina. Charlie Daniels, a big-bearded fiddler with a knack for novelty songs, gave Southern rock its self-identifying anthem with his 1975 hit "The South's Gonna Do It", the lyrics of which mentioned all of the above bands, proclaiming: "Be proud you're a rebel / 'Cause the South's gonna do it again." A year earlier, Daniels had started the Volunteer Jam, an annual Southern rock-themed concert held in Tennessee. The Winters Brothers Band from Franklin, Tennessee was a band Charlie Daniels helped to get started with "Sang Her Love Songs", "Smokey Mountain Log Cabin Jones", and more. They still perform and hold an annual festival in Nolensville, Tennessee every year.
In the early 1970s, another wave of hard rock Southern groups emerged. Their music emphasized boogie rhythms and fast guitar leads with lyrics extolling the values, aspirations - and excesses - of Southern working-class young adults, not unlike the outlaw country movement. Lynyrd Skynyrd of Jacksonville, Florida dominated this genre until the deaths of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and two other members of the group in a 1977 airplane crash. After this tragic plane crash, members Allen Collins and Gary Rossington started The Rossington-Collins Band. Groups such as Ozark Mountain Daredevils, .38 Special, Confederate Railroad, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, Point Blank, Black Oak Arkansas, and the Edgar Winter Group also thrived in this genre.
Not all Southern rock artists fit into the above molds. The Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Amazing Rhythm Aces were more focused on vocal harmonies, and Louisiana's Le Roux ranged from Cajun-flavored Southern boogie early on to a more arena rock sound later on, while the Dixie Dregs and Allman Brothers' offshoot Sea Level explored jazz fusion.
At Southern rock's peak The Allman Brothers and other Capricorn artists played a part in Jimmy Carter's 1980 campaign for the presidency. Molly Hatchet's appearance on the dance-oriented show Solid Gold hinted at the wider level of popularity Southern rock had achieved
1980s and 1990s: continuing influence
By the beginning of the 1980s Southern rock icons the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd had broken up, Capricorn Records was bankrupt, and Jimmy Carter out of office. As with most all of rock, leading acts of the genre had become thoroughly enmeshed in corporate arena rock. With the rise of MTV, New Wave, and glam metal, most surviving Southern rock groups were relegated to secondary or regional venues. Bands such as Drivin N Cryin, Dash Rip Rock, and Kentucky Headhunters emerged as popular Southern bands across the Southeastern United States during the 1980s and 1990s. The Georgia Satellites also had some widespread popularity in the mid to late 1980s.
During the 1990s, the Allman Brothers reunited and became a strong touring and recording presence again, and the jam band scene revived interest in extended improvised music. Incarnations of Lynyrd Skynyrd also made themselves heard. Hard rock groups with Southern rock touches such as Jackyl renewed some interest in Southern rock. Classic rock radio stations played some of the more familiar 1970s works, and Charlie Daniels's Volunteer Jam concerts were still going. Phil Walden resurrected Capricorn Records only to fall back into bankruptcy. One of the final Capricorn issues was a solo effort by former Wet Willie front man Jimmy Hall entitled Rendezvous With the Blues.
Some rock groups from the South, such as Georgia's R.E.M., The B-52's, Widespread Panic, and Black Crowes, Florida's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Sister Hazel, Blind Melon's Mississippian lead guitarist, and Texas's Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Ely incorporated Southern musical and lyrical themes without explicitly allying with any Southern rock movement.
The 1990s also saw the influence of Southern rock touching metal. Early in the decade, several bands from the Southern United States (particularly New Orleans with its metal scene) such as Eyehategod, Acid Bath, Soilent Green, Corrosion of Conformity and Down, influenced by the Melvins, mixed Black Sabbath style metal, hardcore punk and Southern rock to give shape to what would be known as sludge metal. Most notable sludge metal bands hail from the Southern United States.
2000 to present: the resurgence
In 2001, Kid Rock went from a hard metal rapper to a southern rocker/country singer using 2001's album Cocky as the transformation album. His next two studio releases 2003's Kid Rock and 2007's Rock N Roll Jesus were mainly straight southern rock jams and country-tinged ballads. His 2008 single "All Summer Long" (which samples "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves of London") became one of his biggest hits to date without it being available on iTunes. The Allman Brother's Dickey Betts joined Kid Rock as part of his Rock N Roll Revival Tour in 2008 and Lynyrd Skynyrd opened for him. In 2009, they will relaunch the tour under the same name. In 2010 he released "Born Free" a straight southern rock album without any rap or metal on it.
In 2005, Southern rock received new exposure from an unlikely source: singer Bo Bice took an explicitly Southern rock sensibility and appearance to a runner-up finish on the massively watched and normally pop-oriented American Idol television program. Fueled by a key early performance of the Allmans' "Whipping Post" and later performing Skynyrd's "Free Bird" and, with Skynyrd on stage with him, "Sweet Home Alabama", Bice demonstrated that Southern rock still had a place in the American music pantheon. In late 2007, Bo Bice joined veteran Southern rock legends Jimmy Hall - vocals / sax / harmonica (Wet Willie Band), Henry Paul - vocals / guitar / mandolin (Outlaws, BlackHawk), Steve Gorman - drums (Black Crowes, Jimmy Page), "Dangerous" Dan Toler - guitar (The Gregg Allman Band, The Allman Brothers, Dickey Betts & Great Southern), Reese Wynans - keyboards (Stevie Ray Vaughan), Mike Brignardello - bass (Giant, renowned session player), Jay Boy Adams - guitar (Texas blues solo artist) to record Brothers of the Southland celebrating Southern rock with a renewed spirit and maturity.
Southern rock currently plays on the radio, but mostly on oldies stations and classic rock stations. Although this class of music gets minor radio play, a group of loyal fans keeps this style of music alive by having older bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers play in venues with sizable crowds.
Post-grunge bands such as Shinedown, Saving Abel, Pre)Thing, Nickelback, Saliva, 3 Doors Down, 12 Stones, Default, Black Stone Cherry and Theory of a Deadman have included a Southern rock feel to their songs and have gone as far as to cover Southern rock classics like "Simple Man" and "Tuesday's Gone". Metallica has also covered "Tuesday's Gone" on their Garage Inc. album.
Additionally, alternative rock groups such as Drive-By Truckers, Bottle Rockets, Black Crowes, Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, State Line Mob, The Steepwater Band, Zach Williams & The Reformation, and Kings of Leon combine Southern rock with rawer genres, such as garage rock, alt-country, and blues rock.
Much of the old style Southern rock (as well as other classic rock) has made its transition into the country music genre, establishing itself along the lines of outlaw country in recent years. Bands such as Skynyrd and Daniels frequently play country music venues, and the influence of Southern rock can be heard in many of today's country artists, particularly male vocalists. Examples include solo artists Toby Keith and Jimmy Aldridge and the duo of Big & Rich.
Southern rock influence can also be seen in the metal and hardcore punk genres. This is showcased by such bands as Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, He Is Legend, Nashville Pussy, The Showdown, Alabama Thunderpussy, Every Time I Die, Cancer Bats, Once Nothing, Memphis May Fire, Acid Bath and Down.
Several of the original early 1970s hard rock Southern rock groups are still performing in 2011. This list includes Atlanta Rhythm Section (ARS), Marshall Tucker, Molly Hatchet, Outlaws, Gregg Allman, Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Canned Heat, Black Oak Arkansas, Blackfoot, .38 Special and Dickey Betts. New groups such as Dixie Witch, Blackberry Smoke, Gator Country, Widespread Panic, The Black Crowes, Gov't Mule, Southern Rock Allstars and The Derek Trucks Band are continuing the Southern rock art form.
A number of books in the 2000s have chronicled Southern rock's rich history, including Randy Poe's Skydog - The Duane Allman Story, Gene Odom's Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock and Rolling Stone writer Mark Kemp's Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race & New Beginnings in a New South. More recently the release of Turn It Up by Ron Eckerman, Lynyrd Skynyrd's former manager and plane crash survivor.
Furthermore, the resurgence of Southern rock has seen newer bands like The Deadstring Brothers, Fifth on the Floor and Whitey Morgan and the 78's combining the Southern rock sound with country, bluegrass and blues. This has been propelled by record labels like Bloodshot Records and Lost Highway Records.
Metal supergroup Hellyeah have shown an influence of outlaw southern-style within their appearance and their music. Songs such as "Alcohaulin' Ass" have a southern country-style acoustic opening and ending, while other songs such as "Cowboy Way" showcase the band's traditional metal sound while having outlaw southern references in the song.
- Blues rock
- Country rock
- Heartland rock
- Roots rock
- Swamp rock
- Tulsa Sound
- List of southern rock bands
- Southern Rock Gold
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- Pure Southern Rock