Southern Rock Opera

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Southern Rock Opera
Studio album by Drive-By Truckers
Released September 12, 2001
Recorded September 2000
Genre Southern rock
Length 94:04
Label Soul Dump
Producer Drive-By Truckers, Dick Cooper, David Barbe
Drive-By Truckers chronology
Alabama Ass Whuppin'
Southern Rock Opera
Decoration Day

Southern Rock Opera is the third studio album by the alt country band Drive-By Truckers, released in 2001. A double album covering an ambitious range of subject matter from the politics of race to 1970s stadium rock, Southern Rock Opera either imagines, or filters, every topic through the context of legendary Southern band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The record was originally self-released on Soul Dump Records. The album was re-released on July 16, 2002 by Lost Highway Records. The album was financed by issuing promissory notes in exchange for loans from fans, family and friends of the band.[citation needed]

The album's artwork was done by Richmond, Virginia artist Wes Freed.

Origin and making of the album[edit]

The idea for Southern Rock Opera pre-dates the band's formation in 1996. Southern Rock Opera began in a long discussion between, Drive-By Truckers' frontman, Patterson Hood, and former Truckers' bassist and producer, Earl Hicks, during a road trip. The pair discussed writing a semi-autobiographical screenplay about growing up in the South and about the plane crash that almost ended the career of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, taking singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and Gaines' back-up singer sister, Cassie Gaines, to their graves.

Soon after this discussion, Patterson Hood formed Drive-By Truckers. The Truckers recorded two studio albums and one live album during the four years between their formation and the actual recording of Southern Rock Opera. During these years, Drive-By's principal songwriters Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Rob Malone continued to contribute songs to "The Rock Opera", as they'd come to calling it.

After the release of their live album, Alabama Ass Whuppin', Drive-By Truckers began recording what they hoped to be their magnum opus: Southern Rock Opera. According to Patterson Hood, "(the album) was recorded in Birmingham, upstairs in a uniform shop during an early September heat wave, with no air-conditioning. We had to turn the fans off when we were recording, and we worked from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. So Southern Rock Opera was fun to write, but we had a miserable time making it."

After the album was finished, however, the troubles continued for The Truckers when they ran out of funding for the immense project. To resolve the problem, and to avoid "any fine print crap", as Hood put it, the band took a very non-traditional approach. The Truckers made a prospectus, and solicited investors, with a promise of 15% interest, to pay for the manufacturing and distribution of Southern Rock Opera. The approach worked. Through their fan-based online news group and by sheer word of mouth, The Truckers were able to raise $23,000. This allowed them to print about 5,000 copies of the album, and buy a new, used, van for touring. Most notably included in the group, dubbed "The DBT Investors", was Widespread Panic bassist, and fellow Athenian, Dave Schools.

Southern Rock Opera was finally released on September 12, 2001 on Soul Dump Records.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 86/100[1]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[2]
The Austin Chronicle 4/5 stars[3]
Now 4/5[4]
Q 3/5 stars[5]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[7]
The Village Voice A−[8]

The album received a four star rating from Rolling Stone Magazine.

Rhapsody (online music service) ranked the album #6 on its "Rock’s Best Albums of the Decade" list.[9]

The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[10]


The critical praise for Southern Rock Opera created no shortage of buzz around the album and the band. Unfortunately, The Truckers didn't have the means to press the necessary amount of copies of the album on their own.

In order to meet demand, Drive-By Truckers signed a large-scale distribution deal with Lost Highway Records. Southern Rock Opera was re-released, this time worldwide, on July 16, 2002.

Track listing[edit]

Disc one: Act one: Betamax Guillotine[edit]

  1. "Days of Graduation" (Hood)
  2. "Ronnie and Neil" (Hood)
  3. "72 (This Highway's Mean)" (Cooley)
  4. "Dead, Drunk, and Naked" (Hood)
  5. "Guitar Man Upstairs" (Cooley)
  6. "Birmingham" (Hood)
  7. "The Southern Thing" (Hood)
  8. "The Three Great Alabama Icons" (Hood)
  9. "Wallace" (Hood)
  10. "Zip City" (Cooley)
  11. "Moved" (Malone)

Disc two: Act two[edit]

  1. "Let There Be Rock" (Hood)
  2. "Road Cases" (Hood)
  3. "Women Without Whiskey" (Cooley)
  4. "Plastic Flowers on the Highway" (Hood)
  5. "Cassie's Brother" (Malone)
  6. "Life in the Factory" (Hood)
  7. "Shut Up and Get on the Plane" (Cooley)
  8. "Greenville to Baton Rouge" (Hood)
  9. "Angels and Fuselage" (Hood)



  • Mike Cooley – lyrics, guitar, ambience, vocals
  • Earl Hicks – bass
  • Patterson Hood – lyrics, guitar, ambience, vocals, storytelling
  • Rob Malone – lyrics, guitar, ambience, vocals
  • Brad Morgan – drums

Guest performers[edit]

  • Kelly Hogan – backing vocals on "Cassie's Brother" and "Angels And Fuselage" (as Cassie Gaines)
  • Anne Richmond Boston – 1st group vocal
  • Jyl Freed – 2nd group vocal
  • Amy Pike – 3rd group vocal


  • David Barbe, Dick Cooper, Drive-By Truckers – production
  • Rodney Mills – mastering
  • Dick Cooper, Earl Hicks – engineering
  • Wes Freed, Patrick Hood – artwork, photography, cover art
  • Patterson, Lilla Hood – art direction, design, adaptation, liner notes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reviews for Southern Rock Opera by Drive-By Truckers". Metacritic. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  2. ^ Horowitz, Hal. "Southern Rock Opera – Drive-By Truckers". AllMusic. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  3. ^ Renshaw, Jerry (March 1, 2002). "Drive-by Truckers: Southern Rock Opera (SDR)". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  4. ^ Perlich, Tim (August 22, 2002). "Trucker Tragedy". Now. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera". Q (194): 104. September 2002. 
  6. ^ Fricke, David (January 31, 2001). "Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 31, 2013. [dead link]
  7. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 260. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 15, 2002). "Consumer Guide: Popstakes". The Village Voice. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Rock’s Best Albums of the Decade" Archived November 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  10. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]