Bands have changed, but Southern rock stays popular
When you think of the term Southern rock, what comes to mind? Most folks my age are going to say the Allman Brothers Band or Lynyrd Skynyrd. Some might mention Little Feat. Yuppies might say the Black Crowes or Widespread Panic. For millennials it could be My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers or the Aquarium Rescue Unit.
The Allman Brothers were the original Southern rock band. They managed to fuse blues, rock and West Coast country into a unique sound that has by been copied by many. What set them apart was their ability to create long jams that were interesting but not redundant. This came from Duane Allman’s affinity for the jazz music of King Curtis, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, as well as the Allman Brothers’ exposure to the Grateful Dead when they both played the Fillmore. I believe the Allman Brothers would have experimented more with jazz influences if Duane had not died when he did.
Lynyrd Skynyrd took what the Allman Brothers had taught them and kicked it up another notch or two in the rock area. With three lead guitars they were a natural “jam” band. Most folks considered them to be more “redneck” than the Allman Brothers. If you really listen to their music you will see that Ronnie Van Zant was an excellent songwriter who is very underrated, in my opinion. Who knows what would have happened if not for the plane crash. Their last album was as good as, if not better than, their first.
Little Feat was a different kind of Southern rock band with more of a Memphis R&B sound to their music. They had a unique sound that was and still is all their own. Lowell George was an extremely gifted songwriter and undisputed leader of that band. Even though they continued on after his death, they were never the same.
Even though I am a big fan of these three bands, the Southern rock bands I have listened to the most in my life are the Amazing Rhythm Aces, the Marshall Tucker Band and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and the Outlaws. I still own most of the LPs of all of these bands.
I have seen the Aces at least a half dozen times. I have had the chance to meet most of the band. I just loved their country, R&B mix. Russell Smith’s songwriting and singing and their incredible live shows are what made them one of my very favorites.
Led by Toy and Tommy Caldwell, the Marshall Tucker Band leaned on the country side of Southern rock more than anything else. They could definitely play the blues as well. What helped set them apart was the way they infused their music with the use of a flute, clarinet and saxophone as part of their unique sound.
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils were a fun-loving, country rocking group from Missouri — another band I have listened to for decades. Their first four albums are all very positive and uplifting, filled with fun-loving songs from a group that is a true family.
I also spent a good deal of time listening to the Outlaws with their legendary four guitar army. I had the opportunity to see them in Denver in the late 1970s with another Southern rock band, 38 Special.
Southern rock is still pretty popular today with bands like My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers, Gov’t Mule, Jason Isbell, the North Mississippi All-Stars. For me it all goes back to the beginning.