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Southern Rock 101

Rock With Borders

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Southern Rock 101

The Allman Brothers Band

You know for sure it's Southern rock when ...
  • The group's name contains words like Barefoot, Dixie, Revival, Brothers, or the name of a Confederate state
  • The song's lyrics refer to the Confederacy, fiddles, whiskey, rivers, bayous, and/or railroads
  • The performers have beards and wear sunglasses indoors

But Seriously ...

In the 50s and 60s, Southern Rock was more a description of an artist's birthplace than a definitive musical style. Artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard were identified by their Southern roots, although their musical themes were somewhat broader than the region.

In the late 60s, groups like Creedence Clearwater Revival (California) and The Band (Canada) began achieving some success with a musical style and lyric flavor that evolved into the Southern Rock genre that flourished over the next couple of decades.

Changing Definitions, Expanding Boundaries

In the 70s, Southern Rock, as exemplified by the likes of The Allman Brothers Band (Georgia), the Marshall Tucker Band (South Carolina), the Charlie Daniels Band (Tennessee), and Lynyrd Skynrd (Florida) emerged with a musical style marked by hard rock guitar, boogie rhythms, and lyrics about the cultural and historical heritage of the South. Groups like the Doobie Brothers often combined Southern Rock with Heavy Metal, though one of that group's biggest hits, "Black Water", has a typical Southern Rock lyric theme.

Through the 80s, Southern Rock grew well outside its original geographical boundaries, as evidenced by successful practitioners like AC/DC (Australia) and Def Leppard (Britain). Groups like ZZ Top (Texas) introduced synthesizers to their traditional instrumental mix, and used music videos effectively to maintain their popularity.

Southern Rock Today

Although Southern Rock enjoys radio airplay only on Classic Rock and Oldies stations these days, a loyal core of fans keeps groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and the Charlie Daniels Band playing to good sized crowds in small and medium sized venues.

Groups such as R.E.M. (Georgia), Blind Melon (Mississippi), Black Crowes (Georgia), Widespread Panic (Georgia), and Jackyl have had success with Southern-oriented lyric and musical themes, but have allied themselves more with the Hard Rock genre than with Southern Rock.

Various artists in various songs have promoted the concept that the South will "rise again." So, perhaps, will Southern Rock.

Primary Practitioners

38 Special
AC/DC
Allman Brothers
Amazing Rhythm Aces
Atlanta Rhythm Section
Barefoot Jerry
Black Oak Arkansas
Blackfoot
Charlie Daniels Band
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Def Leppard
Dixie Dregs
Doobie Brothers
Elvin Bishop Band
Elvis Presley
Georgia Satellites
Grinderswitch
Jerry Lee Lewis
Little Richard
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Marshall Tucker Band
Molly Hatchet
Sea Level
The Band
The Outlaws
Wet Willie
ZZ Top
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