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10 Underappreciated Classic Rock Bands

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These are not obscure bands. They were commercially successful, and influenced their own and future generations of rockers. They have recognizable names, songs, and personnel. Some are still performing today.  But for a variety of reasons, when their names are mentioned, it's usually part of a question that starts with, "Whatever happened to ... ?"

 

Amboy Dukes

Mainstream Records

Dave's Faves - "Journey to the Center of the Mind" / "Great White Buffalo"

Essential album - Journey to the Center of the Mind (purchase / download MP3, CD, vinyl)

It's a chicken and egg question. Did the Amboy Dukes make their mark because Ted Nugent was their lead guitarist / vocalist, or did Ted Nugent make his mark because he was a member of the Amboy Dukes? Their brand of psychedelic-progressive-hard rock was distinctive, their run relatively long: 1964-1975. But after Nugent went solo, the Dukes faded into history. A 2000 reunion album (without Nugent) never charted. The original Dukes have performed together just once since 1975, at the Detroit Music Awards in 2009.

Watch Amboy Dukes performing "Journey to the Center of the Mind" 

Asbury Jukes

BGO

Dave's Faves: "This Time It's for Real" / "Got To Be a Better Way Home"

Essential album: Hearts of Stone (purchase/download MP3, CD, vinyl)

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes benefitted from their association with Bruce Springsteen and future members of E Street Band. They also had the challenge of not getting lost in their shadow. Springsteen sometimes performed with the Jukes, and wrote some of the songs on their early albums. "Miami Steve" Van Zandt, one of several future E Streeters on their roster, co-founded the Jukes. Their 17 album catalog (studio and live) spans 1976 to 2010. Jon Bon Jovi credits the Jukes as an influence, and toured with them in the '90s.

Watch the Jukes & Springsteen perform "Havin' a Party" in 1978 

Delaney & Bonnie

ATCO

Dave's Faves: "Comin' Home" /  "Only You Know and I Know"

Essential album: Delaney & Bonnie on Tour With Eric Clapton (purchase/download MP3, CD, vinyl)

Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett tended to be overshadowed by the numerous artists they nurtured. Delaney got credit from George Harrison for teaching him how to play slide guitar, and from Eric Clapton for teaching him how to sing. Others who were part of  Delaney & Bonnie & Friends included Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Gregg Allman, Duane Allman and Gram Parsons. D&B recorded six studio albums, and were considered among the better live performance bands. Their marital and musical parnerships both began in 1967, and both ended in 1972.

Watch Delaney & Bonnie & Friends perform "Comin' Home" 

Humble Pie

A&M Records

Dave's Faves: "Stone Cold Fever" / "Hot n' Nasty" / "I Don't Need no Doctor"

Essential Album: Smokin' (purchase/download MP3, CD, vinyl)

At the time they came together Humble Pie was a supergroup: Steve Marriott (Small Faces); Peter Frampton (The Herd); Greg Ridley (Spooky Tooth); and 17-year-old drummer Jerry Shirley. The early version of the band (1968-1975) issued eight studio albums that scored in both the U.S. and their native UK. Their hard rock/blues rock repertoire also played well for live audiences. Later albums with various lineups in the '80s, '90s and early '00s weren't able to match the original spark. 

Watch Humble Pie's 1971 performance of "I Don't Need no Doctor"   

Savoy Brown

Universal Motown Records Group

Dave's Faves: "Tell Mama" / "Street Corner Talking" / "A Hard Way to Go"

Essential album: Street Corner Talking (purchase/download MP3, CD, vinyl)

In spite of being prolific (32 studio and live albums) persistent (1965-present) and highly visible (touring relentlessly for 45+ years) Savoy Brown has never managed to achieve recognition on a par with their resume. Another set of numbers may help explain why. Not counting the current lineup, the band has gone through nine lead singers, seven guitarists, 16 bassists, 16 drummers and three keyboardists. Guitarist Kim Simmonds, who formed what was originally known as Savoy Brown Blues Band, is the only original member still in the lineup.

Watch Savoy Brown perform "Street Corner Talking"

 

Slade

Whild John Music Ltd

Dave's Faves: "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" / "How Does It Feel" / "Run Runaway"

Essential album: Slayed? (purchase/download MP3, CD, vinyl)

One of the most successful bands in the U.K. in the '70s has never even been on the radar of most U.S. classic rock fans. Glam hard rockers Slade have more than 30 albums in their catalog. Bands like Cheap Trick, Def Leppard and Queen have cited them as a major influence. With the exception of a Top 20 single in 1983, "Run Runaway" they've never been able to get traction with the U.S. audience. Two of the original members of the band, guitarist/vocalist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell have been with the band since its formation in 1965.  

Watch the video for "Mama Weer All Crazee Now"

 

Spirit

Sony Music Entertainment

Dave's Faves: "Fresh Garbage" / "California Blues" / "I Got a Line on You"

Essential album: Clear (purchase/download MP3, CD, vinyl)

There aren't many boundaries on progressive and psychedelic rock but Spirit succeeded by regularly going beyond them. The band's jazz-hard rock fusion sometimes bordered on the experimental. In 1968, they were touring with Led Zeppelin as their supporting act. By 1976 their albums moved far enough into the mainstream that they started charting. A catalog of 19 studio and live albums spans 1967 through 1997. The band's early direction was shaped by singer-songwriter-guitarist Randy California, who got his chops touring with Jimi Hendrix.

Watch a live 1978 Spirit performance of "I Got a Line on You"

Spooky Tooth

A&M Records

Dave's Faves: "Evil Woman" / "Better By You, Better Than Me" / "That Was Only Yesterday"

Essential album: Spooky Two (purchase CD, vinyl)

Hard rockers Spooky Tooth set themselves apart by using both organ and piano, something that wasn't common at the time (1967-1974.) They released eight albums during that period, including their first, which was recorded when the band went by the name Art. In recent years, various configurations of the band's original have reunited for occasional performances and recordings.

Watch a 1969 Spooky Tooth performance of "That Was Only Yesterday"

Status Quo

Universal I.S.

Dave's Faves: "Pictures of Matchstick Men" / "Down Down" / "Gerdundula"

Essential album: The Singles Collection 1966-73 (purchase/download MP3 CD, vinyl)

Status Quo started in 1967 and they haven't stopped since. In 1968, "Pictures of Matchstick Men" became their first hit single in the US. It was also their last. But more than 60 of their songs and 30 of their albums have charted in the UK. As times and tastes dictated, they have morphed stylistically through psychedelia to boogie to hard rock. They have a 33 album (studio and live) catalog and a large and loyal fan base in much of the world outside the US.

Watch a 1968 Status Quo performance of "Pictures of Matchstick Men" 

Wishbone Ash

MCA

Dave's Faves: "Time Was" / "Blowin' Free" / "Warrior"

Essential Album: Argus (purchase/download MP3, CD, vinyl)

Rock bands with multiple lead guitars are commonplace now, but in 1969 when Wishbone Ash adopted the technique, it was something new. More than three dozen albums and numerous personnel changes later, the band is still making music grounded in progressive and hard rock. Founding member Andy Powell (guitars/vocals) has been a constant in the lineup since the band's first album was released in 1970.

Watch a 1973 Wishbone Ash performance of "Warrior" 

Add yours to the list

These are just a few of classic rock's underrated bands. Tell us who's on your list!

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