Music is an interesting phenomenon.
It’s one of those things that can be classified as universally loved. Not many things can boast that, but just about every human in the world has some genre of music that they love.
Music just has that power.
On top of that, one of the greatest things to get to understand a culture is music.
If you think about any foreign culture, the best way to get an understanding of what that culture is all about is through their music. It exemplifies their top cultural qualities.
So, I wanted to compile a list of some of the top southern rock bands for non-southerners to check out to get a better feel of the culture.
I play guitar, so I might not have your favorite on the list and the biggest reason is likely because I love the guitar playing of these bands more than others. Another reason is that I classify them in a different genre – this is the case with Stevie Ray Vaughn because he’s more of a blues guy than a southern rock guy.
But hey, that’s just what happens when you have a list like this. It’s always subjective to the writer.
That means if I missed some, or you want to just disagree with me, that’s what the comments section is for!
The order isn’t definitive and can likely be switched around easily. The number 1 and 2 spots go to my favorite band and my dad’s favorite band respectively. They’re sentimental, so your disagreements won’t change my stance on those spots…just a fair warning.
Number 10: The Black Crowes
I’m starting things off with a band that has been going strong for a while, forming in 1984, but is still making new music today. They are on their third reunion, but that doesn’t make them any less legitimate. The band arguably peaked in the early to mid-90s with their biggest hits being Hard to Handle, Twice as Hard, and She Talks to Angels. The Black Crowes are near the top of all-time great bands, and that is only made better by the sheer talent of the band as musicians. They are some very talented instrumentalists with the slide guitar being incorporated with heavy distortion. If you haven’t listened to The Black Crowes yet, then flip them on Spotify or YouTube and be amazed for a bit.
Number 9: The Doobie Brothers
I’ve been listening to the Doobie Brothers for as long as I can remember. They sit as a staple in almost any southern rock playlist, people knowing some of their songs without even knowing it’s the Doobie Brothers that made it famous. I also love that they get a shout out in The Office from Michael Scott. The Doobie Brothers have had 2 different lead singers, but it can also be said they have an unwritten rule, “if you are going to sing, then you have to also play an instrument.” This is one of my favorite aspects of them. They seem like a bunch of dudes that just like to jam and got famous doing it. The Doobie Brothers come from Southern California, like many famous artists, creating some big hits like Listen to the Music, Long Train Runnin, and Black Water.
Number 8: The Marshall Tucker Band
The Marshall Tucker Band helped establish southern rock as a legitimate genre. They use some elements of blues, jazz, and pop music to create their unique sound. The band’s name came from when they were first rehearsing and they couldn’t think of a band name, but they saw a piano tuning key with the name “Marshall Tucker” on it. They decided they like the name and later found out that Marshall Tucker is, in fact, a real person. Marshall Tucker isn’t just a real person, but a blind piano tuner that accidentally left his tuning key after tuning a piano in the rehearsal studio the band was using. The Marshall Tucker Band used their unique name and unique sound to put out some top hits in the southern rock genre: Can’t You See, Fire on the Mountain, and This Ol’ Cowboy.
Number 7: Molly Hatchet
If you are a video game fan then you probably played Guitar Hero back in the day. If you played Guitar Hero, you probably had inevitable debates about if it was better than the full band version Rockband. If you played Rockband, you definitely loved and hated Molly Hatchet. They had the infamous, for the game at least, song Flirtin’ With Disaster. Molly Hatchet has a few other big times hits, but none that reached the level of Flirtin’ With Disaster. Molly Hatchet started in the humble town of Jacksonville, Florida. So, if you end up at one of their concerts, be ready to yell with the crowd, “DDDDUUUUUUVVVVVVVAAAAAAAAAAAAALLL!!!!!!” The Jaguars have gotten recent notoriety, which helped bring a couple more fans to Molly Hatchet.
Number 6: .38 Special
I think my mom might be one of the biggest .38 Special fans I know. She doesn’t particularly listen to them now because she just leaves her radio on a Christian radio station. But when I first started getting into southern rock music, she would sing along to almost any .38 Special song I would play. Plus, what’s cooler than a band named after a gun? On top of that, .38 Special was founded by Donnie Van Zant, the younger brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Ronnie Van Zant. Both being extremely successful bands, but Lynyrd Skynyrd winning out. The biggest hits by .38 Special include Hold On Loosely and Caught Up In You.
Number 5: The Allman Brothers Band
Another Jacksonville native band (what is it with that place?) that enters in and starts out the top 5, The Allman Brothers Band. Sporting 3 of the best guitar players of all time, The Allman Brothers Band earned this spot. Sadly, Duane Allman, the founding lead guitarist, passed away after only a couple of years with the band. He was able to put out one of the best southern rock songs in Whipping Post, and the band continued their dominance of the southern rock, and classic rock in general, genre for years to come in his memory. The Allman Brothers Band is most known for their 1971 live album At Fillmore East, getting it in the running for the best live album of all-time.
Number 4: The Charlie Daniels Band
When looking at one of the most influential bands of all time, the Charlie Daniels Band is always in discussion. If for nothing else, then their live shows. I have a friend that is a hip-hop artist with local success, but he went to a Charlie Daniels concert and said that it was one of the wildest concerts he had ever been to. Honestly though, when you can beat the devil himself, or herself I don’t want to discriminate and assume genders, at a fiddle contest, then what would you expect. Mr. Charlie Daniels is well known for being one of the most talented musicians ever. He would play incredible fiddle solos then sing. He would then switch over to his guitar and sing with that as well! The dude was crazy good at music.
Number 3: Lynyrd Skynyrd
It was no secret Lynyrd Skynyrd was going to make this list. It was just a matter of which spot they would take. They could arguably jump to the number 1 spot, but as I said earlier, I have my personal favorites in the number 1 and 2 slots. With fantastic hits like Sweet Home Alabama, Free Bird, and That Smell, what would you expect from this incredible group? I feel like I don’t even really need to expand on the band anymore simply based on the reputation that Lynyrd Skynyrd already has. Nonetheless, I won’t be doing my job if I don’t expand on something a little cool about the band. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legacy was cut short or immortalized if you’re into the macabre theory of it, when a plane crash killed Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines, while also injuring the rest of the band in 1977. Despite the members’ death, their legacy will live on forever as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, southern rock bands of all-time.
Number 2: Eagles
I said number 2 was my dad’s favorite band, and here they are the Eagles. My dad plays guitar and got me into it. His all-time favorite band is the Eagles. They consistently produced hit after hit on each album that was supported by having every single member singing at some point. The drummer freaking sings Hotel California, one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Joe Walsh, the lead guitarist even went on to have a pretty successful solo career. The whole band had the skill to play an instrument and sing incredible harmonies. The harmonies rivaled that of the Beach Boys. The instrumentation was good enough to be considered some of the best to grace the radio. Honestly, it makes sense the Eagles are my dad’s favorite. Plus, they have an amazing documentary; one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen.
Number 1: ZZ Top
Taking the throne on my list is the little ol’ band from Texas: ZZ Top. The ultimate trio of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard. The only group who’s beards are more famous than the band themselves. Gibbons is a master of blues-rock on the guitar. Hill might be the only bassist that can consistently keep up with the unique Gibbons guitar styling. Then Frank Beard can just wail on those drums. ZZ Top has at least 1 song that everyone knows, thanks to La Grange introducing a generation to the guitar mastery on Guitar Hero, then King of the Hill making a joke of Dusty Hill being cousins with Hank Hill. Lastly, Duck Dynasty brought Sharp Dressed Man back into the mainstream. ZZ Top also has a great Netflix documentary that recently came out and is extremely enlightening on how the band has survived as a trio for 5 decades now.