Southern Rock for the Apocalypse, Part I

A list compiled by Brion McClanahan, Tom Daniel, and Jeff Rogers

Almost everyone in the United States is quarantined, and while many are working from home, it seems that most people have a bit more time on their hands. What should you be listening to during the COVID apocalypse? Southern music, of course, and if you are a rock fan, then Southern rock. Three Abbeville Institute scholars sat down and came up with a list of over 100 songs to include in your Southern rock playlist. These are in no particular order and will be rolled out in a multi-week series. Turn it up.

Hey Jude – Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman

In what is often considered the first Southern rock song, Wilson Pickett from Detroit by way of Prattville, Alabama teamed up with Duane Allman at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and recorded the Beatles hit “Hey Jude.” Allman camped out at the studios and became one of the most sought-after guitar players in the South. His later success with his younger brother Gregg in the Allman Brothers Band often overshadows his work as a studio musician.

Georgia on a Fast Train – Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe Shaver is the literal outlaw no one knows much about. He has been more successful as a songwriter than a solo performer as many of his songs have been recorded by country musicians from the 1970s to the present. But Shaver is perhaps most famous for losing two fingers in a sawmill accident and for shooting a man in the face in 2007 during a bar fight. He apparently asked his attacker “Where do you want it?” before firing his pistol between the man’s “mother” and “f***er.” He survived the shooting, and Shaver was set free on a self-defense plea. This little tune explains Shaver’s modest upbringing and is recorded with his son, Eddy, a talented guitar player in his own right.

Honeysuckle Blue – Drivin’ N’ Cryin’

The early 1990s witnessed a bit of a Southern Rock renaissance. The Black Crowes from Georgia were the most conspicuous band during this period but others like Georgia’s Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ also fused the neo-hippie movement with a Southern accent. It has always been that way. The most famous hippie band, The Grateful Dead, typically just ripped off the jam band sound from the South. This song featured a great opening guitar riff.

Pickin’ the Blues – Grinderswitch

“The train to Grinderswitch is running right on time….” Most people only know about this band from Charlie Daniels’s hit “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” but this Macon, Georgia group released four top notch albums in the 1970s. They toured with the biggest acts in the South and participated in Daniels’s Volunteer Jam on a regular basis. Macon, Georgia rivaled Muscle Shoals as the center of Southern rock on the late 1970s and Griderswitch recorded three of their albums at Capricorn Studios in downtown Macon. The famous British DJ John Peel used this groovy blues tune as his theme song in the 1970s.

The Lumberjack – Jackyl

Jackyl is an early 1990s Georgia/South Carolina hard rock band that is often compared to AC/DC. Lead singer Jesse James Dupree—better known for owning the Full Throttle Saloon in North Dakota and a whisky distillery—is perhaps the only man who plays the chainsaw. Their shows were legendary, a mix of showmanship and in your face rock n’ roll, and they hold the record for most concerts in 50 days. They drove around in a semi and dropped the sides of the trailer for the stage so they could perform in parking lots around the United States. This song features Dupree with his famous chainsaw.

Got No Shame – Brother Cane

Alabama’s Damon Johnson formed Brother Cane in 1993 and had some success in the mid-1990s. Their song “And Fools Shine On” was commercially successful in the post-Grunge era but was a long way from the Southern rock sound of their first album. “Got No Shame” is an aggressive Southern rock song that has all the elements: furious guitar, harp, and cowbell. If you like fast paced rock, you’ll love this tune.

Son of Virginia – Clutch

Clutch was formed in 1991 in Maryland and the band is typically described as Southern metal or “stoner rock.” Clutch fans often remark that listening to the band makes your beard grow longer. The band is known for their interesting mix of dense lyrics, Southern guitar riffs, and lead singer Neil Fallon’s growling voice. They are proud of their Maryland roots and often display that beautiful State flag at their shows.

Redneck Girl – The Bellamy Brothers

The Bellamy Brothers from Florida are best known for their 1970s hit “Let Your Love Flow” and the breezy feel to their music, but they have become known as the “heterosexual, white boy Methodists” who write about pretty women and a beach bum lifestyle similar to Jimmy Buffett but without the annoying Parrotheads and commercialized restaurants.

All Right – Christopher Cross

Cross is the personification of American soft rock and easy listening, but he was born in Texas and his music still has a Southern feel. “Sailing” was his only number one hit, though several other songs reached the top ten on the Billboard Charts. He has become successful on the cruise ship circuit and still performs across the United States. “All Right” is one of his more upbeat tunes and exemplifies the sound that made him popular.

Four Walls of Raiford – Lynyrd Skynyrd (Performed by Jamey Johnson)

Skynyrd is the most recognized Southern Rock band of the 1970s. Their sound is a perfect blend of country, blues, rhythm and blues, and rock n’ roll. Their attacking three guitar sound coupled with Billy Powell’s piano and Ronnie Van Zant’s outstanding voice made them a pioneering band in the South. This tune shows their diversity as a band, and Jamey Johnson from Alabama does an impressive job highlighting Van Zant’s skill as a lyricist. It might be better than the original.

I’m a Country Boy – Lynyrd Skynyrd

This is one of Skynyrd’s lesser known tunes but is a nice example of Van Zant’s vocals and the punchy sound of the band. It’s aggressive, unapologetic, defiant, and purely Southern. “New York City, is a thousand miles away, and if you ask me, I’ll tell you that’s okay. Well I’m not trying to put the Big Apple down, they don’t need a man like me around.” It also displays the agrarianism of the Southern tradition.

Statesboro Blues – The Allman Brothers Band

The opening Duane Allman slide guitar alone is worth listening to this song. The Allman Brothers get credit for being the first mainstream “Southern Rock” band. They preferred to just call it rock, because all rock is Southern. The jam band sound of the 1970s would not have been possible without the Allmans and Charlie Daniels. The mix of Duane and Dickey Betts’s guitar, Gregg’s piano and vocals along with the two percussionists led to several copycat acts across the United States.

Rock My Soul – Elvin Bishop

Like Grinderswitch, Bishop is best known for being part of a Charlie Daniels tune, but he had some success with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” and before that he was the guitarist for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and underrated group from Chicago. Bishop was born in California and spent time on a farm in Iowa before settling in Oklahoma. “Rock My Soul” contains all the essential ingredients of a great Southern rock tune including the obligatory Gospel Choir backing vocals and an in your face horn section.

Satisfied Man – Molly Hatchet

Molly Hatchet is often viewed as the hard rock version of Skynyrd. Both bands called Florida home and featured three guitarists. Hatchet had some commercial success with their second album but never had the same notoriety as Skynyrd. Lead singer Danny Joe Brown and the other band members often didn’t get along. He left in 1980 to form his own band but later rejoined his old mates in Molly Hatchet. This song is from his second stint in the band and reflects the times. You get 1980s pop metal including synthesizer fused with 1970s Southern guitar.

Get Up – Jimmie Van Zant Band

Jimmie Van Zant was Ronnie Van Zant’s first cousin. He idolized Ronnie and wanted to follow in his footsteps. After Ronnie was killed in the famous plane crash in 1977, Jimmie gave up music only to return to it in the 1990s. He formed the Jimmie Van Zant Band and released three albums before dying of liver cancer in 2016. The JVZ Band is faithful to its Florida roots with its blend of Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet inspired tunes. “Get Up” is a fun song.

Sting Me – The Black Crowes

The Black Crowes second album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, is named after “Singing” Billy Walker’s popular hymnal from the 19th century. This album is their most Southern effort, from the guitars to the lyrical content, the Crowes nailed Southern rock. “Sting Me” is one of the best songs from the album, and as this video shows, Confederate Flags were not considered evil in the mid-1990s. The Crowes may have been part of the neo-hippie movement, but they were always rooted in the South.

Peace Pipe – Cry of Love

Cry of Love had all the ingredients to be a major player in the neo-hippie Southern rock movement. The guitarist, Audley Freed, was later hired by the Black Crowes when Cry of Love broke up. Great Bad Company-esque vocals, excellent riffs, and a groovy sound made it look like the band was headed for stardom. The lead singer quit, and the band was never able to rekindle the success of their big hit “Peace Pipe,” featured here. There will be more Cry of Love in future installments of this series.

Whiskey – Charlie Daniels Band

Every casual music fan knows Charlie Daniels can play the fiddle. What most people don’t know is that he is a better guitar player and the CDB was arguably the best jam band in the South. They could do it all—rock, country, blues, rhythm and blues—and because Daniels is such a talented musician, they were able to move seamlessly between the rock and country charts. They were also tight. This song is early CDB and features Daniels on slide guitar.

Hillbilly Band – Marshall Tucker

Toy Caldwell was a guitar virtuoso whose “chicken pickin’” style made him unique in the Southern Rock circuit. The Marshall Tucker Band from South Carolina mixed Caldwell’s unique style with flute, saxophone, and Doug Gray’s powerful vocals. “Hillbilly Band” is from their first album and shows the range of the band’s musical skills and emphasizes the bands “hillbilly” roots. Caldwell sings lead on this tune, but future installments will feature Gray on vocals.

Southern Man – Doc Holliday

Macon, Georgia’s Doc Holliday has the reputation as being a Molly Hatchet rip off. True, their sound is similar to Hatchet and they were discovered and signed to a major record deal in 1981 after Molly Hatchet’s manager heard them play, but this could be said about several hard Southern rock bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The original Holliday lineup produced three albums and this tune from their second is just great Southern rock n’ roll.

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