A series by Brion McClanahan, Tom Daniel, and Jeff Rogers
Loan Me a Dime – Boz Scaggs
Boz Scaggs rose to prominence after teaming with Steve Miller in the late 1960s on his first two albums. That led to a record contract and a date with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm section in Florence, Alabama in 1969. He knew where to find the best session musicians in America. This bluesy tune featured Duane Allman on lead guitar. The title of the album should have been “The Swampers with Duane Allman and Boz Scaggs.”
Dreams – Allman Brothers Band
“Dreams” is one of the most well-known Allman Brothers tunes and is highlighted by Gregg’s haunting organ opening and Duane’s epic guitar solo. This was the original lineup at its best.
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed – Allman Brothers Band
Berry Oakley’s bass riff in this song along with the dual percussion work of Jai Johnny Johnson and Butch Trucks coupled with the solos by both Duane Allman and Dickey Betts make this instrumental tune a real auditory joy. Listen with the headphones on.
Midnight Rider – Allman Brothers Band
Many younger Americans were introduced to this song when Coors used it in a beer commercial in the early 1990s. Gregg Allman explained it as an autobiographical tune. You can feel the pain and emotion in every note of this impressive vocal performance.
Country Song – Jackson Taylor & The Sinners
Jackson Taylor is part of a new wave of outlaw “country” music artists with one foot in punk rock and the other in the Southern blue-collar dirt. He grew up poor in Texas and moved around doing migrant farm labor across the west. “Country Song” is in open defiance to the music industry and record contracts. More importantly, Taylor, like Billy Joe Shaver, lived a real “outlaw” life while making records.
Heard it in a Love Song – Marshall Tucker
The Marshall Tucker band didn’t have many “hits,” but “Heard it in a Love Song” was one of their more commercially successful tunes. It featured great songwriting and showcases the talents of every musician in the band. Jerry Eubank’s flute intro is iconic, and Doug Gray is at his best vocally in this song of life and love.
Feelin’ Good – Blackfoot
This song appeared on Blackfoot’s first album, Flyin’ High and is as Southern rock as you can get in the 1970s. The slide guitar solo and boot kickin’ rhythm made it an essential addition to their greatest hits album, even though only the most loyal Blackfoot fans would recognize the tune.
Midnight Train to Memphis – Chris Stapleton
Stapleton originally wrote this for The Steeldrivers, but after he left the band, he amped it up and played it on tour with the Jompson Brothers and added to his solo album Room With a View Vol. 2. It usually gets people dancing, but jumping rhythm hides the bluesy despair of the song. In fact, you could argue this is the modern incarnation of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Am I Losin’ – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Ronnie Van Zant wrote this song during a particularly difficult period in the band’s history. Drug and alcohol abuse were taking a toll on the members and several thought about leaving. Van Zant was losing not only his band but his friends. This is one of the most authentic tunes in Southern rock history.
Saturday Night Special – Lynyrd Skynyrd
The edgy guitar work in this song makes it one of the more popular singles in the Skynyrd catalog, but many people have complained that it is a “gun control” tune. It might be, though Van Zant never said much about it. Perhaps the song is nothing more than a warning against pointless violence, a phenomenon too familiar to poor Southerners both then and now.
What’s Your Name – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“What’s Your Name” has an upbeat tempo that makes it an ideal “jukin’” tune. Southern rock was often defiant and reflective, but songs like this made it popular. Life on the road presented problems for most rock band, but Southerners knew that hospitality, good times, and pretty women made it more tolerable.
Missouri Skyline – Mama’s Pride
St. Louis based Mama’s Pride never had much commercial success. That doesn’t mean that didn’t write great music. “Missouri Skyline” features an outstanding bass riff and a blazing dual guitar sound that places it among the best songs in Southern rock history. It’s a great bluesy story of hope followed by loss.
Dixie on my Mind – Charlie Daniels
For most Southerners who went west in the last half of the twentieth century, Dixie was always on their mind. Home. Daniels’s fiddle is on fire in this tune, but his band is as tight as ever and the “jam” sound of songs like “Birmingham Blues” make this an essential tune in the CDB catalog.
Cry Me a River – Pride and Glory
Is this Zakk Wylde or Gregg Allman? This Allman Brothersesque tune shows that Ozzy’s lead guitarist was as influenced by Southern rock and Duane Allman as he was Black Sabbath. His solo is one of the best in this entire list. Enjoy!
Ride Like the Wind – Christopher Cross
“Ride Like the Wind” is the “hardest” song in Cross’s catalog, and the native Texan shows his roots with this song of independence and escape. You can almost feel the hot desert air on a fast trip to the border. This is a modern-day western without the country.
Bounty Hunter – Molly Hatchet
The first song from their debut album, “Bounty Hunter” is a quintessential hard Southern rock tune. Great lyrics and story and punishing guitars set the tone for the rest of the album. If you hear it once, you’ll want to listen again.
Hotel Illness – The Black Crowes
“Hotel Illness” sounds like the South, from the dirty rock intro to the harp and breezy flow to the song (and a little dobro thrown in), you can’t get much more Southern rock. This entire album brought Southern rock back to the mainstream and if you only had to hear one song to know why, this is it.
Kickin’ My Heart Around – The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes returned to their roots on their fifth album, 1999’s By Your Side. Their previous effort, Three Snakes and One Charm flopped and the rock n’ roll lifestyle caught up with lead singer Chris Robinson. By Your Side also featured Cry of Love’s Audley Freed on guitar, and this track shows why the Crowes were the Southern rock band of the 1990s.
Morning Glory – Mac Gayden and Skyboat
Mac Gayden left Barefoot Jerry after 1972 to pursue other ventures and that led to Skyboat, a “progressive” Southern rock band that had virtually no commercial success but let Gayden explore his musical talent. This song let Gayden show off his guitar chops and is just a fantastic uplifting Southern rock tune. “I’m just thankful for being where I am.”
You Can’t Get Off With Your Shoes On – Barefoot Jerry
Barefoot Jerry went through several lineups and in the mid-1970s they hired Jimmy Colvard from the “Nashville A-Team” to front the band. The “A-Team” was only rivaled by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm section, and Colvard was an excellent studio musician. This song is a fun little jam, and it shows that the French loved great Southern rock.