Southern Rock

Allman Bros One Way Out

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Southern Rock, which is something very meaningful to me. I’m a musician (guitar), and I can play 60’s and 70’s rock, jazz, folk, and classical music very well, because I had great formal and practical training. I played in a lot of bands when I was younger, and I especially loved playing Beatles music. However, without even thinking about it, the one type of music that is most inherently natural to me is Southern Rock. I never “learned” to play Southern Rock – I’ve just always known it. It’s part of who I am, and the structure of the music is in my blood. I don’t have to “practice” playing Southern Rock, because it’s as natural to me as breathing. Once, I had the most unbelievable luck to be taken out to a bar during a job interview in Mississippi where my hosts talked the band at the bar into letting me play one song with them. The song just happened to be The Allman Brothers’ “One Way Out,” and I killed it, even though I’d never even met the band before that night. All of my hosts were blown away by my ability to jump right in on a seemingly obscure song, but for me, it was just like throwing Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch. I was born to play that song, and they couldn’t have picked a more natural song for me to play. I got the job, by the way.

I’ve seen a lot written about the ambiguity of the musical structure of Southern Rock, but it really all makes sense if you just know your Celtic music. “Sweet Home Alabama,” for example, is thought to be in either D Major or G Major, but neither one is exactly right. The correct answer is that “Sweet Home Alabama” is actually in an ancient mode called Mixolydian, which is neither D Major nor G Major, but somewhere in between. That also happens to be the mode of choice for the Celts. It’s certainly not a coincidence that the harmonic and melodic structure of good Southern Rock is exactly the same as ancient Celtic music. I could write endlessly about how the characteristic sound of Southern Rock is literally “in my blood,” but that’s just scratching the surface. There’s so much more to Southern Rock than that, because it represents our collective, unique voice.

I believe a serious threat to freedom in America is posed by activists (with the best intentions) who are bent on remaking America in the image of their own thinking. Under the camouflage of promoting diversity, they are pulling every string they can to squash diversity. In our case, that means making us as non-Southern as possible. Sadly, too many Southerners already buy into the long line of anti-Southern bigotry in the United States, and they feel guilty over being Southern. I know plenty of people (I work with some and I’m even related to some) who are deeply ashamed of being Southern, and they go out of their way to be as non-Southern as possible. The nation keeps one watchful eye on the South, and in most cases we’re prejudged based upon ugly stereotypes of a different time. However, most of our greatest Americans came from the South, and most of our great American institutions and art movements came from the South, too. I honestly believe that many people around the country simply can’t stand that. It really seems to bother them that the South is so enriched with art. However, no matter how much they try to silence us, we won’t comply. I mean, honestly, who sings “Sweet Home Massachusetts?”

To me, that is why Southern Rock is so important. Southern Rock gives the South that uniquely Southern voice in a time when Southern perspective and context are needed. As Charlie Daniels said, “Be proud you’re a rebel cause the South’s gonna do it again.”

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