It’s not my favorite genre of music by a long shot. It’s also not very easy to define.
I mean, who exactly qualifies as a Southern Rocker?
Does Tom Petty, since he grew up in northern Florida (as Deep South as you got back in that day)? No, he started out as New Wave and is now one of the few classic rockers who has the respect of younger audiences.
Does ZZ Top since they hail from Texas? Well, not really. They fall into more of a rock-based blues category. Actually, they create their own category: Rock Bands Who Look Like Hasidic Jews.
Does REM since they gained a cult following in Athens, Georgia before going national? Um, no. Michael Stipe and Ronnie Van Zant in the same music club? I doubt it.
No, Southern Rock is pretty limited in scope as well as time. Aside from occasional incursions by more modern bands like the Black Crowes, Southern Rock is a product of long-haired white guys who loved equally long guitar solos in the 70s. If you ever develop a hankering to hear some, just tune in Charlotte’s WRFX (99.7): they rarely go more than 15 minutes without playing something of that style and from that era.
So here are my five favorites:
5. Highway Song, by Blackfoot. The main reason this song makes the list is not the song itself. It’s that I had to have a Blackfoot song here because its former bass player, Lenny Stadler, became a Christian, got ordained as a Methodist pastor, and for nearly two decades led Weddington United Methodist Church to then-unheard of levels of church growth. I offered some thoughts on his death here.
4. Can’t You See? by The Marshall Tucker Band. The woodwind at the beginning make it one of the most distinctive Southern Rock songs of them all.
3. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Thanks to Neil Young for inspiring this one!
2. Green Grass & High Tides by The Outlaws. In terms of style, feel, and yes, even excess, this tune from the Outlaws is in my view the most representative of Southern Rock. Settle in for a good ten minutes.
1. Gimme Three Steps by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Tremendous story hilariously told. Makes me want to know just what Linda Lou looked like even though there’s no way in the world I could cut a rug with her.