Rock and Roll isn’t just melody and rhythm —
— it’s a musical perspective on the world.
And understanding what the musician was thinking or doing,
…. or at least what the hell he was talking about, when he wrote the piece,
often adds a dimension to the music that I really enjoy.
So, today on the Muscleheaded Blog, we’ll look at some cool facets of Southern Rock and Roll history that you might not know about.
Nobody plays hard rocking Southern Rock and Roll better than Lynyrd Skynyrd –
and they’ve been doing it since 1969.
Did you know how they came up with their rather unusually spelled name, though?
It seems that Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington, founding members of a band called “One Percent”, attended Robert E Lee High School in Jacksonville.
…. so much so, that Rossington eventually quit school.
That teacher’s name was Leonard Skinner,
….. and the band decided to use a variation of his name as a mocking tribute to their ill-natured coach.
Lynryrd Skynyrd is best known for hits like:
“Free Bird” ,
and “Sweet Home Alabama“.
The long version of “Free Bird” (10:08) is the Amazon’s most requested Rock and Roll song ever, and they’ve been known to play it for 15 minutes or longer in live performances.
The question “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” at the beginning of the song was a phrase first uttered by Allen Collins’ fiancé Kathy before their marriage, and added to the words of the song before release.
The song itself is dedicated to the memory of Allman Brothers founder Duane Allman, who died in a tragic motorcycle crash in 1971, at age 24.
They’ve gone on to produce 15 albums — and are still touring —
promoting their latest album “Last of a Dyin’ Breed”
( boy, do I know THAT feeling)
….. they were here in Charlotte last year, and they sold out the place.
Speaking of Charlotte, a local band — from Spartanburg, South Carolina, made it big a couple of decades ago,
……. and are still inspiring Southern Rock fans today, with their impressive musicianship, penetrating lyrics, and distinctive sound.
The Marshall Tucker Band was formed in 1972, and are another example of a band named after a non-band member — in this case, a local blind piano tuner by that name.
It turned out that the piano tuner owned the rehearsal hall, and rented the newly christened Marshall Tucker Band the space for half price after that.
There’s so much to like about Marshall Tucker’s music — where, for instance, other than perhaps Jethro Tull, will you hear a flute being put to such wonderful use?
They use an interesting combination of Blues, Jazz and Rock idioms to create a sound that is both fun and profound.
Among their hits are:
“Can’t You See”
“Heard It In A Love Song”
“Running Like The Wind“,
and “Fire On The Mountain” .
Like Lynryd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, formed in 1975, also hails from Jacksonville, Florida….
She’d chop their heads off with a hatchet.
The only way she was caught was because her last customer was a city warden who was seen with her, right before she gave him her now famous ‘head job’.
Molly Hatchet’s record covers are famous for featuring Frank Frazetta designs…
on albums like Berserker, Dark Kingdom, and Death Dealer.
They are best known for hits like:
“Flirtin’ With Disaster“,
“Dreams I’ll Never See“,
and “Gator Country“.
I dunno know what it is about Jacksonville and great Southern Rock bands……
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Allman Brothers Band originally formed there– as “The Escorts”– in 1961, becoming the ABB in 1969.
Of course, the city has a wonderful musical legacy, from Ray Charles to Shinedown and Limp Bizkit…..
There are more music venues there, large and small, than any other major metropolitan area per capita–
— And, a place to play means a place for talent to grow and be heard.
—- Georgia —-
because that’s where many of them grew up.
The Allman Brothers Band has been the inspiration for so other Southern Rock bands to follow in their footsteps:
including, .38 Special, Gov’t Mule, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes Band, Great Southern, Rebel Pride, Dixie Witch, Drive By Truckers, Sea Level, and many more.
One of the most famous pieces of Rock and Roll music ever was created by Allman Brothers founder the late Duane Allman working with Eric Clapton and a band called “Derek and the Dominos” — “Layla“.
Two members of the Allmans actually died in separate motorcycle accidents —
Duane, and bassist Berry Oakley.
Another brother, Gregg, carried on the best traditions of the genre until his death of liver disease at age 69 in May, 2017.
( Butch Trucks, founding member and the drummer for the Allman Brothers Band, also died in 2017. )
The Allmans are famous for songs like:
and “Ramblin’ Man”.
A beautiful instrumental piece, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed“, was written by guitarist Dickie Betts in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, a favorite band hang out at the time…..
………… and the name of the song was inspired by an existing gravestone there.
That’s the same cemetery in which both Berry Oakley and Duane Allman are now buried.
I could not do a post on Southern Rock without mentioning my favorite Southern Rock and Roll band, of course…..
Gov’t Mule was founded in 1994, as a ‘side project’ of the Allman Brothers —
with Warren Haynes on guitar and the late Allan Woody on bass.
and their albums feature guest artists ranging from:
Cream’s Jack Bruce,
The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea,
Les Claypool of Primus,
Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead,
Chris Squire of Yes,
Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals,
Robby Krieger of the Doors,
Grace Potter of the Nocturnals,
Stevie Winwood of Traffic,
……………… and the list goes on and on.
Warren Haynes is from Asheville, North Carolina, and every year he and Mule hosts the Annual Christmas Jam there, for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity— last year’s Jam was sold out (my ears are still ringing) — and raised a half million dollars for the charity.
The 27th Annual Jam is slated to be held the third weekend of December, 2015.
“Shout!”, their 2013 double album, has an originality and power that makes it a must have — and the songs on the album feature two versions —
— one disc with different guest vocalists, and one with Warren Haynes.
Warren can really play that guitar, man,
and I also like Warren’s vocal work —
but it’s very interesting to hear the other vocalists do their spin on Mule’s music.
In particular, be sure to check out “Stoop So Low” with Dr. John,
or “Funny Little Tragedy” with Elvis Costello.
I love the Mule, and this album especially.
Another, called “Sco-Mule” – released in January 2015, is a recently rediscovered 1999 live recording, with jazz guitarist John Scofield– an all instrumental performance featuring arrangements of jazz standards, along with some rock, soul & funk, as well.