An epic 1970s tale about a group of rebel rock bands who rose up from one of the most unpopular, marginalised parts of the USA – the Deep South – and conquered the world.
Great documentary from BBC!
“It’s that music that you just love to hear, when you want to really get movin'” Alan Walden from Capricorn Records describes the differences between Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band;
Lynyrd Skynyrd didn’t care about trying to make a better world, they were making music for people to have a good time to. Mike Mills from REM agrees that Lynyrd Skynyrd was just about boogie. But both were rebel bands from the deep south that rose to make a difference…
The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and others that followed did this entirely on their own terms, blending the music of the region – blues, country, rock and roll – with a gung-ho attitude that set the South, and then America, on fire.
Their diverse styles, from juke joint boogie and country-rock honks to cosmic blues blasts, had a huge cultural and political impact, even helping to elect Jimmy Carter as president in 1976.
Their extraordinary adventure is brought to life through vivid period archive and contributions from the survivors of those crazy times, including Gregg Allman, REM’s Mike Mills, Doug Gray, Al Kooper, Bonnie Bramlett, Charlie Daniels and other key figures in the movement.
The Allman Brothers Band, formed in Jacksonville, Florida, made their national début in 1969 and soon gained a loyal following. Their blues rock sound on one hand incorporated long jams informed by jazz and classical music, and on the other hand drew from native elements of country and folk.
Because a certain type of blues music, and essentially, rock and roll, was invented in the South, Gregg Allman commented that “Southern rock” was a redundant term, like “rock rock.”
The Allman Brothers were signed to Capricorn Records, a small Macon label formed and headed by Phil Walden (former manager of Otis Redding) and partner Frank Fenter, former European Managing Director of Atlantic Records. Similar acts recorded on Capricorn included the Marshall Tucker Band from Spartanburg, South Carolina, Wet Willie from Alabama, Grinderswitch from Georgia (and composed of Allman Brothers’ roadies) and the Elvin Bishop Band from Oklahoma.
Loosely associated with the first wave of Southern rock were acts like Barefoot Jerry and the Charlie Daniels Band from Tennessee. Charlie Daniels, a big-bearded fiddler with a knack for novelty songs, gave Southern rock its self-identifying anthem with his 1975 hit “The South’s Gonna Do It”, the lyrics of which mentioned all of the above bands, proclaiming: “Be proud you’re a rebel / ‘Cause the South’s gonna do it again.”
A year earlier, Daniels had started the Volunteer Jam, an annual Southern rock-themed concert held in Tennessee. The Winters Brothers Band from Franklin, Tennessee was a band Charlie Daniels helped to get started with “Sang Her Love Songs”, “Smokey Mountain Log Cabin Jones”, and more. They still perform and hold an annual festival in Nolensville, Tennessee every year.
In the early 1970s, another wave of hard rock Southern groups emerged. Their music emphasized boogie rhythms and fast guitar leads with lyrics extolling the values, aspirations – and excesses – of Southern working-class young adults, not unlike the outlaw country movement. Lynyrd Skynyrd of Jacksonville, Florida dominated this genre until the deaths of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and two other members of the group in a 1977 airplane crash.
After this tragic plane crash, members Allen Collins and Gary Rossington started The Rossington-Collins Band. Groups such as Ozark Mountain Daredevils, ZZ Top, .38 Special, Confederate Railroad, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, Point Blank, Black Oak Arkansas, and the Edgar Winter Group also thrived in this genre.
Not all Southern rock artists fit into the above molds. The Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Amazing Rhythm Aces were more focused on vocal harmonies, and Louisiana’s Le Roux ranged from Cajun-flavored Southern boogie early on to a more arena rock sound later on, while the Dixie Dregs and Allman Brothers’ offshoot Sea Level explored jazz fusion.
At Southern rock’s peak The Allman Brothers and other Capricorn artists played a part in Jimmy Carter’s 1980 campaign for the presidency. Molly Hatchet’s appearance on the dance-oriented show Solid Gold hinted at the wider level of popularity Southern rock had achieved.