Southern rock is among the least appreciated genres of rock, yet it’s produced some of the biggest stars in the world of rock. Whether your favorite stars are from Texas, Louisiana, or anywhere in the south, they’ve been rocking it for years.
After reading this list of the 13 greatest and most famous southern rock bands, you may appreciate the genre a little more. Let’s look at what made these bands the best and how they still influence music today!
1. Lynyrd Skynyrd
Formed in 1964, Lynyrd Skynyrd isn’t only rock royalty in the south, but all across America. They originally consisted of Ronnie Van Zant on vocals, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins on guitar, Larry Jungstrom on bass, and Bob Burns on drums.
Sadly, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s original members only produced music for 13 years before the deadly plane crash that killed Van Zant and five others associated with the band.
In their short span, the band created masterpieces like “Free Bird,” “Simple Man,” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”
The band incorporated many southern elements into their music. From the twang of the guitar to the background vocals, many of their songs are reminiscent of the south.
Even though their main singer died, the band is still touring, and currently, Van Zant’s son, Johnny, sings on tour.
2. ZZ Top
Among the most recognizable bands in the world is ZZ Top, both for their music and their look. The iconic beards these rockers have are all but ingrained into American culture.
The original band had Billy Gibbons playing guitar and singing, Frank Beard on the drums, and Dusty Hill playing the bass and singing. After Hill passed away in 2021, Elwood Francis took up his role in the band. Luckily for us, Francis has a beard that rivals Hill’s!
ZZ Top is famous for its guitar work and for using inspiration from the blues to create amazing tunes.
So whether you like the intense cadence of “Tush” or you prefer the blues-sounding “Brown Sugar,” ZZ Top has a wide array of music that would even please picky listeners.
3. The Allman Brothers Band
Although not active these days, The Allman Brothers Band has been a musical force since they formed back in 1969. Between then and their hiatus in 2014, the band released more than ten studio albums.
However, The Allman Brothers Band hated doing studio recordings! They put a lot more emphasis on their live shows, which is why they had such an endearing fanbase. The band released another seven live recordings of their concerts instead of additional studio albums.
The band has two Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Although they’re not together today, their second singer, Dickey Betts, after the death of Duane Allman, still performs as part of his solo career.
4. Thirty-Eight Special
Next up is Thirty-Eight Special. The band has a surprising connection to Lynyrd Skynyrd—one of their founding members, Donnie Van Zant, was Ronnie Van Zant’s brother!
Thirty-Eight Special only formed in 1974, just three years before his brother’s untimely death.
The band originally consisted of Donnie singing, Done Barnes singing and playing guitar, Jeff Carlisi on guitar, Jack Grondin on drums, and Larry Jungstrom on bass. Jungstrom also played in Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Although Donnie’s band would always remain in the shadow of his brother’s more successful band, Thirty-Eight Special had their own successes. With hits like “Hold On Loosely” and “Teacher, Teacher,” they helped inspire a whole generation of southern rockers.
5. Black Oak Arkansas
Hailing from the small town of Black Oak, Arkansas, Black Oak Arkansas stole their name from their hometown.
Inspired by the blues and country music that surrounded them in the Natural State, they formed the band in 1963 with their original name, Knowbody Else.
Black Oak Arkansas originally consisted of James Magnum on vocals, Rickie Reynolds on guitar, Harvey Jett on guitar and banjo, Pat Daughterty on bass, Stanley Knight on guitar and organ, and Wayne Evans on drums. The band still tours with modified membership.
People consider their style to be rough with amazing guitar riffs. You can hear their unique guitar riffs on songs such as “When Electricity Came to Arkansas.”
Although their styles are completely different, their riffs are similar in punchiness to Pink Floyd or Kansas.
Related: Read our post here for more country artists from Arkansas.
Formed in Tampa, Florida, Outlaws shot to fame in 1975 because of their hit song “There Goes Another Love Song.” The song reached number 34 on the charts that year, an awesome result for a breakout song.
The band originally consisted of guitarists and singers Frank Guidry, Hughie Thomasson, Herbie Pino, and Hobie O’Brien, with David Dix on drums, and Phil Holmberg on bass. Today, they tour with Henry Paul and Monte Yoho.
The Outlaws are mostly known for their free-spirited tracks that place a lot of value on guitar riffs and vocals.
Like most of their 1970s counterparts, Outlaws took a lot of influence from the country and blues scenes that dominated the south.
7. The Marshall Tucker Band
With a closer sound to country music, The Marshall Tucker Band teeters on the edge between southern rock and county music. Their excellent use of acoustic guitar and Doug Gray’s silky-smooth drawl give their music a country vibe.
Formed in the late 1960s, The Marshall Tucker Band was named after a blind piano tuner who left a key at the band’s original practice spot. Although they didn’t know it referred to a man, the band members liked the name and adopted it as their own.
The band released 22 studio albums between 1973 and 2007, including six albums in the ’70s that went gold or platinum. The most popular song on their first albums, “Can’t You See,” is the perfect mix of rock and country that makes southern rock so special.
8. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Almost everyone knows who Tom Petty is, but fewer people know that he was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida. Those Florida roots would influence his music, especially his earliest music with his band, The Heartbreakers.
Formed in 1976, the band consisted of Petty on guitar and vocals, Mike Campbell on guitar, Benmont Tench on piano, Stand Lynch on drums, and Ron Blair on bass. The band has gone through many members, but the original members all came from Florida.
The band put out too many great songs to name them all, but some of their most famous songs were “Refugee” and “Shadow Of A Doubt.”
Their liberal use of the piano gave the Heartbreakers their unique sound that’s proven to be popular for decades.
9. Molly Hatchet
Another Florida band, Molly Hatchet, was the dream of guitarist Dave Hlubek since he was a child. He envisioned starting a band that made music around the two styles he appreciated most—country and hard rock.
Luckily for us, he found bandmates who loved his vision. These days, all the members have died, but the band still tours with a new lineup.
Currently, the singer is Jimmy Elkins, with John Galvin on the keyboard, Bobby Ingram on the guitar, Shawn Beamer on the drums, and Tim Lindsay on the bass.
The band specializes in a type of rock unique to them. Although they were influenced by Lynyrd Skynyrd, they have a unique sound punctuated by intense guitar riffs that are a staple in southern rock.
Our next band on the list, Blackfoot, named themselves after a group of Native Americans because of their members’ links to native communities. Their members hailed from all corners of the US, including New York, Oklahoma, and Florida.
The band originally consisted of Rickey Medlocke singing and playing guitar, Charlie Hargrett on guitar, Greg Walker on bass, and Jackson Spires playing drums.
Blackfoot still tours today, although none of the original members play anymore. The band plays a mixture of rock and blues, characterized by their use of more traditionally southern instruments, such as the banjo and bells or tambourines.
11. The Black Crowes
Hailing from Georgia, The Black Crowes came together in 1984 and only released their first album in 1990. In terms of southern rock bands, The Black Crowes are much newer.
Only two members of the band remain from their original heyday—Chris and Rich Richardson. Today, they’re joined by Sven Pipien and other performers when they tour.
The Black Crowes are most well-known for their initial hit album Shake Your Money Maker. The album reached #3 on the US Billboard 200 charts in 1991, making it one of the most popular albums of the decade.
12. Dixie Dregs
Formed in 1970, the Dixie Dregs are a band from Georgia that used their knowledge of diverse genres of music to create some of the most interesting rock you’ll ever hear.
Formed by Steve Morse, who plays guitar, the band consists of Andy West on bass, Allen Sloan playing the violin, Steve Davidowski on the keyboard, and Rod Morgenstein on drums.
What’s most interesting about Dixie Dregs is their lack of vocals. Only one album, Industry Standard, contains vocals. The lack of vocals gives their music a feeling closer to electronic jazz than country, but their southern roots are still present, especially when they play the violin.
13. Wet Willie
Wet Willie is originally from Alabama, although their music was influenced by bands from all over the south. The band formed in 1970 and released its first album, named after themselves, in 1971.
Its original members consisted of Jimmy Hall for vocals, who also did harmonica and saxophone. Playing on the bass was Jack Hall, Jimmy’s brother. Ricky Hirsch was on guitar, John David Anthony on keyboards, and Lewis Ross on drums.
The band has a sound more reminiscent of early rock songs by Elvis or the Beatles than other southern rock bands, but their integration of saxophone and harmonica made their music fit in with other contemporary southern rockers, like ZZ Top or Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Summing Up Our List Of Southern Rock Bands
The best thing about southern rock as a genre is its versatility. There aren’t very many genres that have their roots in so many different types of music.
Luckily, due to so many avid listeners who appreciate the unique sound of southern rock, the genre has never died.
From the list, which bands are your favorites? And which bands do you think we missed off our list? Let us know and we’ll add them in!