Although Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and other 1950s rock-n-rollers came from the American South, they do not fit in the Southern rock category. It wasn't until after the British Invasion that Southern rock would be officially born. Influenced by roots rockers Credence Clearwater Revival and the Band, Southern rock peaked in the 1970s with the success of the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, the Charlie Daniel's Band, Alabama, and others. Southern rock should not be confused with its close cousin, heartland rock, which is best typified by the music of John Mellencamp.
Generally, Southern rock mixes folk, country and western, and blues with driving rhythms and crunchy guitars. Lyrically, Southern rock often embraces the values and symbols of the American Confederacy or Rebel South. It also tends to promote “good ole boy” and redneck stereotypes.
In its prime, keyboards, organ, and piano were all commonplace in Southern rock. Arguably, the two most important keyboardists in this subgenre were Billy Powell (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Gregg Allman (The Allman Brothers Band). Also, in the 1980s ZZ Top showed how Southern rock could be combined with synth-pop. This is apparent on the albums
Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band embraced the blues in their music. This is evident in the down-home organ playing of Allman and in the swampy piano riffs of Powell. Both players used blues clichés like the ones demonstrated in this book. So if you wish to play as they did, review Chapters 9, 10, and 11 to begin this process.
FIGURE 14-9 is an amalgamation of two of Billy Powell's riffs from the Southern rock anthem “Sweet Home Alabama.” This lick, like many blues licks, uses an abundance of sixth intervals (see Chapter 11). Be careful of the fingerings in this figure. The left and right hands are quite integrated; suggested fingerings are indicated.
FIGURE 14-9: Billy Powell Riff